Aon Best Employers Hong Kong 2016: AIA is creating something special
With its strong employee value proposition (EVP) and a company culture that puts people first, AIA was able to pick up a Best Employer – Hong Kong 2016 award in its first time entering the programme.
“I feel extremely proud and excited about this recognition,” says Jacky Chan, chief executive officer of AIA Hong Kong and Macau. “There is enormous commitment from the leadership team when it comes to connecting, engaging and developing our people. We have created something very special here at AIA for our employees to experience.”
The award is particularly noteworthy given that the company has recently undergone significant transitional changes that have seen staff step out of their comfort zones to lend a hand. In 2011, AIA became an independent entity through the largest IPO on the Hong Kong stock exchange at the time. And in 2015, the company underwent a major change in its end-to-end administration system when it introduced Integral Life, which was the largest and most complex technology and process change the company had experienced in 40 years.
“Our staff worked very hard,” Chan says. “The dedication and commitment of our roughly 1,200 employees were put to the test, and they steered the company through the storms. Integral Life was implemented successfully in record time.”
Since the IPO, Chan explains, the company has continuously delivered double-digit new business growth and is now the world’s second-largest life insurance company by market capitalisation.
These achievements were not lost on senior management. “One thing that struck me was the resilience and ability to deliver in the workforce,” says Wei Wei Watson, chief human resources officer for Hong Kong and Macau. “We had organic growth plus many big transformational initiatives – very challenging targets because we are so ambitious – but the workforce was able to deliver every single time because they were engaged.”
Chan explains that AIA has a loyal workforce and, despite continued recruitment efforts due to business growth, close to 28 per cent of staff have been with the company for more than 10 years. The secret is apparently the company’s operating culture and EVP. Believing that being a good employer and a successful company are inseparable imperatives, AIA built an EVP that hones three core elements: challenge, empowerment and growth.
“After the IPO, we embarked on a new chapter in the AIA group’s history, and set a company vision to become the pre-eminent life insurance company in the Asia-Pacific region” Chan says. “We wanted to contribute to the economic and social development of the region, and all this shaped our thinking about how we should treat our employees. After all, we are a people business, so we must put our people first.”
As part of the company’s attraction and recruitment strategy, AIA’s executive committee and senior leadership agreed that they should strive to achieve the status of “best employer”. This was the key to driving the success of the business and tied in to its operating philosophy: “Doing the right thing, in the right way, with the right people, and the results will come.”
“When our managers live by this operating philosophy and lead with clarity, courage and humanity, this creates a high-performing culture with care and respect,” Chan says.
The company’s EVP also moulds its corporate culture – the first aspect of which is meeting challenges. From the get go, Chan says, employees know that AIA is a challenging environment within which to work.
“The organisation continues to transform through innovative initiatives, and enhance our governance and risk management capabilities in line with regulatory changes,” Chan says. “Employees will be met with a lot of challenges, and there will be a lot of difficulties, but it means it won’t be boring and they will break through, so challenge is a key feature of working here.”
Employee empowerment and engagement are also core business values. The company invests significantly in this area and has consistently received recognition in this regard. In fact, Gallup noted that AIA Hong Kong and Macau achieved top-quartile engagement levels within the global financial services industry in its “2016 Q12 Meta-Analysis: Ninth Edition” report.
The company encourages its managers to embrace a leadership style of empowerment and equips them with coaching skills to hone staff engagement. It emphasises that each person’s responsibility should be matched against their capability. Managers are not, therefore, simply giving their staff tasks, but enabling them to make decisions in relation to their capabilities. A regular review and discussion process means that managers can continue to steer development in the right direction.
“You don’t just task, delegate and stop caring,” Chan says. “This is what we teach our managers and it cascades down, so that empowerment is established. We really believe that the future success of the company is dependent on an empowerment model. If people feel empowered at AIA, their engagement will be sustained and they can be the best that they can be.”
Growth is another core aspect of the company’s EVP. AIA, Chan says, has come to be known as the “Shaolin Temple” for Hong Kong’s insurance industry talent, largely thanks to its organisational and people review processes. During these processes, senior management engages in regular and ongoing discussions on improving the workplace, workforce, talent development and succession plans.
As a result of this disciplined process and a relentless focus on developing its people, more than 80 per cent of senior management positions are filled internally. “The message here is that we really promote internal mobility,” Watson says. Added to this, she says, there is notable gender diversity, with equal representation across all levels.
Chan and Watson believe that coupling AIA’s operating philosophy and EVP creates a winning formula and is the reason why the company achieved a Best Employer award. Winning, however, is only one step in the journey, Chan explains.
“In winning this award, we haven’t reached a goal, but simply a milestone,” he says. “This is a benchmark, as being an employer of choice has to be a continuous journey.”
The power of three An EVP that combines the elements of challenge, empowerment and growth links being a good employer with company success.
Clear vision Managers lead with clarity, courage and humanity to create a high-performing culture with care and respect.
Regular reviews Senior managers engage in frequent discussions on improving the workplace, talent development and succession plans.