Winning Secrets: How Prudential has accelerated the development of future-ready skillsets

Winning Secrets: How Prudential has accelerated the development of future-ready skillsets

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This gold winning organisation is committed to employees for the long-run - as such, it has introduced initiatives that help improve employee engagement, such as a flexi-time, flexi-place culture that gives employees more ownership over their time and projects. 

With a gold win for Excellence in Learning and Development and a silver win for Excellence in Talent Acquisition at HR Excellence Awards 2020, Singapore, Prudential Assurance Company Singapore’s team has emerged as true leaders in driving a workforce strategy plan with the right culture.

Find out more about its internal mobility programme, employee benefits, leadership successes and its people KPI measurement, in this interview with Priya Veeriah.

Q What is your organisation’s winning HR strategy, and what are some milestones you’ve accomplished along this journey?

We are continuously learning and innovating to 'help everyone live well'. Our purpose is not a HR strategy alone, it is the organisation’s strategy and guides us in everything we do.

Some milestones include our internal mobility programme, introduced in 2017. With this programme, we’ve managed to give our employees exposure to different workstreams, and expand their learning horizons. They’re able to get more hands-on experience and understand the organisation better – from both a local and even regional perspective. This ensures that when an opportunity opens up, our people will be the first to know and have the option to move to a different role. In 2019, 30% of our roles were filled by our own employees!

We also want to help employees plan for their careers and take care of them in the long-run. We provide medical coverage to our employees until the age of 100. With rising life expectancies, we introduced measures aimed at providing peace of mind for those who wanted to work for longer, or needed more disposable income to meet their needs.

One key initiative we introduced in 2018 was not stipulating a retirement age for employees, so that they can work for as long as they are able to perform their jobs well.

A year later, we raised our CPF contribution rates for those above the age of 55. This group of employees are able to enjoy the total CPF contribution rate of 37% – similar to that offered to their younger colleagues. This comprises 17% which will come from Prudential if an employee voluntarily increases his/her individual CPF contribution rate to 20%.

In 2020, we accelerated the development of future-ready skillsets through digital and fundamental capabilities in AI, machine learning, innovation, design thinking, and customer centricity. We sustained momentum in continuous learning in spite of the change in our physical environment to working-from-home.

Q How has this strategy helped you achieve your HR priorities, and what role has the leadership played in helping make this initiative a reality?

We’re committed to our employees, and we’re in this journey with them for the long-run. Along the way, we’ve implemented policies and introduced initiatives that help improve employee engagement and morale, which has brought us to where we are today. Our flexi-time, flexi-place culture, which was in place before working-from-home became the ‘new normal’, means our employees are able to have a greater sense of ownership over their time and projects. They can spend quality time with family on Fridays where they can knock off early at 4.30pm.

In fact, flexible working arrangements are not new to Prudential Singapore in this challenging times as we have been working-from-home since we moved to our current premises in 2017.

We value feedback from our employees, and act on it.

We inculcated a sense of ownership of our workplace culture among all Prudential employees by getting them involved every step of the way – co-creating our values with employees, encouraging them to voice their opinions on improvements to be made, and implementing and following up on their feedback.

We also build mutual trust and respect by encouraging our employees to collaborate and innovate across different workstreams, ages and genders. Our leadership team has been instrumental in fostering inclusion in the workplace, providing leadership, guidance and advice to our employees. Our leaders were also involved in reverse mentoring where they paired up with junior colleagues to enhance diversity and inclusion and leadership insights.

Q Unexpected roadblocks are part and parcel of executing any initiative. What were some of the barriers that you and your team experienced while rolling this out, and how did you successfully get past them?

For new employees, the challenge was to align them quickly to our culture. For existing employees, the challenge was to keeping them engaged in the midst of our rapid growth.

We curated a Culture Workshop as a refresher for our existing employees on our organisational culture and values. The intent of the workshop was to:

  1. Share our transformation journey,
  2. Build a growth mindset and transformational capabilities to help employees thrive, and
  3. Understand how employees can contribute to our purpose.

