The world may have vaccines in 2021 but it still needs the ability to respond and adapt to change continually. No wonder, just like 2020, 2021 will be another year marked by continuous reinvention, transformation, and adaptation. Companies will need to focus on purposeful transformation to tide over the vulnerabilities and create plans for managing a global workforce.
In an exclusive interaction with us, Santanu Banerjee, Chief Human Resources Officer, Bajaj Allianz Life, shares with us how Bajaj Allianz reinvented itself through the 3 Rs of Reimagine, Recast, and Retrain.
2021 will call for continuous reinvention. What are some of the ways you are reinventing the workplace at Bajaj Allianz?
2020 was all about reinvention for us through the 3Rs- Reimagine, Recast, and finally Retrain. A lot of things had to be reimagined. We reimagined new processes because our business is a very brick-and-mortar business. It is about meeting people one-on-one and walking them through a life insurance product that matches their life goals. The entire process of collaboration and complete workflows had to be reimagined, mostly at the senior and mid-management levels.
As part of the reimagination, business models had to be recast. In this recasting, two elements came into picture-one is work from home, which was the new model. Also, business models which can cash on the WFH situation were created. For instance, our direct marketing came up with a completely new WFH model.
As these models, systems, and processes were getting recast, there was a huge retraining activity that had to be done. It was not only for employees but also our advisors and agents, numbering around 80,000, who form a significant part of our distribution network. 2021 will follow a similar course in terms of reinvention to drive further efficiencies.
Purposeful transformation is the need of the hour. How do you think companies need to do that in the second year of the pandemic?
COVID-19 continues to post challenges and uncertainties still continues to hound companies. About two weeks back, companies were preparing for normalcy and now we are again preparing for stricter norms. The challenge for organizations is to reopen what the pandemic shut down. And this calls for transformation and reinvention across the ecosystem. We follow a 3 step transformation process which will continue this year as well.
The first step is putting people first-safety and security for people and the families during this time; the second step is rethinking of the distribution model; and the third step is adjusting to the hybrid way of working-rostering, hygiene, ensuring Covid protocols are maintained.
While these are reactive steps, proactive steps would be to become future-ready, build new capabilities, innovation, strengthening the tech infrastructure for all shareholders, and enhancing the overall operations with automation and AI. These will help in the purposeful transformation of the organization.
What are some of the policy and process changes that your organization has brought about in order to reinvent the workplace after the pandemic?
Agile rostering of employees basis the local government norms was something that we brought about to reinvent the workplace. The entire rostering happens on a QR code-based IT-enabled system. We also introduced a couple of agile policies to ensure that the heat that was being generated from continuous WFH could be taken care of. For instance, for working mothers, a complete weekend shutdown was maintained as far as possible. Mental well-being of employees was ensured by providing them counseling support as and when required. Silent hours to counter and manage stress were also introduced for the employees.
All these agile policies were attuned towards bringing the fine balance between personal and professional life which got compromised in the new WFH setup.
How are some of the ways in which innovation and sustainability can be encouraged by organizations?
Crisis is always a good place to start innovation. One such innovation we brought about was Bajaj Allianz Life SmartAssist, a first-of-its-kind co-browsing tool in the industry that enabled virtual meetings between customers and insurance consultants in the absence of in-person meetings. SmartAssist, helped us to enrich the sales process in the last mile by giving support to sales guys, enabling better solution selling. All of form filling and form submission was happening through the process of screen sharing. Over 32,000 applications were locked in through SmartAssist from August 2020 till March 2021. Overall sessions that have been conducted with the people through SmartAssist now have crossed 1 lakhs.
Everyone continues to be encouraged to think out of the box as to how to manage customers better as well as deliver innovative solutions.
How do you see the role of HR getting transformed and reinvented this year?
The crisis brought the HR function into the spotlight. It had to enable a huge transition to the hybrid work model and had to create platforms to interact with people as these were tough times and people needed mental support from their employers. So the frequency of listening to and communicating with employees has increased during the year. Also, it has become important to ensure that the WFH setup does not burn out employees; hence the need for HR to come up with agile work policies and increased engagement with employees became a priority.
Secondly, learning in this kind of environment is largely online. But online learning also has its share of digital fatigue. So introducing learning interspersed with projects, shorter learning capsules or what we call action learning, which means more projects and more connecting at the ground level, are ways in which HR can reinvent learning.