Analjit Singh, Chairman, Max New York Life Insurance, reckons he has the best insurance cover for these troubled times: a significant investment in its people since the day it was set up eight years ago. Ergo, he expects Max New York Life to sustain its high growth rates as others could find themselves floundering.
“Our vision is to be among the most admired companies in life insurance... we have created a differentiated work environment for employees to excel. Talent management has been a big focus area for us,” says Singh.
Concurs Rajesh Sud, CEO & Managing Director, as well as a Founder Member of Max New York Life: “We do two things well. We are good in building a strong talent pool. Our strength is also in creating processes to achieve the desired results.”
It has been an eventful journey for the team at Max New York Life. Starting of with just 65 employees in eight offices in the country, today it has a network of over 500 offices across 300 cities all over India with almost 16,000 employees and 66,000 direct sales agents. Overall, it has become India’s fourth-largest insurer with over 30 lakh policyholders.
But the rapid expansion has meant that the company has had to pay special attention to building a skilled and motivated workforce. In-house training has become a thrust area. As company executives emphasise, the goal has been to emerge as a “University of Life Insurance”. It is already an IRDA-certified training institute and has evolved a rigorous training regimen for both its employees and agents in an attempt to nurture talent.
The company has over 900 dedicated trainers on its rolls. Every office has two training rooms which can accommodate 60 staffers. Employees are periodically sent back to the classroom to further build on their skill sets. Agents, too, are constantly put through the grind —with over 400 hours of classroom curriculum during their first two years with the company.
Rajit Mehta, another Founder Member, who is also Executive Director & COO, adds: “Talent is a competitive edge. Classroom exercises give the employees a clear indication of what is expected from them and how they will be rewarded and compensated.”
Indeed, on the “Employee Satisfaction levels” parameter of BT-Mercer survey, Max New York Life has done exceptionally well. In part, the company says that this is also due to the top-of-the-line performance management process that it has evolved.
Employees are graded on two broad parameters: Goal Review (targets laid down for employees at the beginning of the year) and Managerial Competency Review (this involves assessment of individuals on the competencies specified for a particular position). The review leads to firming up of development plans for the concerned employee.
Most employees agree that it’s a transparent process and the best get their due. Says Prashant Sharma, VP, Investments: “It’s a fair process of appraising. The best performers are given compensations keeping the industry benchmarks in mind.”
However, there are areas of concern. Despite the employeecentric policies, the company is still grappling with a high turnover rate which is endemic to the life insurance business. It has an attrition rate of over 60 per cent. The top management, though, feels that these figures are misleading as the attrition levels at the top three grades is as low as 13 per cent. Says Singh: “We would like to bring down the attrition rate, but importantly we don’t lose leaders.
Most people who leave us are typically junior employees.” Adds Mehta: “With the industry growing at 60-65 per cent annually there’s bound to be a churn at the lower levels. We are known to be an inclusive meritocracy and our staff is much in demand in the industry.”
- Number of people laid off in 2008-09 (as on Dec. 31, ’08)......NA
- Pay-cuts resorted to/planned......NA
- Innovative HR practice: Long-term Incentive Plan(LTIP) which ensures retention of high performers through a long-term cash benefit
Source: Mercer, Company
Max New York Life has drawn up an aggressive growth plan for the next three years called “Everest”. It plans to hire 14,000 on its rolls and take 30,000 agents this fiscal alone. It will also spend Rs 1,800 crore on “Everest”, during which it plans to increase its branches from 500 to 1,600 by March 2012 with over 10 million policyholders in its kitty.
Says Singh: “With goals and vision of the company clearly articulated to the employees, we are confident of meeting our target. Our outstanding work culture should help us beat the industry average growth rates.” Singh’s prediction may or may not come true, the company’s impressive record suggests that it means business.