Article: Retaining talent in the VUCA times- Why and How?

Talent Management

Retaining talent in the VUCA times- Why and How?

Shailesh Singh, Director and Chief People Officer at Max Life Insurance shares companies need a transparent culture to attract and retain the best talent.
Retaining talent in the VUCA times- Why and How?

Talent today is particular about their needs and expectations from the organization they work for. As companies struggle to stay relevant and competitive in the times of layoffs, mergers, and reorganizations, restricting hiring opportunities to one type of employee is no longer an option. To stay relevant and attract the best experts for your organization, you need to know what talent wants.

People Matters in an interview with Mr. Shailesh Singh, Director and Chief People Officer at Max Life Insurance shares the key learnings and best practices of Max Life Insurance on how he and his team retained its essential resources- Employees in the times of disruption.

Q: What are the critical talent challenges that are faced by HR and leaders in the insurance industry?

Each sector has its own set of talent challenges. When I look at the insurance sector, I can think to attract talent has been a prime challenge. One big question here is the level of challenge quality versus quantity! 

Quantity as a challenge:

The insurance sector is one of those industries which are experiencing the highest growth in the country. This increase was a little sluggish, slow-paced in the last few years with penetration in India been 3-4% for several years. However, today, the sector is growing at a rate of 20-30% across the world. This exceptional growth is in itself poses a challenge as to sustain this growth, the sector needs to hire a lot of people.

Quality as a challenge:

For a long time, LIC enjoyed the monopoly since its inception in 1956 and continued its dominance for a longer time. However, with passing the time, private players are winning the market share-inch by inch, from LIC. From having 100% insurance market share, they are down to about 50% today and now slipping below 50% in different territories. So, apparently, to stay progressive and yet differentiated, the private sector has a challenge of hiring talent of superior quality.

Hiring game has gone tough- a lot of private players have emerged, brands have got evolved, and hence, there is a need for a steady pipeline of quality talent. By quality talent, I also mean talent with niche skills regarding digital, analytics or strategy for business development which are all needed to fuel and support the growth of insurance sector.

Q: Digitalization and technology are revolutionizing the way businesses are operating. How do you ensure adopting technology doesn’t lead to job loss?

“The only way to fight job loss- train your people.”

The ultimate goal for any organization is to create value for their target customers. The future will demand organizations to embrace the emerging technologies- Digital, AI, IoT, Automation to fulfill customer needs. However, it is also certain these technologies will take a toll on some job. As an organization, we stay committed to both – digitization, as well as ensuring our people are taken care of in the process. We are working our way to ensure there are adequate job opportunities where we can re-skill and up-skill the employees to deploy them in new roles. We are digitizing, but we do not have to let go of people. 

Q: How important is transparency as a part of work culture? Did enabling transparency  help you in engaging and retaining your talent?

“Give meaningful insights to employees that build trust and an environment where people can give honest and direct feedback, knowing it will be heard and shared with the right people.”

As an organization, we practice primarily four organization values- Caring, Credibility, Collaboration, and Excellence. All of these are based on the foundation of integrity. And transparency is inherent to ‘integrity and ethics’ that we practice.  I am a big fan of transparency, and I can’t imagine a caring, collaborative, credible workplace without transparency. Transparency is clearly interlinked to the organizational values and culture that we subscribe to. To foster transparency, we have practice some initiatives like:

  • An employee intranet to where all company policies are listed which people can see and understand for themselves and in case of any query they can reach out to HR or their managers.
  • Regular dialogues between the leaders and employees through webcasts and town-halls across geographies.
  • Consistent recognition and feedback through our company intranet and employee app. 
  • A transparent performance management system based on agreed goals and measuring performance on “how did you perform vs. your competency.”
  • Multiple channel/platform to escalate matters of concern like whistleblower, open the door to organization leaders, etc. 

Transparency is a big enabler of trust. It helps build an environment where people can work without ‘fear or favor’. It lowers differences and encourages us to behave like enterprise owner and give our best to whatever roles we perform.

Q: What are some key initiatives that helped you in retaining your top employees?

 “Believe in your people and invest -create initiatives around this philosophy.”

  • Creating a great place to work:

We believe in holding the status of a great place to work as a philosophy. All these years we have been committed to bringing the best for our employees- learning, work-life balance, growth needs, engagement and their empowerment. 

  • Crafting development plans:

 We follow an initiative called “Organization and Talent Review.” Within this initiative, every supervisor in each function with the support of HR looks at the business plan and alongside create a talent plan for each employee. The process involves answering questions like, “Do I have the right number of resources to fulfill this plan for my team?”, “Are my people motivated? What is the engagement level?”, “What were the areas in the last survey that they wanted us to work on?”, “ What is my development plan for this year?”, “ What is my potential for key roles?”, and “ Who are the top two or three people who can potentially take this in 12 to 24 months and beyond?”

  • Investing in our workforce:

Creating an ecosystem that serves employees’ needs and customizes the offering to that level where we can engage our folks and ensure that they get what they are looking for in their life and career. For example, we provide executive coaches to our key talent and to our senior people, mentors to our workforce from within the industry, nominate our people to the best institutes for the best courses, measure engagement levels through survey and take actions accordingly, post jobs internally through a job posting system in case someone wants to pursue roles beyond their functions.

Q: What are your top three learnings that you would like to suggest other organizations in retaining their top talent?

“In this war of talent, focus on people centricity and philosophy to retain great employees.”    

  • An excellent employee value proposition:

This is fundamental! Your EVP is the deciding factor in attracting and retaining talent. The workforce today is exceptionally sure about what they need from their job. They not only strive for a high paycheck but strive for growth opportunities, benefits, recognition, trust, etc. Invest in people’s growth and value them and you are likely to experience high loyalty.

  • Learning opportunities:

Offer a variety of choices from online to offline; from classroom to in-house; from on the job to some of the best institutes. Provide your employees with coaches and mentors. Stay committed to their learning needs and help them in crafting their career path.

  • Commitment to merit:

Organizations need to differentiate people and craft specific journeys for them and not necessarily treat them the same. It broadens diversity, and to understand what will work for an individual employee. This is very important for high-potential individuals who strive for a faster career progression. Invest in them sufficiently to ensure they get the right resources and attention from their managers and leaders.

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Topics: Talent Management, Employee Engagement

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