Being a fast-paced company, we are transforming rapidly. This may bring about a sense of confusion, and employees may face challenges in coping with the plethora of changes. To ensure we tackle issues actively, we conduct regular and small surveys to get a sense check of our organisation’s wellbeing, and work closely with our leaders and managers to address issues for our people.

To ensure regular communication and employee engagement, we hold short townhalls and align organisation-wide communications. This was especially so during the circuit breaker period, and also during these current times.

To improve wellbeing, employees are highly encouraged to utilise their wellness leave, by taking five days of consecutive leave. This allows employees to take a break from work to ‘switch off’ as they are not allowed to access their work devices nor clear any work during this time.

Our online wellness initiatives also provide themed classes, e.g. meditation, yoga, pilates, for employees to promote mental, emotional and physical wellbeing.

Q As evidenced by the win, this initiative clearly delivered some amazing results. What was your gameplan for measuring ROI? What are some proud achievements you can share with us on this front?

Our people KPIs measure our performance on how we fare on positive key values such as innovation, customer centricity, and continuous learning, as well as negative values. Our goal is to drive the right culture through the right values which guide our behaviours.

We value feedback from our employees, which we measure by using metrics. We also take a human approach, as empathy is important. For example, many of us like to take leave to travel but this has been not possible this year due to travel restrictions. Recognising this, we made a decision in May to give our employees the option to encash five leave days as we wanted to provide them some form of comfort during these challenging times. 94% of our eligible employees took up this option.

We also ensure we look after the welfare of our senior employees. By not stipulating a retirement age, we enable senior employees to work for as long as they continue to perform. The raising of CPF contribution rates for those above 55 also helps them to save more to fund their extended years, and build a bigger retirement nest.

Sue Li, 64, a customer service officer with Prudential, is one such senior employee who has benefitted from both initiatives. “The additional savings [from the raised CPF contribution rates] would help finance my retirement years and potential healthcare expenses. More importantly, I do not have to depend on my children for financial support,” said Li, who has been working with Prudential for 25 years.

We continue to strive for excellence and are thankful for the awards and recognition we’ve received. Some of our main achievements are:

  • Top 10 National Employer of Choice in 2019. This was done by an independent study out of more than 300 companies with rapid progress in three years from 124th (2016), 42nd (2017), 11th (2018) to ninth place (2019).
  • Being the only insurer in Top 20 Employers in Singapore.
  • Winning the Employer of the Year award in the British Chamber of Commerce 21st Annual Business Awards.

Q Given that the world of work has essentially been overturned, how do you expect the L&D function to evolve one-two years down the line? In line with that, what is your organisation doing to ensure this meets both the employee and employer’s learning goals?

Technology will remain a key enabler. Online courses, webinars and remote learning will be here to stay.

To date, our employees have done 32,800 hours of online learning and we expect this figure to continue increasing in the coming years. L&D function will focus on building a growth mindset and future ready capabilities complemented with insights and analytics.

Continuous learning is crucial. We build a growth mindset to reinforce our desired culture. We emphasise on upskilling our employees to get them future-ready to meet the changing demands of customers brought on by accelerating digitalisation in the financial services industry. An example of this would be through our learning programme, AI in Finance and Machine Learning for Humans, jointly developed with Ngee Ann Polytechnic, so as to help our employees learn new skills and gain a better understanding of the digital economy.

Secondly, we continue to build future-ready skillsets through a strategic workforce plan. It is a continuation of our commitment to plan for future-ready capabilities in roles that are impacted by digitalisation and technology. Leveraging the Institute of Banking and Finance (IBF) skills framework as a baseline, the bottom-up insights and analytics outcome that we gathered serves to facilitate data-driven decisions for capability discussions around workforce strategies with the business.

We continue to partner with government agencies in programmes and initiatives, e.g. Professional Conversion Programme (PCP) to support and focus on the development of our people and Technology in Finance Immersion Programme (TFIP) to upskill and redesign roles for the future insurance industry.

Photo / Provided

Read more interviews on why organisations have won trophies for their HR practices - head over to our Winning Secrets' section! 

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