Life is full of uncertainties, and those in the life insurance business can totally relate to this statement. COVID-19 is something that no one had ever expected, and it is now impacting everyone around the world in more ways than one. It has completely changed the way people think and live their lives.
Amidst all this uncertainty, HDFC Life Insurance is moving ahead with extraordinary strength and resilience to ensure the safety of its employees and stakeholders, and carry on with its business.
Following the relaxation of lockdown, HDFC Life is opening branches in a phased manner with set guidelines for resumption of work. A skeletal workforce will be deployed on a need-to-be-in-office basis and on rotation, while customers will continue to be encouraged to use digital and self-servicing modes.
The insurance company has mandated that expectant mothers and those with comorbid conditions should continue operating from home.
The Company has approximately 10 per cent of its employees coming to work in the branches. However, with the rising number of cases in Mumbai, the head office remains closed, with 100 per cent of its staff working from home.
Employees are advised to practise personal hygiene and social distancing. They have to self-declare their condition in case they feel unwell and mandatorily follow self-quarantine guidelines.
Vibhash Naik, EVP & head – HR, L&D, administration, HDFC Life, says, “We are strengthening our digital capabilities further to ensure employees are able to operate seamlessly from home.
In Naik’s words, HDFC Life has adopted all the necessary precautions so that the employees stay safe and healthy. When the lockdown was being eased, the first step was to ensure proper cleaning and sanitisation of the branches and facilitate the supply of necessary equipment and material to the offices.
Apart from carrying out temperature checks for every individual before entering office, all the necessary arrangements are being made to enhance the hygiene of the office premises.
At the branches, transparent partitions are being installed at customer-handling desks to ensure the safety of customers as well as the employees. Additionally, employees are advised to download the AarogyaSetu app and conduct a self-assessment.
Needless to say that every employee and customer has to wear a mask or an appropriate face cover, not just inside the office premises, but even while travelling from home to office and vice versa.
“The lockdown was clearly the chance for all of us to invest in ourselves and hone our skills and knowledge, while at home.”
Team meetings, trainings, reviews and other activities that require people to come together, will be organised virtually.
“To avoid mass gatherings in one place, cafeteria services have been suspended and employees have been asked to make their own arrangements for food and snacks,” Naik adds.
At the end of the financial year, it was crucial for HDFC Life to achieve its targets set for FY 2020. However, the prevailing COVID-19 scenario changed the market dynamics.
While most of the processes were being managed digitally, and people were enabled to work from home, deferred spends by customers or reluctance to appear for medical tests posed a few hurdles in acquiring new business.
“Challenges, such as reaching out to the customers, resolving their queries or digital capabilities for selling a new life product to the customers were quickly mitigated,” Naik reveals.
HDFC Life — with its widespread geographical presence in India, through its employees and partners — left no stone unturned to reach out to its customers, so that they could benefit from life insurance in these uncertain times.
Naik adds, “It’s our collective strength that has helped us maintain the leading position in the industry and preserved the customers’ trust in us.”
The Company has always laid emphasis on skill building and knowledge enhancement of employees.
While the lockdown appeared challenging, Naik looked at it as an opportunity, since it offered the time and space to think about and prioritise those aspects, which were otherwise pushed back due to the daily work-life hassle. “This clearly was the chance for all of us to invest in ourselves and hone our skills and knowledge, while at home”, he explains.
In Naik’s words, “We, at HDFC Life, have a dedicated team that is constantly working on strengthening our training capabilities. The team has helped develop and improve existing training programmes, create several new modules, curate self-paced training platforms keeping each employee’s individual needs and preferences in mind. The topics ranged across categories — process training, leadership development courses, soft skills, product training, domain training and foundation courses.”
Naik shares that, when the lockdown began, they realised that working remotely would require a different set of social and interpersonal skills. Therefore, they trained and counselled employees and managers on the skills of remote working and remote team management. Additionally, several online sessions were designed, and programmes were conducted virtually to cater to specific needs.
Learning was made fun for employees through various interventions to ensure their participation with full vigour and also to make sure they gained value. “We are happy to receive an overwhelming response to these learning platforms and we intend to continue with the same in future as well,” says Naik proudly.
Understanding the financial and mental strain that the COVID-19 crisis put its employees through, HDFC Life came up with initiatives to support the employees mentally, physically and financially. “As a responsible employer, our priority was to provide confidence and comfort to our employees in these unprecedented times,” points out Naik.
To begin with, the ‘Employee Assistance Programme’ encouraged employees and their families to speak to professionally-trained counsellors and deal with any kind of mental or emotional stress.
The Company also created an online platform for employees to promote holistic wellness – physical, mental and financial. Gamification of physical fitness was another idea to keep employees active and connected, while ensuring fun.
Skill building has always been HDFC’s area of focus and therefore, it has created various platforms for the knowledge and skill enhancement of employees during the lockdown phase.
Apart from an hour-long virtual training daily, and leveraging mobile learning nuggets, the Company also curated a set of online courses relevant for upgrading the skills and capabilities of its staff. It launched a gamified learning platform to make learning fun.
Admitting that these are tough times, Naik concludes on a positive note, saying, “This too shall pass and we shall emerge much stronger.”