Money Moves

The essence of sustainability

by Isabella Lee

Ellen So, head of human resources
AXA China Region Insurance Company Limited
Photo: Edde Ngan

Comprehensive training and development schedule gives aspiring individuals a leg up the corporate ladder

Business excellence in all commercial sectors depends primarily on a competent workforce working together as a cohesive team. As a leading organisation in the financial protection and wealth management industry, AXA places employee engagement and a capable talent pool at the heart of its business strategy.

"Every member of staff has a wealth of ideas, knowledge, expertise, understanding of the company and accumulated business wisdom to contribute to the future success of our business. It is therefore of paramount importance for us to retain the loyalty of our people," notes Ellen So, head of human resources, AXA China Region Insurance Company Limited.

All-round care

With a view to fostering a greater sense of belonging, AXA in Hong Kong has set up a dedicated committee focused on developing numerous initiatives and channels to bolster staff engagement across the workforce.

"This, in turn, leads to happy customers and high client satisfaction, which generate more sales and superior business performance, ultimately sharpening the company's competitive edge," says Mrs So.

The committee is divided into five work streams, each playing a specific role but together they seek to boost staff motivation and involvement.

Bearing in mind the importance of accurately conveying messages within the giant organisation, a communication team draws up policies and actions to facilitate efficient exchange of information and people network.

An environment and culture team in turn works on building and maintaining an appropriate and respectful company culture.

Creating and promoting workforce and community cohesion is key to corporate success. To this end, the committee includes a community team that looks at opportunities for the company to become involved in corporate social responsibility (CSR) endeavours. It also works closely with the AXA club, which involves staff in a colourful array of team-building activities, such as eco trips, wine-tasting events and various sports competitions.

Continuous learning is in every aspect essential to business sustainability. According to Mrs So, this is where the learning and development team comes into play. The team works towards the personal and professional growth of AXA employees via providing a wide range of systematic training programmes on different levels. Many employees enrol for programmes offered by the AXA University in Singapore, which offers a high-quality curriculum in collaboration with a number of world-renowned business schools.

"We also have a rewards and recognition team, as we understand that financial incentives are the key forces driving work performance as well as staff engagement. However, our employees see good leadership as even more important," Mrs So emphasises. "Since people are inspired by good managers that provide training and promote team spirit, our vision is to build up a highly engaged and competent workforce through effective leadership."

The corporation's efforts and investment in staff development have paid dividends. A 2009 employee opinion survey indicated an average staff satisfaction level of 80 per cent, a quantum leap from the 59 per cent recorded four years ago. The company's turnover rate has also plummeted substantially.

Talent pipeline

As a flourishing company with a presence in 56 countries, the AXA brand has come to represent boundless scope for advancement to the right people. In particular, a structured AXA management trainee programme has been designed to fast track the careers of budding individuals who aspire to success and share the company's vision.

The 18-month programme comprises a comprehensive range of job attachments, classroom training, on-the-job coaching and mentorship.

"Success in this fast-paced industry requires quite a handful of expertise, including marketing skills, insights into product development and sales management techniques," Mrs So points out. "In order to give our management trainees a head start, we also try and map their career aspirations against roles that suit their specific skills, areas of interest as well as personalities. We expect our trainees to learn the ropes through challenging job experience and different assignments."

The trainees work on a number of interesting and inspiring projects in the course of their three job rotations, and have the benefit of being able to consult more experienced team members who offer job coaching and advice for adapting to different realities in the changing global financial market.

Senior AXA managers also act as personal mentors, providing executive guidance at different stages of the programme.

Once they have completed the training, the new recruits are moved into managerial positions corresponding with their strengths. Career paths are flexible, since the company realises that personal interests may change over time and works with employees to ensure that they remain on the best course.

"We provide our people with all the key tools and resources they need to excel in their roles, but it's ultimately up to them to grab the opportunities presented to them," Mrs So concludes.

Preferred platform

  • Staff retention a cornerstone of corporate success
  • Five-pronged approach to staff engagement yields superlative results
  • Ongoing learning encouraged and supported
  • Structured management trainee programme maintains a healthy talent pipeline

Taken from Career Times 28 May 2010, A2

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