How PNB MetLife’s workforce is coping with the virtual model

The Company has opened more than 80% of its branches across the country.

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Out of the total of 107 branches in the country, PNB MetLife has managed to open close to 89 branches till now.

However, not everyone needs to travel to work every day, unless there is a need to deposit a cheque or to meet with a customer. “Only 30 per cent of employees can work out of each branch at a time,” reveals Shishir Agarwal, director-HR, PNB MetLife.

As the branches are open six days a week, the Company has created two-day rosters for all branch staff. Employees are divided into groups, and each group works for two days at a single branch.

Out of the 12,000+ strong workforce in the organisation, 90 per cent of the employees work in sales. This includes 3,500 employees who operate out of partner bank branches and around 2,000 employees who work out of PNB’s own branches. The total workforce strength also includes 5,500 part-time employees.

Shishir Agarwal

“Two weeks before the lockdown, we went into testing our business continuity plans for a possible work-from-home scenario. This proved helpful to figure out which employees were in need of necessary infrastructure, such as laptops, data cards and VPN connections. We were able to help their smooth transition into the work-from-home mode with minimal disruption to customers.”

The Company recently opened up four branches in Delhi NCR, including one each in Noida and Gurugram.

In a conversation with HRKatha, Agarwal shares how in the past few months, there has been an acceleration towards the shift to digital, and most of the business is currently taking place virtually.

While the shift towards digital has been increasing, Agarwal adds that a turnaround to going full virtual is not possible for the industry.

“While we have been on the journey towards working more digitally, it is not possible to go completely digital, especially in a bank-insurance partnership. Ultimately, both physical and digital, will have to coexist,” opines Agarwal.

However, the Company started practising remote working just before the lockdown was announced. “Two weeks before the lockdown, we went into testing our business continuity plans for a possible work-from-home scenario. This proved helpful to figure out which employees were in need of necessary infrastructure, such as laptops, data cards and VPN connections. We were able to help their smooth transition into the work-from-home mode with minimal disruption to customers,” claims Agarwal.

At PNB MetLife, except for the branch employees, the corporate office employees are continuing to work from home for the moment.

To ensure that employees remained financially healthy, PNB MetLife paid their monthly salaries four days earlier than the usual pay-out date in March and April.

“During the months of April, May and June, we paid full salaries to all employees, irrespective of their attendance, as we realised that it was not possible for everyone to commute to office during the time,” says Agarwal.

In addition to their regular salaries, employees were paid their incentives, bonuses and increments.

For the sales team, the Company adopted digital through its real-time customer service app, Khushi, to enable its workers to service customers from home. Sales leaders in the organisation set up daily virtual sales huddles to discuss leads and how to advise customers in a virtual environment.

Agarwal mentions that training has been one of the key enablers for the sales team in the organisation. While the majority of sales used to happen primarily because of walk-in customers at the branches, going virtual required employees to be guided on how to engage with customers more proactively and bring in business.

Speaking on performance, he said that since the months of April, May and July are typically lean, in terms of business, for the insurance sector, employees’ performance was assessed more liberally.

“We had encouraged our employees to meet their annual sales targets and not focus on one quarter alone,” reveals Agarwal.

In the areas of engagement and learning, the organisation has initiated multiple activities. There are regular leadership talks, initiated by Michel A. Khalaf, CEO, MetLife, where he connects with different groups of employees across the world every 15 days.

Recently, the Company’s brand ambassador, P.V. Sindhu shared her own experiences and offered tips on taking care of mental and physical health during the lockdown. In addition, the Company also has weekly ‘Chai pe Charcha’ sessions as a part of its fun activities.