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"We Have Built This Culture Over The Last Two Decades, Which Has Helped Us Sail Through Tough Challenges"
Employee listening through an agile and comprehensive engagement architecture is very important in an organization.
Santanu Banerjee, CHRO, Bajaj Allianz Life got into a candid conversation with BW People journalist to elucidate upon the need for making workplace inclusive and positive.
Q: How would you define Bajaj Allianz Life's culture, and how has it evolved over the last few years amidst the pandemic?
The culture at Bajaj Allianz Life is deeply rooted in the values of empathy, collaboration, innovation and ownership – all directly & indirectly veering the organization towards the goal of customer obsession. We have built this culture over the last two decades, which has helped us sail through tough challenges that came with transforming an organization of our size and stature, especially in recent years.
The Covid-19 pandemic presented both challenges and opportunities for us to communicate with all our stakeholders, especially our internal customers – the employees. To ensure a seamless transition to a virtual and hybrid work model for our employees, we had to quickly adapt and evolve while keeping our core values alive. We believed and followed the simple philosophy of building trust, being responsive and communicating with them, especially during critical times as the pandemic.
By setting up a strong team and robust processes, bringing in clarity of vision and purpose, and fostering clear, two-way communication, our top leadership was also able to create an agile, responsive and high-performance workforce.
Q: What are the initiatives Bajaj Allianz Life has taken to make the workplace positive and inclusive?
As a people-centric organization, we have introduced several initiatives and established practices that reinforce the employer brand we stand for.
We have been able to build a strong leadership connect by communicating consistently through multiple forums, thereby building employee confidence and offering them a safe space to share their feedback without any inhibitions. We wanted to ensure that employees & partners across levels – including the last mile ICs (Insurance Consultants) – have leadership accessibility and are able to build a symbiotic relationship with their seniors, peers and team members.
We also strive to nurture a culture of innovation, where employees are encouraged to bring new, interesting ideas to the table and even lead these projects in collaboration with relevant teams. 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 during pandemic times, and has now become the norm for enhanced customer experience.
Learning and development is another focus area at Bajaj Allianz Life, as we believe in reskilling and upskilling our employees for them to be contextual and agile. We recently introduced our Learning Experience Platform 2.0 (LXP 2.0) to provide a customized learning experience for employees across departments.
Additionally, we have built a strong internal career mobility program “Udaan. Career Goals Done.”, creating numerous opportunities for our employees to learn & grow within the Bajaj Allianz Life eco system. So far, over 700 employees have moved to new roles to grow both vertically & horizontally across business channels/functions in the last one & half years itself.
Diversity & Inclusion is one of the key focus areas at Bajaj Allianz Life. We offer vocational training to students from the Pune Blind School and recently hired two candidates for full-time roles at our head office in Pune. Through our EVOLVE 2022 program, we have developed a focused leadership lab for CXO aspirant women and also initiated special care policies for women with an option to avail permanent work from home for mothers with children less than 12 years.
Besides, our Rewards & Recognition (R&R) program is robust and customized for each function, to fairly acknowledge and appreciate the efforts of our employees.
Q: Do you think the right employee experience has a direct impact on employee productivity? If yes, how can corporates work towards creating a healthy work environment?
Employee experience is the employee's perceptions about his / her journey through all the touch points at the organization, right from job candidacy through to exit from the company. Strengthening the employee experience has numerous benefits that are associated with employee job satisfaction, leading to higher productivity.
Organizations should focus on creating the right work-life balance and camaraderie at the workplace to ensure an engaging and positive work environment. Employee listening through an agile and comprehensive engagement architecture is very important in an organization. Another opportunity for companies to create a healthy environment at work is by setting focused organizational and departmental goals, as it helps in identifying clear roles and responsibilities for each employee, thereby improving productivity and efficiency.
At Bajaj Allianz Life, we conduct targeted sentiment analysis for muted engagement pockets to understand our employees better. We also organize regular open forums with the senior leadership team for all employees and State Heads to facilitate free flowing communication between them. They are encouraged to imbibe the ECCHO culture (E – Empathy, C – Customer Obsession, C – Collaboration, H – High Tech Innovation, O – Ownership) and practice it as a way of life in the organization.
Q: Do you think higher engagement levels with employees add positivity to the workplace? Are there any initiatives Bajaj Allianz Life has taken to ensure high engagement levels with the employees?
