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A True Differentiator For Great Workplaces

12/20/23 7:29 AM


Saba Adil, CHRO, Edelweiss Tokio Life Insurance believes that for an organisation to sustain successfully, it requires immense focus of leaders on the people, culture, values and ethos of the workplace


In a rapidly evolving corporate landscape, human resources (HR) leaders play a pivotal role in shaping organisational culture, fostering employee engagement, and navigating the challenges posed by dynamic industries. In this exclusive conversation, Saba Adil, chief human resource officer (CHRO), Edelweiss Tokio Life Insurance, shares insights into the critical aspects of HR trends, workplace culture and employee engagement, particularly within the insurance sector. 

What values are most important for fostering a positive workplace culture? How do you ensure that the company's culture aligns with its overall business objectives and strategies? 

It is imperative to have a positive work culture for any organisation to be successful and sustainable in the long run. It requires an immense focus on people, culture, values and ethos, as culture stands to be a true differentiator of a great place to work. Whether one is looking at attraction of good talent, retention of key role holders or having customer and business longevity, it all boils down to getting competent people in, empowering them, and keeping them engaged for the organisation to meet its objectives. Look at any admired organisation today and you will find common threads of good leadership, great creativity, and a strong positive work culture. Culture of course is the collective responsibility of the organisation, and unless everyone across hierarchies is aligned with the organisational values, beliefs and goals, the desired culture will not translate into reality.

I see 3 key elements for building a positive workplace culture – clarity on what the organisation stands for, leadership embodiment and being a listening organisation.

  • Clarity on what the organisation stands for: It's important to have clarity and focus on what the organisation stands for, its values and ethos, as it helps build workforce alignment, engagement and binds people to purpose. This then needs to be articulated well into how interactions will take place, ways of working and decision making. Open communication through channels like leadership connects, Townhalls, HR catch ups, etc. have helped us create sustenance in how frequently we are interacting with our employees on the vision, values, and purpose of the company. It helps build transparency and trust and an engaged workforce.
  • Leadership embodiment: Leadership needs to role model the right behaviours and translate them to actual practice as the true essence of a great workplace lies in competent leadership that embodies the ethos of the organisation and walks the talk and talks the walk, creating enabling environments that help people realise their true potential. Eventually, that is the true test of alignment with the rest of the organisation observing, feeling, and imbibing the culture.
  • Being a listening organisation: With ears to the ground, it is imperative to understand the employee pulse, what are they sensing and feeling and is the environment enabling them to reach their potential. Looping employees feedback to build the workplace is important as it allows for continual organisation improvement and is a testimony of being a truly listening organisation that acts on feedback provided.


From your perspective, what is the overarching purpose of an organisation beyond financial success? 

Of course, for organisations to survive financial success is needed, however, business sustainability comes from a larger purpose of the reason to exist and service. And, hence, the focus on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion (DEI), Environment, Social, Governance (ESG), Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) strategies where shareholders, customers and employees find meaning and know that it is the right thing to do, in turn building impactful and sustainable business.

For us, life insurance in itself is a noble profession – there can’t be a more purposeful work profile which allows one to make real impact on people. Combining this larger purpose with our organisational purpose of protecting people’s dreams and aspirations, has been a key driver of an engaged and motivated workforce.

What, in your view, constitutes a compelling employee value proposition, especially in the insurance sector? How have EVPs evolved to attract and retain top talent in a competitive market?

Customer centricity has become central to any company’s success, and I truly believe that employee centricity is the first step to reach that goal. In a service industry like ours, customers and employees share a synonymous relationship. Therefore, it is imperative to reimagine employee journeys rooted in an understanding of their feedback and aspirations.

While an Employee Value Proposition (EVP) may follow a larger framework, what makes it compelling is whether it is adapting to the continuous evolution of the company and its workforce. An EVP has to remain aligned with employee expectations while driving value for the organisation. Some core elements of a strong EVP include:

  • Meaningful work: Work that links to purpose so people can see how their contribution is to the whole, keeping people relevant and upskilling them is important for employee growth and development and a key element in any employee proposition, where the question often is ‘what’s in it for me’.
  • Flexibility: Whether it is flexible working, dress code or hybrid working, companies need to consider employee preferences whilst designing people processes for a win-win situation.
  • A caring organisation: Overall wellness in terms of financial, health and fitness has gained focus with expectations on growth, employee well-being, support programmes, enhanced parental benefits and comprehensive wellness initiatives for a healthy and successful life.
  • Human Touch: Accelerated adoption of digital technologies, like remote collaboration tools, though are critical for operational efficiency in a technology-centric work environment, more important employee life cycle events like welcoming new joinees, performance reviews, celebrations or even grievances are expected to be dealt personally with a human touch.

What strategies can be employed to enhance employee engagement within a challenging industry like insurance? How can companies measure the effectiveness of these engagement strategies? 

Organisations must strategically invest in elevating employee engagement for sustained success. Creating a culture of appreciation and recognition is a pivotal aspect of our engagement initiatives, where people feel valued and appreciated for their contributions made, and we have several programs to drive these. Additionally, team-level engagement, manifested through tried and tested methods like team lunches and offsites are extremely beneficial in keeping the employees engaged and also go a long way in building camaraderie amidst team members and an emotional connect with the organisation.

These concerted efforts contribute significantly to heightened productivity across the organisation. Notably, the prolonged tenure of an employee, and evidently high productivity levels are a good indicator of whether these engagement strategies are effective.

In the context of social responsibility, what initiatives can a company undertake, and how do these initiatives impact employee morale and the company's external perception? 

In the insurance sector, our business is inherently noble, allowing organisations to profoundly impact customers' lives by securing their families' well-being. Aligned with this ethos, our organisation is deeply committed to engaging with a broader audience through CSR activities. These initiatives serve as a powerful instrument, instilling a renewed sense of purpose in our employees as they actively contribute to positive community change.

Notably, Edelweiss Tokio Life’s flagship social cause Organ Donation has been an effective driver of engagement as employees have been very inclined towards community engagement. We have been conducting awareness workshops for Organ Donation for four years and we have seen immense support internally across our head office and branches. Our employees have also benefited from the knowledge they have gained about Organ Donation through the years – we have been able to help guide our employees to the right avenues of medical information.

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