While most companies have undergone changes and restructuring in the last year, more of learning and skilling has helped keep the employees technically sound and up to date as far as artificial intelligence (AI) tools are concerned. Organisations themselves have had to undergo a thorough learning process to bring the workforce back on track.
Commenting on the importance of learning and development of the organisation, Shailesh Singh, director and chief people officer, Max Life Insurance, says, “One of our organisation’s core values is the growth mindset, which is essential for an enterprise to have. In order to fulfill that, it is important for an enterprise to learn. Unless we learn as a team, it will be difficult for the organisation to renew itself and progress. A foundation of growth mindset is what the leadership at Max Life believes in.”
Individual and organisational learning
With the rapid technological advancements, the world is becoming more competitive. With the crisis having adversely affected businesses across almost all the sectors, companies have had to shift most of their corporate workforce to AI. However, this shift came as a result of organisational learning along with individual learning. “To stay in competition, learning is important. In fact, learning has two-fold importance — as an enterprise need and as an individual need. Keeping both in view, Max Life maps each employee’s aspirations and their growth path with the Organisation. We look at the gap between their current skills and their aspirations, which help us understand what learning process they require to reach their goal in the Company,” explains Singh.
Commenting on the individual learning and development procedures followed at Max Life, Singh says, “We present Individual Development Plans or IDPs, which allow employees to choose learning programmes according to their choice and aspirations. On the basis of their selection, we provide a variety of tools, such as coaching, grooming and mentoring. ”
One of our organisation’s core values is the growth mindset, which is essential for an enterprise to have. In order to fulfil that, it is important for an enterprise to learn. Unless we learn as a team, it will be difficult for the organisation to renew itself and progress.
Explaining how Max Life guides its people on their career path, Singh shares, “We encourage our team leaders and supervisors to have an annual conversation with their teams to discuss their goals and their performance matrix. We have crafted experience maps, which help people plot their performance journey, and identify the functions they need to go through before ending up in the positions they desire. This helps employees self-determine their learning and development paths and plans. ”
However, there are always two sets of people — one that is eager to learn, and the other that is too reluctant to develop new skills. The latter set may also comprise people with high potential, who may need a push into the learning process. In order to retain such people with high potential, companies may have to undertake certain initiatives. At Max Life, “There are indeed some people who don’t realise their own potential and the need to learn,” reveals Singh. “It certainly gets difficult for the organisation to motivate them to learn. In such cases, we work in association with the HR team, on the basis of annual performance reports, to help such employees realise the need to upskill and learn. This awakens them to the need to invest their time, money and resources for their own good, and the Company supports them in this process. While it may take some time, it is important to do their bit in order to foster a growth mindset. However, ultimately it is up to the individuals to adopt it.”
Internal and external talent
A report published by Max Life states “Over 50 per cent of mid-senior positions are filled through internal talent.” Commenting further on this Singh says, “We believe in achieving a balance between buying and retaining talent. We build as well as buy talents because our strong culture, built over the years, is very powerful when it comes to some of the senior and mid-senior people. We have faith in the culture that has groomed our people through the years. Every person in the mid-senior level is capable of leading, and we are in a good position to have some of these positions filled by internal talent. On the other hand, buying is more expensive than retaining, not only in terms of paying more, but also in terms of the time taken by new people to absorb the culture and the structure of the company. The process consumes more resources in terms or money and time. Therefore, building is always superior because internal talent is better aware of the organisation than external talent, but we also wish to keep our doors open to outsiders. Our foundation is made strong by a growth mindset, which requires learning, and we always encourage that in the newcomers.”
While it is convenient to retain internal talent, this requires talent mapping. Only then can the right talent be placed in a new role. However, for a company with such high numbers of people on board, the correct mapping may be challenging. With the new AI tools and techniques of talent mapping in the market, many companies are able to adopt new procedures for this. “We have been running OTR, which is a process of annual submission of talent reports by the team leaders, for almost ten years now,” claims Singh. He goes on to explain, “Every supervisor is expected to deliver a report on how well equipped a team is in terms of talent needed to launch a new business strategy or plan. In the report, the supervisors also need to plot the path that they wish to take to grow with the team. During this process best bets of each team are identified and scrutinised by every level of leadership. Therefore, the outcome is more reliable. Additionally, we also use AI tools to filter out who is likely to fit in better in our culture and work structure. These AI tools help streamline the candidature while hiring. We also employ some tools to acquire feedback on our existing employees, and most importantly, to train the the internal talent.”
With time, the hiring process has become more technical given the involvement of AI tools and software. In addition, there are the changing business needs, which also have an impact on the process. This makes it equally important for the hiring managers to undergo training and upskilling as well.
“It is absolutely imperative for our leaders to stay up to date with the happenings in their respective areas. They can either do this themselves or seek help from their supervisors. We also have something called ‘Ideas Exchange’ wherein senior leaders and former leaders come together to discuss with the Max Life team ways to grow and groom to stay relevant with the times. Unless one continues to make efforts to learn and grow it will be difficult to withstand the tough market competition,” enunciates Singh.
Reducing gender gap
Talking about the measures to bridge the gender gap across all levels in the Company, Singh highlights the fact that Max Life has been working on enhancing gender diversity for a few years now, choosing to focus on culture. The priority of Max Life has been to keep the culture diverse in terms of gender.
Singh shares, “Our desire is to make sure that everybody is heard, and there are no biases as far as possible. We want to ensure that women are rightfully represented. Over the last few years we have made significant changes in this direction. Even ten years back when the Government of India used to grant two to three months of maternity leave, Max Life allowed five months of maternity leave. Looking forward to making women feel safer and help them balance their personal and professional lives, we started providing them cab services in case of late sign-outs after 8 p.m.”
“Also, when we hire women, we provide 20 per cent higher incentives for referring successful women for the team. We also have women mentoring initiatives across all the levels of the company. We wish to create a balanced and caring workplace for women, and also make sure that supervisors understand this very well. In instances of supervisors not abiding by such rules, necessary measures have been taken against them. We aim to develop a talent pipeline for women and ready them to take on mid-senior roles,” he adds.
Clearly, Max Life is going out of its way to make the workplace more competitive and sensitive. It believes in creating the right workplace culture to ensure integrated growth of the Company along with its employees.