The right combination of people policies, rewards and benefits helps build engagement with them at various levels. We have introduced several initiatives to this effect:
· Connecting with last mile employees by fostering the culture of ‘listening’ through regular webinars with the CEO and other leadership members
· Vibes – our bi-annual employee engagement survey – helps us identify the existing best practices along with the areas of improvement to enable a positive environment at the workplace
· Our segmented approach towards the R&R program to ensure every employee gets their due credit
· Customized wellness program – ENERGISE – for physical and mental wellness of employees, counselling support, medical assistance, silent hours, etc.
· FUN Zone at Work – games & fitness zone at office
While several employees are transitioning from remote working to the physical office space, we will continue to provide perks like optional work from home as and when required.
Q: What are the upskilling initiatives and strategies taken up for the employees?
The pandemic has posed tremendous opportunities for the learning and development of employees across levels, due to accessibility to several virtual learning platforms. At Bajaj Allianz Life, we believe in active and consistent learning, unlearning, relearning and upskilling of our human capital.
Our learning & development initiatives focus on ensuring hyper-personalization of the learning journey for employees. Other than the strong instructor-led functional & behavioral learning architecture, which we already had, we have recently launched LXP 2.0, our internal virtual learning experience platform, to implement role-specific learning architecture for all employees. The platform hosts an exhaustive pool of high quality, self-
learning content video for employees, which they can access at their own convenience. For niche functions like tech and analytics, we have tied up with external learning partners like Coursera to facilitate domain-specific knowledge acquisition. We have also rolled out EVOLVE – an excellent learning program for women leadership, enabling them to take on more challenging roles in their careers.
Q: What, according to you, are the key components of a good workplace and the right employee experience?
Promoting a healthy workplace should be a part of every organization’s culture and beliefs. A great work culture improves employee productivity, increases loyalty, reduces retention, and invokes a sense of belonging across the company. Effective two-way communication, proper training & development, and a robust reward & incentive mechanism acts as a catalyst for enhanced employee experience.
The quality and values that trickle down from the leadership to the subordinates help shape up the employee experience. Good leaders foster a pleasant work environment and inculcate strong work ethics among their team members, thereby nurturing creativity, innovation and efficiency.
Another important pillar that defines a good workplace is the work-life balance offered to employees. At Bajaj Allianz Life, we follow practices like silent hours, weekly offs, flexible work schedules for working mothers, and much more. We strive to provide competitive, market-driven perquisites for ensuring high productivity and boosting their morale from time to time.
Q: How do you think employee’s on-boarding experience and engagement impacts the retention?
An employee life cycle – right from onboarding to separation and exit – creates a lasting impression in their minds and helps make or break an employer brand. It gives organizations the opportunity to create an enhanced experience for employees across multiple touchpoints. By ensuring a smooth, seamless and hassle-free onboarding process, employers can build a positive image and make their people feel welcome in the organization.
We believe that assimilation of new joinees to the organisation’s culture should be a key focus. In the last few months, we have rolled out several initiatives to handhold new joiners in the ecosystem to make them comfortable and provide a healthy employee experience. For example:
· LAUNCH PAD is a centralized outbound call center at our HO where our team engages with new joiners and helps them settle down in the new environment in the first 30 days of joining
· ROOKIE Pathshala Connect is a connect session done with new joiners in the first 90 days to discuss the HR policies, career progression framework, Rookie Goal Sheets and focus on performance management
· Walk the Talk Listening Sessions is another connect session with Sales team to address granular ground issues, walkthrough FLS Goal sheet and earning potential, team recognition for new joiners in first 6 months
Q: What are the ways to keep the teams involved, engaged, and motivated while in a hybrid work environment?
While the company policies and practices are directed towards creating a positive workplace for all employees, managers are really the first point of contact for the team members. How they engage and build relationships with their subordinates, plays a critical role in a hybrid work environment.
The limitations of a hybrid work environment can be overcome through effective and seamless communication. Be it the senior leadership team or a last mile leader, we encourage managers across functions to set the right expectations from the very beginning and help teams strike a balance between their personal and professional goals. They must also appreciate them from time to time, to keep the team members motivated and involved.
As we return to the new normal albeit a hybrid work environment, we feel that several measures taken during the pandemic are here to stay. Employees can choose a flexible working schedule from office or remotely. Employee wellness had always been a focus for us, and while it accentuated during the pandemic, it will continue to remain so in the future.