Reimagining the workplace - Edelweiss Tokio Life’s comeback strategy
ET HR World : 12 July 2020
We are in the middle of an extraordinary event, one that has forever changed how we perceive the world and its future. After nearly three months in a lockdown, India has gradually begun relaxing its restrictions. But businesses have awoken to a completely different world, wherein protocols must be followed for things that were considered mundane and ‘business as usual’ a couple months ago.
Entering the office premises now requires undergoing thermal scanners, and a stamp of good health on the Arogya Setu app. We are all required to wear masks, self-use sanitisers, and not sit in close proximity to our colleagues. The joy of lunchtime may not be the same any longer, as congregating in large numbers in cafeteria will not be permissible for some time.
But, as they say, human spirit cannot be contained. It will find a way to adapt, enjoy, and perform in the new normal. Organisations will have to reimagine the workplace and help their employees thrive in this new world. Edelweiss Tokio Life is focussed on three priority areas – health, re-skilling its leaders, and restoring employee confidence.
Health and safety are crucial
There is an urgent need to re-prioritise organisational goals and focus first on health and safety of the employees. This will be the biggest challenge posing HR leaders across sectors, along with maintaining productivity and business growth. In fact, several companies are working closely with employees and their families to fully understand the exposure risks before making any decisions.
For a high-contact service industry like life insurance, which relies heavily on face-to-face customer counselling, safety will be a dual concern. Not only will companies have to take measures to safeguard employees, but also their customers. To counter these concerns, Edelweiss Tokio Life has taken two steps – building a complete digital fulfilment process for customers, and opening branch offices in a calibrated manner. We have trained our workforce across channels in conducting digital interactions with customers and prospects and provided them with requisite information in tackling customer concerns regarding financial planning during the ongoing pandemic. To bring in the insights that personal interaction provided, we have created a customer segmentation model, which categorises customers in different persons and helps our workforce offer customised solutions to them.
Secondly, Edelweiss Tokio Life has been among the few companies in the Life Insurance sector that have posted a robust growth in Individual APE despite the external challenges. Our operational functions like customer service and call centre have shown no discernible adverse impact. Given these factors, we are taking a slow approach in opening our branches, and relooking at job roles that do not need to be present in office to effectively carry out their day-to-day work. In fact, in some low-contact roles we have seen higher productivity at home than in office.
The comeback strategy for any organisation will be unique and must be inclusive in nature in the current context.
The Covid-19 pandemic has led to a disruption not only in businesses and economies, but also impacted people’s mental health. A drastic change in working routine, and complete isolation from their social life has brought mental health safety in focus. Until several weeks ago, companies were focussed on facilitating a smooth transition to work from home, and helping their employees manage anxieties amid heightened health concerns.
However, the challenges posed by leaders and managers have largely gone unnoticed. In several sectors, managers are having to take tough decisions while keeping their teams productive. They have had to ensure that the teams are not put under undue pressure and redefine work-life balance for them. Needless to say, they have had to walk a tightrope.
Over the next several weeks, cost and productivity will also come into focus. With work from home a tried and tested method now and its merits available for everyone to see, several organisations will look at real estate rationalisation. Work from Home may become a permanent feature, especially in low-contact roles. Several organisations are looking at the possibility of 40-60% workforce working from home. This will create a new challenge for managers, who were earlier used to mentoring their teams in close proximity. Digital adoption and virtual interaction were seen as a short-term necessity for the last three months. But it might soon become a permanent feature.
This event has, undoubtedly, brought on toughest challenges, and newer expectations for managers. And, Edelweiss Tokio Life is working on building a development programme that not only helps managers in nurturing their mental health, but also help their teams adapt to newer ways of working.
Restoring employee confidence
Looming health concerns have significantly hit people’s confidence regarding using public transport and re-joining the workforce. In fact, at Edelweiss Tokio Life, several of our employees are facing family resistance in returning to work. Additionally, this long-drawn isolation has left people disoriented.
As India starts unlocking, there are not enough safety statistics available that can help rebuild trust. It certainly cannot be done by a single entity and will need active participation from all constituents. So, collaboration will become crucial, and make way for public-private partnerships. We will see the whole supply value chain becoming more streamlined for the benefit of the entire ecosystem. In fact, we are already seeing higher collaboration among employees, wherein team bonding has improved, and people are leaning on one another to meaningfully carry out the assigned activities.
At Edelweiss Tokio Life, we believe an inclusive decision-making process will play a critical role in building trust, and therefore restoring employee confidence. We have intensified our internal communication to bring in transparency regarding business performance, and developments across the company. We have set up helplines for our employees to enable flow of authentic information regarding Covid-19, set-up meditation workshops and visualisation therapies through an in-house app to convey our emphasis on being mentally fit. We are crafting work from home norms, to re-draw the blurring work-life balance.
This is an unchartered territory, and we will see businesses coming closer to learn from each other and harnessing the power of community to return to normalcy. Lockdown has allowed employees to come much closer to oneself... leading to a new discovery, new connections, new meanings, new priorities. Some of them have processed and are clear what they want and a lot more are struggling to process. A new demand on counselling whether emotional or for career will see a response through helplines being set up for employees. Managers would need to be equipped to help employees in the process. Organisations would need to be flexible to re-contracting to support and retain their key talent.