Article: Skills, sustainability and success: How Sun Life Global Solutions builds a people-centric workplace


Skills, sustainability and success: How Sun Life Global Solutions builds a people-centric workplace

Discover insights on talent management, upskilling, and fostering a safety culture with Rajeev Bhardwaj, CHRO at Sun Life Global Solutions.
Skills, sustainability and success: How  Sun Life Global Solutions builds a people-centric workplace

With each passing year, crisis and cultural shifts, the responsibilities of CHROs seem to grow longer. And that speaks volumes about the understanding of the impact HR can have in the workplace today. 

As we look at Rajeev Bhardwaj’s role as the CHRO at Sun Life Global Solutions (SLGS) for India and the Philippines, explore and gain insights on all things talent - talent management and development, talent acquisition and talent capability management as it becomes the #1 area of concern for organisations and leaders in 2024. 

Here are some excerpts from this insightful conversation with Rajeev who is one of our esteemed coaches of People Matters Are You in the List Awards, powered by Aon

With the demand for workers to learn new skills to keep up with major tech changes, leaders are looking to design a comprehensive talent strategy. What do you believe is the way forward to do more with the existing employees? 

While the focus on building a strong employer brand in the market to attract new talent is important, it is equally important to have strategic components in place to build the proposition internally. The following elements of talent strategy in my view are therefore critically aligned to the organisation’s goals, values, purpose, and culture. 

  • A robust talent review and succession planning process at the enterprise level that helps assess the organisation’s talent health and leadership bench strength. Through a defined process of “Assess,” “Discuss” and “Develop” – leaders can create a fair, bias-free process. 
  • An approach to attract a diverse set of talent from within by having a talent marketplace. When employees can grow within, it also leads to employee retention. 
  • A democratic approach to learning opportunities to enable learning at all levels and give access to employees to own their growth and development. 
  • Setting the right KRAs for timely performance and appraisal systems, to support employees with offline and online training to augment their skill sets and promote their growth are some key steps that an organisation can take. 
  • Institutionalising an efficient “listening and check-in” mechanism in place to understand how their employees are feeling and what their needs are. Engagement surveys, pulse-surveys wherein timely “check-ins” are done with employees on a regular basis are great tools to understand employee sentiment. Basis these surveys and feedback received; an organisation can take timely action to resolve a problem at an early stage.

According to several studies, it has been stated that there is a talent shortage of digitally savvy workers. How are you at Sun Life Global Solutions investing in upskilling and training your workforce for long-term success? 

Our SLGS vision and strategy are all about designing and delivering solutions and services to our clients or advisors, shaping experiences and furthering innovation. We know that we must be at the forefront to drive improvements and innovations to solve for the future with optimism and resilience to generate client impact. This is why we know that our people need to be ready for the “Now” and the “Future” while being agile in our approach. 

We empower our employees to own their careers and development. Our range of learning and development offerings provides opportunities for our employees to navigate their chosen path within the organisation while staying fit for the future. 

At SLGS, creating a culture of learning is not an HR agenda alone but a responsibility shared by all the leaders. In 2023, 97% of our employees invested in different learning opportunities. From a capability standpoint, our key focus areas on upskilling and reskilling employees include:

  • Building Digital, Tech and domain capabilities with learning journeys, programs, and certifications.
  • Enhancing Power Skills through targeted professional development courses.
  • Strengthening manager capability and leadership development

We use a combination of learning modalities and formats to ensure sustained learning. 

ESG investments have become a hotly debated issue in recent times, but it is imperative for the attraction and retention of talent in 2024. Accordingly, you what is the role of ESG in employee experience and engagement?

Being sustainability-driven is a tremendous opportunity to nurture client relationships and be innovative. It is an opportunity to deepen credibility and go beyond to drive real progress. It is an opportunity to attract and retain the best talent. And it is an opportunity to build on the legacy we want to leave behind. Being sustainability-driven is simply the right thing to do. We continue to challenge ourselves to find new ways to build a stronger Sun Life — to inspire and foster the respect of our Clients, employees, advisors, partners, shareholders, and others. 

