Career Advice Job Market Report

Digitalisation and innovation is a core strategy at AIA

The rise and evolution of the digital age has caused a major shift in the way people work, the kind of talent and manpower that companies are looking for, as well as the way businesses are run.

As one of the world’s leading insurance providers, AIA aims to not merely move with the times, but also to stay ahead of the pack. The company, headquartered in Asia and present in 18 markets across the region, is doing so by investing heavily in its people strategy, which it firmly believes is the cornerstone to its success. Manpower, according to the company, is what drives and supports its fast business growth.

“Digitalisation and innovation is one of our key business strategies,” says Maylie Lee, chief human resources officer at AIA. “As one of the insurance industry leaders, we are always thinking ahead in many different ways, not only in business but also in our people strategy.”

The company is firmly dedicated to exploring new and innovative approaches to “challenge, empower and grow” its employees, which is their employee value proposition statement. On top of this, it also believes that strong people capabilities and a rich company culture are core to the successful execution of any strategies that a company rolls out.

“In this fast-changing world, companies need to be able to swiftly respond and adapt to an increasingly competitive and ever-changing market,” Lee says. “As a result, whether individual employees or the organisation as a whole, we are able to execute our strategies faster and better than the others. That’s the key to outperform the competitors.”

Working by its motto of “Challenge, Empowerment and Growth”, the company is focused on modernising the way it works and exploring various tools that ensure the employee experience continues to evolve. Among these is the rolling out of targeted learning and development programmes that enforce lifelong learning, as well as digitalising processes.

For instance, the company has numerous initiatives which encourage employees to help one another to learn and grow by getting the management team to lead by example. Through a number of learning and development programmes, managers take an aspect of the business that they are expert in and passionate about and find ways to transfer this knowledge and these skills to their colleagues. This is believed to have a strong influence on enhancing skill sets and job performance on a day-to-day basis.

Another approach that the company takes is to create a domino effect in learning. This is believed to optimise the impact of learning and development initiatives by first training the top and middle managers, and then allowing them to be role models and apply what they have learned to their work. This is believed to reinforce learning outcomes and drive faster behavioural change among colleagues who will later receive the same training.

An example of this programme is the AIA Manager series, which is an intensive programme, spread over the course of a year, during which each manager gets to learn about AIA’s vision and operating philosophy. The programme also drills managers on empowering leadership styles, coaching and how to build effective working relationships based on an individual’s personality. Through the programme, managers get to learn how to foster the company’s high performing culture which promotes caring and respect for its people. It also teaches managers to uphold the company’s promise and mandate to “help people live a healthier, longer, better life”, as well as promoting the various ways the company can bring vitality to the workplace, yet another core concept and employee proposition at AIA.

“These help the company reinforce the unique AIA culture that we strongly believe is the foundation and what differentiates us from other competitors,” says Lee.

Aside from having a leadership approach, the company has also implemented several strategies and programmes that help to build the capabilities of future leaders, targeting a segmented leadership pool, as well as driving developmental programmes for young talent to accelerate their growth in the company.

“Recognising sustained high performance is one of our key strategies,” explains Lee. “We not only focus on real time, we are recognising and engaging our people through reward and learning and development opportunities, and we are also caring about our staff’s wellbeing.”

And this is an important point, according to Lee, because based on the results of its “Healthiest Workplace Survey” – a comprehensive overview of the health and wellbeing of employees across Asia-Pacific conducted in 2017 – AIA has found that its wellness programmes are helping its employees to live longer, healthier, better lives, a recognition that the company is extremely proud of.

Aside from these physical programmes and people strategies, AIA is also committed to help its employees grow in a new digital workplace. As the world continues to evolve in the digital evolution, Lee says that, “going digital is an important methodology to transform and modernise the way we work, and technology enhances the experiences of both candidates and staff and raises their professional and technical competencies.”

As such, digitalisation is a core aspect of the company’s people strategy programmes. AIA believes that change and learning are interlinked. For example, because of the digitalisation of the user experience, customer behaviour is evolving, resulting in more stringent regulatory requirements. These changes demand that employees are equipped with more skill sets through continuous training. By training employees and the organisation as a whole, AIA believes it will be in a better position to execute its strategies which in turn will help it to outperform its competitors.

Another reason for focusing on digital is the way that employees, especially millennials, are interacting, consuming information and learning. “Nowadays training is not just a classroom thing,” Lee says. “It is imperative that we embrace and leverage technology to enhance the efficiency and learning experience to integrate real life business situations into training to make it real and relevant, and make learning ‘just-in-time’ and bite-sized.”

Blended learning is the next trend, especially in the insurance industry, Lee explains. With more digital components being enabled though digital learning platforms accessible on any device, at any time, learning will no longer be confined to the traditional instructor-led format. Both formal and informal learning will be conducted through different media over the web, such as videos, webinars and podcasts. Therefore, collaborative and social learning will become increasingly popular and will eventually become the new norm.

“Learning will move towards a more personalised user-centric approach,” Lee says.

As such, AIA has moved with the times and has adopted digital to help managers to reinforce their learning in a post-classroom environment. The company has also adopted virtual reality as a means to employee training, which Lee touts as a great way for trainees to get assimilated into a real-feel situation, providing them the opportunity to think outside the box and collaborate with one another to solve problems and understand customer-centricity.

But aside from just employing digital for employee training and development, AIA also understands that in order to uphold a gold standard and remain a leader in the field, it will also have to enhance its employee proposition and use digital to help attract the right digital talents.

“Since digitalisation and innovation is one of our business strategies, attracting competent tech talent is critical for us,” says Lee.

As such, to show its dedication to being a leading employer and employee of choice, the company is always finding new ways to reach out to potential candidates. The company has recently become one of the sponsors for the South China Morning Post-Classified Post 24-hour Hackathon competition where students and recent graduates are invited to build winning digital solutions by developing their own prototypes. The competition serves to enhance problem learning skills and for competitors to learn and meet with technology industry leaders. Winners will get a chance to attend internship programmes or even gain job opportunities at AIA.

“Sponsoring this Hackathon is a positive way to show to candidates in the market that AIA is a company that is always keen to be innovative and try new approaches, and that it will be a good place to work for candidates who are looking for ‘Challenge, Empowerment and Growth’,” Lee says.