Innovation in insurance recruitment: Tata AIA’s journey towards high volume, top talent acquisition

Achieving a 4.8 / 5 candidate experience score 


Tata AIA Life is a joint venture between Tata Sons Pvt. Ltd and AIA Group. The venture merges Tata’s leadership in India with AIA’s status as the largest independent Pan-Asian life insurance group. The latter has a presence across 18 markets in the Asia Pacific region. As the largest non-bank-owned life insurer in India and a rapidly growing entity in the industry, Tata AIA Life offers a diverse range of competitive and customisable investment and insurance plans. Its offerings include protection plans, wealth plans, savings plans, group plans, and micro insurance plans.

With a presence across 18 markets in the Asia Pacific region, Tata AIA Life aims to provide effortless and rewarding financial-planning solutions to meet various customer needs.

The sheer scale and variety of its services provide a clear indication of the need for top-tier talent, capable of supporting and driving the company’s unique value propositions and ambitions. This should give you an insight into the significant recruitment requirements that shape Tata AIA Life’s talent acquisition strategy.

Enhancing talent acquisition in the insurance sector

Recruiting high-quality talent was one of the key challenges for Tata AIA. With a laser focus on improving the talent acquisition (TA) process for future growth, the passionate leadership and TA team aimed at digitising their manual tasks, improving candidate experience, and reducing attrition. Marrying the famed culture of a Tata company with creative referral contests helped build a referral sourcing engine. Intelligent use of technology to onboard thousands of new joiners annually delivered a 4.8/5 candidate experience score for candidates across various cities and towns of India.

Here’s what their numbers say:

Here’s the story of how Tata AIA Life truly transformed its talent-acquisition process into a well-oiled hiring machine. A story that earned them a Gold for excellence in talent acquisition from the prestigious Brandon Hall Group HCM Excellence Awards. 

Need for high volume, top talent in the insurance sector

With an average of nearly 600 new employees being onboarded each month across over 400 locations in India, Tata AIA’s hiring needs are substantial. This volume underscores the importance of efficient processes that target top-tier talent.

The need for high volume and top talent in the insurance sector, particularly within Tata AIA Life for its growth and scale, arises from several complex factors:

  • Industry evolution: The insurance industry is swiftly transforming with technological advancements and regulatory changes. The blend of digital innovation with traditional methods demands specialised talent that can navigate this balance.
  • Hiring challenges: Tata AIA faces specific recruitment obstacles such as competition for highly-skilled individuals, remote-location sourcing, high attrition rates and limited access to passive talent.
  • Quality focus: Tata AIA emphasises not just quantity but quality. The company’s goal is to hire leading professionals who can contribute to growth and leadership. This involves rigorous background checks and a focus on finding individuals who align with the company’s vision.
  • Employee onboarding and retention: The commitment to creating an exceptional onboarding experience (SWAGATM) is part of Tata AIA’s strategy to retain top talent. The company recognises that the initial experience can significantly impact an employee’s long-term success and loyalty.
  • Alignment with business goals: By focusing on high-volume, top-talent recruitment, Tata AIA ensures that its workforce is capable of driving innovation, compliance and customer engagement in a competitive and ever-changing industry landscape.

Introspecting the talent-acquisition process

Tata AIA’s recruitment process has revealed several key areas — with scope for improvement in terms of cost, efficiency and access to top-quality candidates. The following details encapsulate the challenges they faced:

  • Multiple steps with manual intervention: Numerous manual tasks reduce efficiency. These include posting job ads, screening resumes, coordinating interviews, performing background checks, and negotiating offers. This manual involvement made the process time-consuming and prone to errors.
  • Low visibility on candidate funnel: Without a proper candidate funnel, there was no visibility of the larger talent pool. This reactive approach caused difficulties in attracting top talent and understanding recruitment channels, impacting future hiring.
  • Governance and audit trail challenges: A lack of a centralised data repository and digital signature solutions meant higher reliance on manual tasks, consuming more resources on non-recruitment efforts.
  • Poor candidate experience: Lengthy forms and mobile incompatibility frustrated applicants. This led to abandonment and possible deterring of future applications.
  • Need for better social-media presence: Without leveraging social media, Tata AIA missed out on candidates who may not search traditional job boards, narrowing potential talent pools.
  • No centralised sourcing system: An absence of a system for automated checks and validation created inefficiency and audit risks.
  • No online portal for vendors: Lack of a vendor system led to delays and miscommunication, affecting productivity due to the reliance on offline conversations.
  • No Insights and Dashboards: Without data-driven insights, decision-making became cumbersome, missing optimisation opportunities in hiring strategies.