Anchored by our employees, our organisation's approach towards sustainability is rooted in a deep sense of responsibility to foster healthier communities. Through our steadfast support of sustainability endeavours, we not only distinguish ourselves as an employer of choice but also empower our workforce to play a significant role in shaping a sustainable future. We have implemented a comprehensive array of initiatives aimed at diminishing our carbon footprints, preserving natural resources, and fostering eco-conscious practices across our supply chain. Through strategic investments in renewable energy sources, optimisation of energy efficiency, and reduction of waste generation, we not only cut operational costs but also contribute to a healthier planet for generations to come.

With increasingly high employee expectations, what are the steps you have undertaken at your organisation to foster a safety culture that empowers and encourages all employees to share their voice?

We at SLGS are committed to creating inclusive, sustainable, and empowering workplaces where employees can be themselves and reach their potential. Where their voices are heard and play a key role in shaping processes and policies. Some of our key initiatives include: 

  • Listening Framework @ SLGS – Skip level connects with leaders, functional town halls and HR Business Partner connects and Open House.
  • Quarterly Pulse survey (12-15 questions) for all employees focusing on engagement, wellness, inclusion, performance & development etc. along with open text box to record their observations.
  • Continuous listening through an employee life cycle (Employee sentiment analysis chatbot – Amber) – We have Amber chat, which is positioned as a Virtual Assistant to the Managing Director, SLGS. It reaches all employees at regular intervals and seeks qualitative inputs. The chats are confidential with access to MD, me (CHRO) and respective HR business partners. 

In addition, there are multiple forums like functional Town Halls and Focused Group Discussions to get the pulse of employee sentiments.

Firms which are deeply committed to DEI outperform competitors, find talent more easily, and inspire better performance. What insights can you share with us on the successful DEI efforts at your firm?

At Sun Life Global Solutions, we are dedicated to promoting Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEI&B) within our workplace. We believe in creating an environment where all employees are treated fairly, and respectfully, and have equal access to opportunities and resources. 

With the strength of our collective journey through a multi-year plan from 2023-2025, we at SLGS have created a dent in the universe and we say this with two connotations in mind. 

The universal potential impact that DEI&B can make for organisations and society is not yet fully comprehended – we know that it is huge! Having said that we are aware that we are doing something significant with the plan and everyone working on it has the sense that with our work we are shaping and influencing the future. 

  • Overall gender diversity is at 43% consistent with last year. 
  • The diversity at Band 7+ roles has witnessed a 4 % pts increase from last year at 34% and in the Tech group, our diversity is at 35%. 
  • Our overall employee retention for women employees has increased by 4%.

There is a huge focus on positioning ourselves as an employer of choice externally and reinforcing our EVP internally to engage and retain talent. We have won the title of 100 Best Companies for Women in India by Avtar – a prestigious recognition in the Indian talent space and even made our way into the Hall of Fame for winning this title 5 times in a row. Apart from this, we have been there in the best possible platforms making ourselves visible and demonstrating thought leadership in various forums. We have initiated PwD inclusion and warming up to PRIDE through programs and internships has indeed worked. We are listening to the voices of employees on their sentiment of inclusion and belonging through internal and external surveys and our typical scores are higher than average benchmarks. 

What advice do you have for leaders, who are struggling to find and build the talent pipeline? 

Organisations must evaluate and adopt innovative talent management practices to build the talent pipeline. Some of the approaches I can recommend basis our own experience are as follows: 

  • Curate defined growth opportunities – Clear & defined career progression acts as a huge motivation.
  • Leveraging multiple hiring platforms - Engage diverse and culturally fit talent.
  • Design an effective Employee Referral Program – Employees are the most important ambassadors.
  • Make Diversity, Equity & Inclusion a Priority – Making people feel that they belong is critical.
  • Provide learning opportunities - Invest in talent. Offer courses, certification programs, and opportunities for higher education.
  • Build a strong employer brand – External recognitions reinstate the faith of candidates.

The evaluation process for People Matters Are You In The List powered by Aon is underway. If you are eager to know who the emerging future-forward HR leaders of 2024 will be, follow the #AreYouInTheList.

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Topics: Leadership, Learning & Development, Skilling, #Culture, #AreyouintheList?

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