How this MNC Uses its People Strategy to Inspire Employees

HCLI Research
Published 12 January 2018

What contributes to a company’s success? Anuradha Purbey, People Director of Aviva Southeast Asia, shares insights into a successful people strategy and how encouragement begets engagement.

How an organisation stays tenacious

Tenacity is about having the winning mind-set and the laser focus to see ideas through to execution. With digital disruption sweeping across all industries, it is no longer good enough just to grow. Organisations are looking at how they can accelerate their pace so that they can grow faster.

This is where tenacity can make a difference. To develop the winning mind-set in employees, we need to first inspire them with a compelling vision; everyone in the company, across all grades and roles, needs to be working towards a common goal. They need to understand the vision and stay committed to it regardless of any bumps along the journey.

Secondly, we can all have great ideas but without the accountability to maintain focus and see them through to execution, they won’t amount to much. Not all ideas work the first time round, which is why it’s important to help build resilience in employees – empower them such that they can rebound from setbacks, and have the courage to make decisions even when they don’t have all the answers.

What inspires Aviva employees

As an organisation, we are highly focused on helping our employees make the connection to our purpose, which is to “Defy Uncertainty”. Considering the increasingly volatile world we live in today, it serves as a very powerful purpose. The difference we can make for our customers in their greatest times of need.

By enabling our employees to understand how they play a part in fulfilling this purpose, everything else falls into place. They will be able to discover greater meaning in the work they do, and be inspired to go the extra mile and strive for success.

We also encourage our employees to always make decisions based on our values, which are the pillars of Aviva’s identity and strategy. One of our vales is “Never Rest”. However, this does not mean we do not go home or take breaks! Instead, it is about never being satisfied with the status quo, and always staying hungry to think bigger and do better for our customers.

A successful people strategy

First and foremost, the people strategy must align with the business strategy, for it is ultimately the people who are delivering it and thus fundamental to organisational success.

A successful people strategy must be able to fulfil the business’ short-term demands as well as its long-term goals, ensuring that the organisation is future-proofed to meet the challenges of tomorrow. The latter has become more urgent now, due to the growing evidence that disruption is taking place all around us.

Balancing the two is not easy – employees are expected to deliver results to meet immediate needs, whilst concurrently considering how their roles will evolve over time and start developing the required capabilities for them to thrive in a fast-changing digital world.

As an organisation, we need to make sure we have the capabilities to help ourselves – and thus help our employees – achieve that balance. If we can get this right, we will be on the winning track. From the employees’ perspective, this creates the opportunity to have a fulfilling career as they can continue to develop and grow with the organisation, and do their best work here at Aviva.

A positive work culture looks like…

There is a high level of trust, where people can be their true selves at work without fear of discrimination, and have open and honest conversations. We term this “inclusive diversity” at Aviva and have been working a lot on integrating these three objectives into our culture, which we reinforce through our policies as well.

A few years ago, we did away with the traditional practice of having employees submit medical certificates when they are unwell and do not turn up for work. If all they need is some rest to get well, we are not going to force them to visit a doctor just to prove that they are sick.

We also recently implemented equal time off for all parents welcoming new children – providing them with sixteen weeks leave regardless of gender, marital status, sexual orientation, nationality and whether it was through birth or adoption. This reflects our commitment to being an inclusive organisation that understands our people’s child-caring responsibilities, and helps them to achieve work-family balance.

A positive workplace culture does not happen overnight – it takes continued effort and dedication.

Organisations need to leverage every opportunity to nurture a culture that actively provides employees with the support they need.

Only then, can we create a workplace that employees will be proud to be a part of.

How organisations can encourage experimentation

With change happening at such a fast pace today, we need to create an environment that allows employees to fail fast, and learn fast. Adopting the agile way of working allows us to test, learn – and if something does not work, move on.

At Aviva, we strongly emphasise that it is okay to make mistakes and suffer setbacks, so long as we learn from them. We encourage the sharing of stories and experiences, be it during town halls or team meetings, as a form of learning that everyone benefits from.

Doing this often enough will help to “normalise” failure or mistakes, hence dispelling the concept of finger-pointing. By sharing stories both good and bad, this helps to create a culture where everyone is open and honest with one another, and can therefore improve together.

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