Today’s talent pool navigates a micro-social world, interacting within smaller trusted communities. On top of this, the life-insurance sector continually grapples with attrition, particularly among front-line sales staff. 

Attracting and retaining quality talent is paramount so devising ways to reduce attrition and maintain an optimum headcount became a core objective. 

Hiring cost was another critical concern for the Tata AIA team. Due to attrition trends and the urgent need for replacements, the costs through vendors and job portals were substantial, especially when compared to direct sourcing or referrals. This issue underscored the importance of a well-structured sourcing strategy to create a ready talent pipeline across the country. The team also recognised the significant impact of the onboarding experience on a new employee’s perception. Creating a ‘WoW’ onboarding experience through the SWAGATM onboarding/ welcoming process and ‘EKTA’ cultural integration induction could differentiate Tata AIA and enhance its employee-value proposition.

In response to these multifaceted challenges, the Tata AIA talent-acquisition team embarked on a structured talent-acquisition journey. The aim was to provide a top experience for top talent, focusing on attraction, sourcing, onboarding, engagement and continuous improvement.  

Intriguing questions arose – Can their existing workforce act as brand ambassadors? Could they leverage this to reach passive talent? They realised that the lack of centralised referrals across branches hindered productivity. Digitising and revamping this process could unlock access to a broader talent pool, acting as a solution ripe for the picking.

Partnering with RippleHire, an intelligent end-to-end ATS with a built-in gamified referral portal, they positioned themselves to efficiently hire the right talent while delivering best-in-class experiences for recruiters and candidates alike.

The cohesive plan reflects Tata AIA’s commitment to adapting to ever-changing demands and ensuring long-term sustainable success in talent acquisition.

Let’s take a look at the plan they adopted. 

Transforming talent acquisition through technology

The Tata AIA talent-acquisition team, together with RippleHire, commenced by laying out their existing recruitment processes. They identified manual, redundant, repetitive, or time-consuming steps, spotting immense scope for digitisation. The RippleHire platform enabled them to automate and eliminate these inefficiencies, particularly in the candidate-documentation stage. They successfully transformed the process, reducing follow-ups and manual errors through the automation of notifications and validations.

Integration and collaboration:

  • Seamless incorporation of the candidate-documentation process into the ATS.
  • Facilitation of better communication and closure timelines through stakeholder integration at all touch points was also enabled. 

Driving adoption: Understanding the crucial aspect of adoption, the Tata AIA project team took steps to ensure success:

  • Engaging key stakeholders such as regional HRs, zone HRs, HR services team and vendors to build a sense of ownership.
  • Branding the new ATS as ‘EHire+ – Hiring the Right People’ to create a buzz.
  • Holding in-depth training workshops and providing user guides and FAQs.
  • Achieving over 95 percent adoption within the first month of launch, highlighting the effectiveness of their approach.

Innovation and engagement: In line with Tata AIA’s innovative spirit, the company partnered with RippleHire to create a gamified, cloud-based employee-referral platform. This new approach offers unique features:

  • Employees can participate in contests, share jobs, refer people and track statuses.
  • It supports innovative campaigns and special rewards for niche job openings.
  • Creative experiential rewards were introduced to incentivise active referrers.

The combined efforts of Tata AIA and RippleHire to innovate and streamline the recruitment process represent a significant step towards efficiency, engagement and successful talent acquisition. Their collaboration serves as a testament to the value of embracing modern technology and thoughtful strategy in human resources.

Implementing the referral programme

Tata AIA, in collaboration with RippleHire, took a strategic approach to outbound referrals, enhancing the existing programme.

