Vighnesh Shahane, CEO (left) & Kapil Udaiwal, CHRO
Image: Neha Mithbawkar for Forbes India
JTwo years of the Covid-19 pandemic have shone a spotlight on companies that have focused on developing the employee-employer relationship. Ageas Federal Life Insurance, formerly known as IDBI Federal Life Insurance, is one such company that has reaped the benefits of investing in its workforce. “We keep our people at the center of everything we do and work to create a culture that fosters openness and transparency, promotes meritocracy and limits politics and bureaucracy,” says Vighnesh Shahane, 52, CEO of Ageas Federal Life Insurance.
The organization’s people-focused approach earned it a place in Kincentric’s 2021 Best Employer study. Over the past four years, the company has launched nearly 52 employee-centric initiatives that focus on employee benefits, infrastructure development, improving the work environment, and increasing rewards and recognition for its 1,062 employees.
The pandemic has led to an increase in demand for life insurance, in particular term insurance and health insurance, which bodes well for Ageas Federal. “One of the positive aspects of the pandemic has been an increase in life insurance sales… not only in metros and big cities, but even in small towns and rural areas, people have a better understanding of the need for protect themselves and their families from the uncertainties of life,” says Kapil Udaiwal, 44, Director of Human Resources at Ageas Federal Life Insurance.
“We focused more on improving persistence, risk mitigation strategies, streamlining costs, lower redemptions and a healthier solvency margin helped us stay afloat during this tough time” , he adds.
IDBI Federal Life Insurance Company was renamed Ageas Federal Life Insurance Company after Belgian multinational insurer Ageas Insurance International (Ageas) bought a 23% stake, bringing the total stake in the company to 49%.
During the long process of selling the stakes, employees were anxious and uncertain about the future of the organization, Shahane says. “Business was disrupted as one of our distributors reduced business volumes to the lowest possible level. This was a classic VUCA scenario [volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous] where intervention was needed, as leadership was under the scanner from all angles,” he explains.
“During the process of selling stakes, employee issues are usually pushed aside and employees become skeptical of any initiative introduced for their benefit,” Udaiwal says. “Contrary to this, during our company’s elongated more than two-and-a-half-year equity sale process, we have intensified employee connection and listening initiatives.
During this period, we have implemented 35 initiatives demonstrating the ‘business as usual’ and ’employee first’ philosophy, even during difficult times,” he says, adding that this communication continues with employees. helped them maintain their confidence.
Ageas Federal has worked hard to alleviate the discomfort caused by the pandemic. “Covid-19 has increased the role of the employer as a social safety net. We have focused on and addressed the concerns of our employees during the crisis, basing our strategies on three pillars: health physical, mental and financial health,” says Udaiwal.
Employees are encouraged to ask questions, raise doubts and clarify concerns without fear of reprisal. Based on employee feedback, leaders are taking steps to address these concerns by implementing new processes and modifying existing policies. All of this is regularly communicated to staff as part of the “You Said, We Did It” initiative to ensure that employees know their voice is being heard. This effort resulted in a high Engaging Leadership score, improved business performance, and increased employee engagement.
Ageas Federal is in full swing as it expands its proprietary channels and targets a larger share of the insurance market. Women make up 20% of the workforce, with around 21% being female managers. The organization is currently working to improve its gender ratio. “We are focused on creating an inclusive and gender-sensitive work environment for diverse groups of employees by providing them with opportunities for professional and personal growth. We also regularly redefine policies and procedures to ensure the workplace is inclusive, fair and open to new ideas and approaches,” says Shahane.
Vishal Mulgaonkar, 44, who is a compensation manager and has worked with the organization for 14 years, believes Ageas Federal’s employee-centric policies are unique and have helped shape the company’s success.
“With employee well-being a top priority, we have a nurturing work culture that gives us the confidence and confidence to try new things and make bold decisions,” he said. “Vighnesh’s open, honest and direct communication and Kapil’s ability to effectively manage teams and push boundaries while keeping the big picture in mind has been a game changer for the organization.”
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(This story appears in the March 11, 2022 issue of Forbes India. To visit our archive, click here.)