“Gone are the days where HR existed primarily to hire and fire. The call of the day is to hire the ‘right’ talent and to ensure they are well engaged to benefit both the organisation and the individual.” – In conversation with Shailesh Singh, Chief People Officer, Max Life Insurance
Q: GIVE US A SNAPSHOT OF YOUR ACADEMIC AND PROFESSIONAL BACKGROUND? WHAT RESPONSIBILITIES DOES YOUR DESIGNATION ENTAIL?
I serve as the Chief People Officer and Director at Max Life Insurance. I’m responsible for developing and implementing successful human resource strategies and practices that enable business growth. I graduated from the Institute of Rural Management Anand (IRMA), in Gujarat, and went on to join the National Dairy Development Board (NDDB). I served Eicher Tractors and spent over 17 years with GE, holding HR Leadership positions in Financial Services and Industrial businesses including an international assignment of 5 years in Dubai where I led HR for GE Energy for Africa, India and Middle east. In 2012, I moved to Max Life Insurance.
Q: WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT TRAIT THAT YOU LOOK FOR IN A CANDIDATE IRRESPECTIVE OF WHAT THE JOB DESCRIPTION DEMANDS?
We hire people primarily for their skills, attitude/values and leadership abilities. Values are assessed by understanding how a person has dealt with variety of circumstances and his/her compatibility with our organisational values and culture. Communication (not just language skills!), ability to influence and impact and conscientiousness are other crucial attributes. The prospective employee should have the ability to present the company as well as one’s own work with precision and clarity to both internal and external stakeholders. Apart from job skills and experience, job applicants are given also opportunity to demonstrate their conviction and character. For people joining at middle to senior levels, richness and variety of experience is of critical importance. Also the ability to handle change and ‘service-orientation’ are very relevant and needed in the insurance sector.
Q: WHAT ROLE, ACCORDING TO YOU, DOES TECHNOLOGY PLAY IN THE HR INDUSTRY?
We’ve been witnessing a decade of rapid changes and economic shifts, and times are changing faster than before. These have been years of excitement, with all sorts of of startups and new generation companies entering the talent war. Technology has taken a lead in completely revolutionising the workspaces and how companies operate. Geographical restrains and boundaries have dissolved to make the entire world one large talent pool. Businesses have moved from physical data centres to virtual servers. Cloud computing has revolutionised operations and made processes swifter, simpler and smoother. Big data and analytics will form the backbone of how businesses progress in the future. Embracing technology now is no longer an option. It is the need of the hour and will be the differentiating factor for talent retention.
The HR function has been evolving simultaneously to match the changing world and its demands. Gone are the days where HR existed primarily to hire and fire. The call of the day is to hire the ‘right’ talent and to ensure they are well engaged to benefit both the organisation and the individual.
Q: What are the key recruitment trends in the financial services industry?
Financial Services, particularly Insurance Companies, are witnessing good business momentum. We are seeing good hiring in sales as well as enabling functions. Specific to the insurance sector – two functions that need strong domain knowledge in Insurance world are actuaries and underwriters. There is paucity of talent in these two spheres as they are extremely niche. Even where functional expertise is available, it is difficult to get people who can actually blend in their domain knowledge and leadership roles. Underwriters play the key role of assessing insurance proposals and screening them for risks and fitness to company policies. These skills, in addition to those acquired from academics, are often honed over years assessing diverse cases of different locations, ages, needs etc
Q: What has been your talent acquisition strategy to attract the brightest talent?
At Max Life Insurance, our goal is to be a ‘Great Place To Work’ (GPTW), a workplace that employees take pride in. Two key differentiators that enable this agenda for us are values-driven culture and our superior human capital. For five consecutive years; we have been ranked among the Top 100 organisations in GPTW® survey. In 2016, we were ranked as the ‘Best in Insurance Companies’.
We have created a culture of fun at work, celebrating each other’s and team’s success and major festivals together.
Our talent strategy is focused on attracting the best from outside and developing the talent we already have. We work closely with Supervisors to create a ‘world-class environment’ that helps to stretch and develop our folks on the job by raising the bar continually on our people practices. A few things that we want to focus on over the next two years are talent development, flexible work arrangement, values-driven and supervisory/capability building to enable people agenda.
It is vital to have happy employees around as that facilitates productivity, a key enabler of achieving our vision to be the most admired company by securing financial future of our customers.
Apart from productivity, a happy organisation also helps in retaining and attracting talent. People are key assets for a retail/financial services business like ours, and it is important to treat them at par with customers.