How SBI General Insurance is overcoming business-continuity challenges during lockdown

For a customer facing industry, work from home has suddenly become the new normal, which many employees are finding it challenging to acclimatise with. Besides, the BFSI sector also has 25 per cent employees working from offices, and they are facing mobility challenges. Here is how SBI General Insurance is fighting the several odds.

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For a customer-facing industry, work from home has suddenly become the new normal, which many employees are finding challenging to acclimatise with. Besides, the BFSI sector also has 25 per cent employees working from offices, and they are facing mobility challenges. Here is how SBI General Insurance is fighting the odds.

The concept of work from home did not exist in many consumer-facing sectors, such as BFSI, till now. With employees having been asked to work from home, given the pandemic-like situation, many are finding it difficult. This has become a business-continuity challenge.

Shharad Dhakkate, chief human resource officer, SBI General Insurance, quips, “Getting people to accept that ‘work from home’ is the new normal, is itself a challenge.

The shift from the conventional workplace to the virtual one needs to happen seamlessly, without any impact on core operations or customer service levels. This is a very unique and unprecedented scenario, and we need to adjust to the evolving situation and respond to changes accordingly.”

The Company has now formed an emergency management team (EMT), which is closely monitoring the situation in liaison with the central/state/local authorities. The necessary advisory is being issued to the employees and other stakeholders.

Shharad Dhakkate

The primary mantra has been simple: communicate, communicate, communicate

The EMT has provisioned for various engagement activities and matrices to make ‘work from home’ a pleasant and productive experience for the employees.

Dhakkate explains, “In IT/ITES organisations, it’s normal for people to work from home. However, it is unprecedented in our industry. Here, face to face interaction is the normal.”

“Most of our locations are spread across geographies, covering a majority of the mofussil towns as well. It’s here that we have to herald this new style of working and staying relevant in terms of individual productivity, in alignment with the organisation’s overarching objectives,” he adds.

The other key challenge that the employees are facing is working with limited resources, staying connected with the team and keeping up meaningful engagement levels.

“We, as an organisation, have been sensitive to such needs in the current context and taken some proactive steps to ensure seamless transition to the new situational demands.

The primary mantra has been simple: communicate, communicate, communicate,” shares Dhakkate.

The managers at SBI General Insurance are not only expected to have clarity in terms of expectations and performance benchmarks in the new environment, but also provide the same to their team members.

SBI General Insurance has provided its people with all the required tools and facilities to work effectively from home. The Company has created a structured web-engagement framework to keep employees engaged.

“While we were early adopters of online learning and mobile engagement and already had a robust utilisation background, in the current situation we have enhanced the engagement quotient of our L&D interventions keeping in mind the work-from-home situation and the monotony that it may slowly breed,” explains Dhakkate.

“We have clearly-defined work streams and productivity expectations and all these efforts are motivating the workforce positively, to cope with the transitioned environment, more capably,” he adds.

The challenge is not limited only to people working from home. In the insurance sector, 25 per cent of employees also need to work from offices, to ensure business continuity. That is also a major challenge in the current context, as the safety, hygiene and security of these employees needs to be ensured.

Apart from this, mobility restriction amidst the lockdown is also a major challenge for employees who are travelling.

“Only those employees who perform critical activities are advised to visit office, and that too on a need basis. We have also considered mobility constraints, and hence, have provided employees, who are attending office, with cab service. Presently, we are tracking the movement of our employees performing their duty from office, on end-to-end basis,” claims Dhakkate.

The slump in the travel and automobile sector has created a serious dent in the general insurance space. That’s yet another business challenge these companies are fighting currently.

“There is a lot of thrust on online renewals and that’s transitioning a large chunk of our renewals. We are not facing any major challenges on the renewal front,” elucidates Dhakkate.

However, he also clarifies that while the current situation certainly limits the scope of new business generation, the strong relationship quotient with its intermediaries has enabled the Company to leverage its strength of personal touch, enthusiasm and positive energy in converting it into incremental renewal achievements and customer connect.

SBI General is following a comprehensive business continuity plan to address all probable situations and attune to near-to-normal BAU, using virtual and digital modes.

The EMT has been closely monitoring the situation in liaison with the central/state/local authorities, and necessary advisory is being issued to the employees and other stakeholders.

In Dhakkate’s words, “The EMT has been taking necessary steps as per our crisis management plan, to reshape the business strategy, to maintain business continuity, to build resilience and prepare for recovery.”