Forbes India – Building Agility And The Hunger To Change: Tata AIA

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Naveen Tahilyani, MD & CEO and Kristyl Pais Bhesania, executive VP and head, human resources, real estate and infra
Image: Neha Mithbawkar for Forbes India

The Covid-19 pandemic brought with it never-experienced-before uncertainty in the last two years. The challenges were daunting, and at times, devastating, for several businesses. Only those that showed the agility and hunger to change have come out stronger from the crisis. Insurance company Tata AIA is one of them; whether it is offering assisted digital platforms for customers or ensuring employees remain motivated through tough periods, it has adapted with the changing times. According to Kincentric, the company’s agility index is 91 percent compared to 71 percent for the industry.

“People have always been at the core of everything we do,” says Naveen Tahilyani, MD & CEO, Tata AIA. “We have worked towards ensuring a work environment that is conducive to professional growth while being empathic towards defining a balance between work and life.” This is one of the many reasons that make it one of India’s best employers. The Kincentric Best Employers India Study 2021 puts the company’s employee engagement index at 91 percent.

At Tata AIA Life, most employees have been able to work from home seamlessly while leveraging technology. “We have even adopted the hybrid model and our employees are encouraged to ‘Work from Anywhere’, without compromising on productivity,” says Kristyl Bhesania, executive vice president & head, human resources, real estate and infra, Tata AIA. As part of some other initiatives, Tata AIA has provided special access to employees on fitness apps like Cult.fit and also hosts webinars on mental and emotional health, stress management and other health conditions.

“It has been believed for decades now that hard work and continuous effort lead to high performance. However, research is proving otherwise,” says Bhavna Dalal, founder and CEO of Talent Power Partners, a leadership development company based in Bengaluru. “Yes, putting efforts is vital for performance, but burning out, and not taking care of other aspects of your life cannot sustain long-term growth, and it ends up marginalising performance. Companies are recognising the fact and putting measures in place to enable a harmonious integration in their employees’ lives,” she says.

To compensate for the missing physical workplace camaraderie, Tata AIA has launched a digital platform, ‘CHEERS’, an acronym for ‘Come Here, Enjoy, Engage, Reward and Succeed’ for employee engagement. Rewards and recognition have been designed to appreciate employees for performance and behavioural traits, including scholarships for employees’ children. “Devising new blueprints for inclusion of family members in HR practices is imperative, especially since the employees are mostly working from home and are ably supported by family members,” explains Bhesania.

Another factor that sets Tata AIA apart is its focus on recognising and encouraging talent. According to Kincentric, its Talent Focus Index is 91 percent, while the industry’s is 74 percent. The company has introduced gig workforce policies along with capability-building initiatives to enable interested employees to migrate to the same and encourage new potential talent to benefit from working with them. “We have also launched Employee Kultural Transformation and Assimilation (EKTA), a virtual cultural integration programme, e-GuruKool, and Skillsoft digital training platforms to create a sense of belonging and encourage upskilling for professional growth,” says Tahilyani.

The company also has a campus hire programme called Rakshakarta in Steering Excellence (RISE) which hires students from premier institutes. “The year-long journey is designed with on-the-job training and mentoring and coaching by our senior leaders,” says Bhesania. The company’s frontline capability-building programme, the Young Pioneers Programme, is a flagship programme with systematic learning interventions which results in development of holistic sales professionals.

Tata AIA is a big believer in diversity. “We have introduced additional diversity incentives that have increased the hiring of women and we have programmes targeted at retaining women in the workforce that could be after a sabbatical or career break,” says Bhesania. As part of its corporate social responsibility, there are initiatives specifically focusing on women from marginalised communities. The company is also going to focus on on-boarding persons with disabilities.

“Today, our overall attrition is one of the lowest in the industry and we have been able to retain our top talent successfully,” claims Bhesania. “It is a combination of professional growth opportunities as well as a caring and nurturing environment that keeps our people loyal to the organisation.” 

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(This story appears in the 11 March, 2022 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)

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