Behavioral Shift Is Much More Valuable For Long Term Than Any Business Opportunity: CHRO, Edelweiss Tokio Life Insurance

In the recent interaction with BW People; Vikas Bansal - CHRM at Edelweiss Tokio Life Insurance talks about the transformation of a CHRO during this crisis period; tips to keep the culture of the organisation intact; and how does the future look like to him as an HR Leader.


What do future organizations look like? As an HR leader, what challenges and opportunities do you see in this new normal?

Future organisations will reflect the unique learnings of this pandemic. They will enable hybrid models of the workplace, offering both flexibility and inclusion. As the mainstream workforce experiments with notions of work from home, flexible contracts, flexible timings, and benefits, in the longer term, I see the quality of life improving significantly and a new talent segment, which has been non-existent so far, integrating into the workforce.

Pre-pandemic, the quality of life suffered as millions, who were attracted to the so-called ‘city of gold’ or ‘land of opportunities’, would migrate from smaller towns to pursue their dreams and improved standard of living. We also saw certain demographics like new mothers leaving the workforce for extended breaks before resuming corporate life a couple of years down the line. 

Another big opportunity I see in India is the integration of the differently-abled into the mainstream workforce. Organisations are seeing diversity with much more seriousness and urgency now, but only a handful are proactively working with differently-abled individuals because they have always worried about challenges in infrastructure, integration with the team and other associated risks. But, now with work moving from office to home, the physical infrastructure and risk associated will become non-existent. The challenge of cultural integration might remain, but that can be tackled with adequate and accurate communication.

One of the challenges that organisations need to account for is that fact that joint family system has not completely disappeared in India and people continue to stay with their parents even after marriage. All homes are, therefore, not designed to enable work from home. We need to give the choice to employees on whether he / she wants to work from home.

How has the pandemic transformed your role as a CHRO?

As a CHRO you continue to be responsible for the safety and welfare of employees. However, there is no pre-determined plan you can work with as every day presents a new set of challenges like even though offices have opened, some of our employees stay in containment area and so on. Each situation has been unique, employee safety and business continuity both have to go hand in hand. Apart from being a CHRO, you start wearing multiple hats of risk management, technology adaption, cost management as each of them have an impact on employee safety, morale and productivity. There is a need to connect and listen more and the digital platforms are helping you to increase the reach and frequency.

What would you do to keep the culture of the company intact even in these testing times?

A culture truly binds the organization, and its robustness is certainly tested during such a challenging period. One of our initial concerns was ensuring employee safety and we had to set the tone on the seriousness of the disease. Considering we are a high-contact business, wherein our salesforce often meets the customer, we decided on announcing work from home even before the lockdown began. The initial months were a period of high communication from leadership; that was paramount to keeping the people on the right course in terms of work as well as personal safety. We as an organisation consciously decided on increasing our level of connectivity with each employee and their families. We undertook similar initiatives and the aim was to show our employees that we care and we are here to fully support them. Those actions naturally translated into kindness across our teams. I have seen much higher ownership for work, people are more accommodative with others, and the attitude with which our workforce has managed not only the customers but all other partners is a testimony to our strength as an organisation.

How have you empowered your employees to adopt digital and supported their productivity since late March?

We were among the first companies in the insurance sector which provided digital assets and access to the business application before the lockdown was announced. It allowed a seamless transition to work from home and provide uninterrupted services to our customers. We rolled out a massive reskilling program Dial for Success, for digital selling and digital engagement.  Leadership and team management skills became redundant as managing a virtual workforce is a completely new ballgame. All our workforce underwent a detailed training program from Dial for Success for virtual sales management to People Manager series for renewed leadership skills. Apart from skill-building, we provided employees various options for managing self and family, through dedicated counseling and medical helpline, guided meditation sessions, all of this has resulted in Edelweiss Tokio Life being one of the two companies growing month on month in the life insurance sector.  

How is recruitment changing, specifically at your company and generally for the industry?

The recruitment process is certainly changing for us, as it has for the rest of Corporate India. While our preference has been to recruit candidates face-to-face, the current situation does not permit that and we expect that to be the status quo for some time in the future. Over the past few months, interview scheduling, assessments, and tracking is being done digitally, but adaptation to digital tools for interviews has been low. It has certainly helped reducing turnaround time and costs. Jobs are also moving from where the office was to where talent is now which will reflect in the way employment is offered. Contracts are already becoming flexible, and candidates are open for a lesser number of hours. Life insurance specifically, the increasing awareness and customer interest in buying life insurance will translate to more employment as advisors remain key distributors for the sector.  

What is the best thing this pandemic has offered and you want to take it ahead for the long run?

Pandemic has helped me value smaller things and joys of life. I believe we all have started to appreciate and manage with what we have rather than what we don’t. We have started looking for opportunities in what is and that is leading us to what can be. I think that behavioural shift is much more valuable for the longer term than any other business or functional opportunity.  


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