In the insurance sector, spanning nearly 320 years, Aviva life insurance is not a brand, it’s a culture. This story is a compelling one and gives a deep insight on how engagement becomes a natural outcome when you drive your values into every little thing that you do as an organization.
To understand each fragment of this deeply rooted culture at Aviva life insurance, I met Amit Malik, the Chief People, Operations & Customer Services Officer. This one and a half hour engaging conversation brought to light a significant element of an empathetic approach that helps create amazing workplaces, not just for decades but for generations to come.
As Amit rightly puts it, to create an amazing workplace, start with the customer, live the values and embrace digital. This will ensure that you are in a good space.
What does employee engagement mean to you and what role does it play in your organization?
When an employee comes to the office in the morning and is happy about it, I think it’s a good benchmark to understand that the employee is engaged. Feeling wanted fulfills many needs both personal and professional. We always believe that employee engagement is an not an activity but an outcome, the sum total of whatever we undertake to do. Thus, to engage the workforce, you have to improve engagement in every sphere of what you do and what you are.
At Aviva, we drive flexibility at every step. So, basically it’s like changing of philosophy with changing times by providing choice to our employees on various fronts.
Flexibility in thought and appearance: Although we are a BFSI organization, we challenged our dress code policy, a step largely supported by our CEO. So from an essentially formal dressing, we switched to casuals. Obviously there are times when we decide the dress code according to the occasion. But that flexibility is more of a choice that our people have.
Flexible leave policy: To drive our value of Care More, we introduced the policy of leave donation. If a person needs a leave for education, marriage or a medical need, a colleague can voluntarily donate his leave to him. In fact, we also welcome the idea of leave recognition where you can recognize a colleague for great work done by him by donating your leave to him. However, there should be a genuine reason for this donation governed by certain rules since we do not want anyone to misuse it.
Besides this, there prevails a system of “My Leave”, wherein we give employees 3 day leave which they can use as per their specific needs. We also provide special leaves, basis your tenure. Supposing you have spent 0-3 years with us, you get 30 days leave. For a period between 3-5 years, you get 32 days and for 5 plus years you get 34 days.
We have gone over and above the legal requirement by giving a one month adoption leave to men as well. It’s not mandatory by law but we felt it to be equally important for both parents.
We are also one of the few companies where as an employee – you have a choice to take a 3 day paid leave to work with a charitable organization of your choice.
Flexibility of work hours: We have moved ahead of man days so we do not track ourselves. It’s more about being able to integrate your work and personal life. You have the flexibility to come late or work from home if a personal need is there.
Even our punch in and punch out system is more from a security perspective, rather than for tracking man hours.
Flexible in learning: Gone are the days when you say, I’ll do just one training program on time management, one training – program on customer service and everything happened . We provide our employees the freedom to pick and choose what training program adds value to them and participate in just that. There is no manager nomination and our philosophy is “own your growth”
Flexibility in R&R: Even in our long service policy we give Employees a choice of what they want to carry home.
Flexibility of conduct: We follow a system wherein you can choose to be a part of a meeting only if you are getting value from it. Also, you have the choice to reply to a mail if you are in CC.
We organize over hundred health and wellness camps across our 90 locations. These usually stem from jointly understanding needs of the employees and include stress, yoga, zumba activities besides health checkups. However participation is purely an individual choice.
Transparency & flow of Information
To be authentic, it is important for an organization to be able to stand up and be vocal about the tough messages or the tough things it is going through. We are very transparent about exchange of views and information. It’s a global Aviva policy that any major event happening, employees are the first to be informed. This is a mandate and nobody can defy it.
Feedback without fear: Our culture initiates to provide feedback without the fear of reprisal. It’s important and heartening to share that since the last 2 -3 years, we’ve had over 96 to 99 % participation rate in our Voice of Aviva survey.
Freedom to make mistakes: We allow people to be courageous and make mistakes. The idea to enable people to be agile and take risk without any fear of failure Live chats: We organize live chats, where employees can directly put up questions to the CEO and other members of the leadership team .
Simplicity experiment: We have a culture action team (CAT) which does the CAT sessions. Herein they ask employees to do a simplicity experiment to see how they will make life simple for themselves and their work area. And then the employee takes ownership to correct areas that need to be improved upon.
Ability to be heard: If an employee has a very good idea he is free to write to anyone. If there is value in the idea from an organization’s view point, it goes to the next level where we conclude if it’s implementable or not.
Internal message calendar: We have an Internal annual calendar across functions for key messaging to keep the employees updated. The idea is to share important information throughout the company. This encompasses products, events, initiatives, recognition etc.
Training & Development
Training for us is learning: Learning is essentially about the value that it brings in.
Quest: We have tied up with an online service provider where you can take up courses during your office hours for the stuff of your interest. For eg. if you have an interest in photography or SEO, you can opt for a module of your choice to help improve your skills.
Knowledge forum: Senior people sharing their expertise within the organization. We do an open house session where you nominate yourself for areas of your interest. The idea is to have a captive audience who would want to be a part of the session.
Education policy: As a part of a – career development , we give employees the option of an education assistance policy where you can enroll into a course that equips you for the next step in your career journey. You just need to discuss and decide with your manager. We reimburse this fee – on a success plus basis.
Learning through experience: we encourage employees to go outside, look at what people are doing, bring that learning in. This is then shared within the team and the function head takes it to the next level. Through these learning we create projects wherein high potential employees become a part of the CEO club. Then you get them to work on cross functional projects.
Education on values: When we embarked upon the value journey we took a 3 year view and analyzed as to what we wanted to achieve. We did value assimilation through gamification via a business game where each person had his own personal score on values. The second step was My Aviva, My Story. The idea was to make people understand the values and then share stories where they have demonstrated these values. This helped us to deeply ingrain our values in the day to day working of our employees.
Obviously there are other learning that go in from a classroom standpoint. The front line sales manager is the brand ambassador of Aviva in front of the customer. The way he conducts himself is how the customer judges the company. Hence this is an essential part of the training.
Rewards & Recognition
Our rewards and recognition program is absolutely value based. We do not follow the system of self-nomination. You have to have someone who will nominate you. So, if someone has to recognize you for something good that you have done, they will nominate you.
We are also looking to recognize employees from a family stand point. For this we have a child merit recognition policy. As an insurance company we are very strong in the child space. We wanted to extend this to the employees’ children so we involved their family by understanding their children’s aspirations. Basis certain criteria, we give a small token award to employee children along with a letter from the CEO and a goodies bag and cash prize. Our people feel proud that their company is recognizing their child’s potential and talent. When the family is involved it makes them more engaged.
“With all this and more, I am proud to say that we have been successful in making our people engaged. We have done this by focusing on and implementing the Aviva philosophy of simplicity and innovation to make the employee experience truly enriching.”