They identified specific communities based on various roles and reached out with captivating campaigns.

By creatively combining referrals with contests and aspirational rewards such as trips and gadgets, they built a buzz that increased hiring numbers. Employee motivation and effective communication fostered a sense of pride and ownership. The team streamlined candidate processing with a dedicated engine for first-level screening and quick response, ensuring a fast interview and offer process.

They also engaged employees through the journey with medals and badges, maintained transparency and personalised experiences for candidates. Recognising top contributors and regularly publishing a contest leaderboard encouraged a competitive spirit.

Overall, this reimagination led to a nearly five per cent increase in sourcing through employee referrals within a year.

Dynamic offer experience

Together with RippleHire, Tata AIA crafted a mobile-based visual experience to present an offer, going beyond the usual content around compensation — the Dream Offer. Dream offer includes the senior management —CEO, CDO and CHRO —message and also showcases some of the visuals of TATA AIA culture, engagement initiatives, benefits and perks. By showcasing the company’s unique culture and values in a visually-appealing way, they reduced dropouts, improved joining ratios and offered a premium and standout experience in a competitive industry.

Best-in-class onboarding experience

Aiming at retention and aiming a ‘WOW’ experience for all our new hires, Tata AIA implemented the ‘Swagatam/E-Swagatam’ onboarding, which included:

  • Day 1 arrangements: Supervisor, HR colleagues and team members welcome the new joinee with a bouquet of flowers to foster the belongingness. Everything, from ID cards to seating space, laptops and welcome letters, was ready for a smooth start for the new joinees through a well-defined matrix of stakeholders.
  • Induction & orientation (EKTA): A carefully designed programme to introduce the new joiner to the organisation’s values and culture.
  • Personalised connection: Announcements of the new joiner’s background and follow-up engagement calls within the first 60 days.

These combined initiatives underline Tata AIA’s comprehensive approach to employee engagement, onboarding and continuous innovation in talent acquisition. The strategies emphasise the thoughtful integration of technology with human connection to create a robust and appealing recruitment experience.

Results and Evolution

Tata AIA, in collaboration with RippleHire, initiated a comprehensive revamp of their recruitment process. Key highlights of this effort include:

Early Stakeholder Involvement:

  • Workshops for regional and zonal HR teams to increase awareness.
  • Smooth transition, blending the new recruitment process with daily HR tasks.

Integration and Streamlining: Integration with other HR applications and incorporating HR user touchpoints facilitated the following:

  • Streamlined onboarding, reducing manual follow-ups.
  • Availability of vital data for processes like employee code creation and system access.

Onboarding Enhancements: The physical/digital onboarding process was made seamless by:

  • Engaging the learning and development teams.
  • Structured orientation programmes to familiarisze new employees with Tata AIA’s policies and culture.

Referral Focus: An increased emphasis on employee referrals brought:

  • A strong sense of belonging among existing employees.
  • Transformation of employees into organisational ambassadors.
  • Enhanced brand visibility within a broader talent pool.

These combined efforts of Tata AIA and RippleHire have created a more efficient and integrated recruitment process, utilising modern techniques and emphasising the company’s culture.

Future Goals and Considerations

As Tata AIA progresses in its journey towards becoming the preeminent protection provider, they remain steadfast in their pursuit of talent acquisition excellence. The commitment of leadership and top management in adhering to policies, SOPs and guidelines has played a critical role in the success of talent acquisition initiatives. Investing time and resources in the latest technologies and building people capabilities has helped create a culture of continuous innovation.

From gamified referrals and ATS to an integrated HRIS and candidate screening engines, Tata AIA has made significant strides in deploying cutting edge technologies such as RippleHire to enhance its talent acquisition efficiency. Recognizing the dynamic nature of talent acquisition and its ever-evolving paradigms – embracing diversity, automation, technology, capability building and innovation remains at the forefront of the recruitment strategy.

As Tata AIA advances in the ATS implementation, they are targeting enhancements like a campus portal and tailor-made recruitment analytics.

The author, Sudarsan Ravi is the Founder and CEO of RippleHire and is known as a pioneer and category creator in recruitment technology.

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