Money Moves

Fresh perspective on talent management

by Grace Chan

Jimmy Chan (right), head of Zurich Academy Distribution Development
Clarence Lau, senior manager, Professional Development Centre
Zurich Academy Distribution Development
Zurich Life Insurance Company Limited
Photo: Louis Lam

Leading insurer's focus on the ambitions of the new generation pays dividends

Talented young adults are a force for change when it comes to creative talent management. Companies that consider the needs and aspirations of the so-called Generation Y, comprising people born in the 1980s and 1990s, are attracting the brightest budding professionals.

One major corporation that prioritises fresh talent is Zurich Life Insurance Company Limited. "Seventy per cent of the new recruits that joined us this year were younger than 29, and many came straight from university," says Jimmy Chan, head, Zurich Academy Distribution Development, Zurich Life Insurance Company Limited.

Earlier this year, the company set out to recruit 1,000 new advisors by December, using a variety of hiring initiatives, including road shows and campus career talks.

Considering the intense market rivalry for competent talent, the firm believes one of its top strengths for attracting graduates is its visionary corporate culture. "Members of Generation Y target companies that offer ongoing learning, differentiation and challenge," Mr Chan stresses.

Thorough induction

Zurich has for many years stressed the importance of talent management to groom personnel, enhance its services and expand its market share.
In 2004, the company set up a New Advisor Development Centre (NADC) to engage newcomers in an array of comprehensive training activities and equip them with the necessary knowledge and skills to excel in the profession.

All fresh advisors without industry experience are obliged to participate in eight weeks of NADC classroom training, kicking off with preparations for their Insurance Intermediaries Qualifying Examination (IIQE). This is followed by information- and practical-skills sessions, focusing on financial planning, Zurich product features, client servicing and selling techniques.

From the fifth week onwards, managers provide the recruits with personalised coaching and mentoring, setting business targets and regularly reviewing their work to help boost their competence and self-confidence.

"Effective training no longer needs to be confined to the classroom," points out Mr Chan. "Mobile learning programmes offering flexibility and convenience best suit the needs of Generation Y advisors."

Breaking the norm

Earlier this year, Zurich launched ZTV, a mobile learning platform to help new advisors keep abreast of industry knowledge, using devices such as iPhones and iPads. "Our advisors have access to this customised tool while going about their hectic daily schedules," explains Clarence Lau, senior manager, Professional Development Centre, Zurich Academy Distribution Development.

ZTV incorporates 220 videos covering everything from the latest market information and product knowledge to selling techniques and client-servicing skills.
Training is no longer lecture-based, Mr Lau adds. "New advisors operate on a flexible timetable, enabling them to learn at their own pace, including when they're browsing the internet after work."

Nurturing high performers

"We want to develop our young people to grow into aspiring professionals," Mr Chan stresses. "Retaining our best workers is therefore a priority."

New advisors falling into the Generation Y grouping are sometimes referred to as the "trophy generation", because of their propensity to enter contests and win awards. For this reason, Zurich offers more than just opportunities for promotion or regular incentives.

"We celebrate success with them and make it fun, in an unconventional way. Top achievers, for example, have 'cover' photographs taken in the style of upmarket, high-profile news magazines," explains Mr Chan.

Fresh advisors are expected to take part in the company's regular New Star Challenge, where those achieving superior business results are identified and awarded. "This provides them with an ongoing challenge, as well as recognition," says Mr Lau.

The insurer has also recently identified its first batch of Distinguished New Advisors (DNA). These young achievers will receive customised coaching, in cooperation with their managers, and be expected to perform in an exemplary manner, leading to fast-tracked careers.

"Many members of Generation Y like to show off their talent, and we offer them centre stage," says Mr Lau, adding that the DNAs are viewed as gifted individuals that will motivate one another and in future share their experience and best practices with their peers.

Staff motivation is crucial for brand sustainability and service enhancement, Mr Chan notes. "In addition to our emphasis on differentiation, we also seek to bolster performance without using one-size-fits-all tools. Instead, we prefer segmentation, offering tailored training to people with different strengths."

Specific focus

  • Young adults entering the workplace seek ongoing challenges
  • New mobile training platform enables new advisors to learn on the go
  • Innovative retention model focuses on fun, celebration and recognition
  • Insurer invests heavily in staff motivation and talent segmentation

Taken from Career Times 2 September 2011

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