HIRING LINE Life Cos Hang on to Dear Talent Faced with high attrition, companies pursue change management, beef up internal postings and promote learning among staff

Life insurance companies, which are battling 70% to 100% frontline attrition and a depleting middle and senior management, are doing their best to project an employee-friendly face.
From pursuing change management to beefing up internal job postings and holding more learning and development programmes, companies are doing everything they can to shed the weather-beaten image the sector seems to be stuck with. “Earlier, a sales insurance employee was not associated with the brand and could have sold any other product, but now, companies want to focus on retention, give attractive career opportunities and better compensation,” says Shashwat Sharma, partner, KPMG India.
Still, the task is challenging, with big names in the industry too finding it difficult to attract employees. Post the downturn in 2007-08 and stricter regulations to pluginsurance scams, companies were faced with people quitting en masse to join sectors like business process outsourcing. Besides, selling life insurance is not glamourous; one needs to understand products and each family’s needs, says Sharma. “It can be quite morbid,” he adds.
“Given the low awareness in India, selling life insurance is challenging. Hiring the right profile is important but the sector tends to hire in bulk. Most players live with this BAU (business as usual), which is not healthy,” says Shailesh Singh, director and chief people officer, Max Life Insurance, which has an employee strength of 8,000.
Max Life has started developing new modules of change management, holding meaningful career discussions, creating a managers’ toolkit and beefing up internal job postings to hire more employees through references. Besides fanning out to more colleges for campus placements, Max Life Insurance plans to hire for summer internships as well. It visited five campuses, including IIM Udaipur and FMS Delhi this year.
“At the frontline level, we also reach out to non-insurance sectors like telecom and banking,” says Singh, whose company faces an overall attrition of 35% to 40%, much lower than the industry average of 55%.
Aviva Life Insurance has decided to concentrate on the middle and senior management. Around 16 months back, the company opened up job postings in Singapore and the UK to employees across departments like HR, marketing, risk division.
“The middle management is where we get our future pipeline from and therefore, this segment is important to us,” says Amit Malik, director HR Aviva LifeInsurance India. About 31% of 3,200 employees are in the middle management, with a four-to-seven-year stint in the company.
Up to 16 middle-management employees have already gone for international job postings, and this will be a focus area for the company, says Malik. But getting talent from outside is still a challenge. “The industry is getting consolidated and prospective talent from outside will give it a serious and considerable thought,” he added. The Gurgaon-based company faces a middle-management attrition of 7% per year.
Some are using salary as an incentive to push employees to acquire more qualifications, in the process, promoting learning and development. “We encourage employees to get higher levels of qualifications and certifications from theInsurance Institute of India and the Institute of Actuaries of India. This translates into an immediate salary increase,” says GN Agarwal CEO, Future Generali India Life Insurance. Employees are also nominated for courses conducted abroad by joint venture partner Generali, particularly in Hong Kong.
Other firms who are not into life insurance are not taking chances. “Attrition in general insurance companies is much lower than those in life insurance, but we too emphasise learning and empowerment, peer-to-peer learning as well as on-boarding programmes,” says Rajkamal Vempati, head – HR, ICICI Lombard GIC.

Source : The Economics Times.
Date : 26/04/2013

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