Winning Secrets: Swiss Re Asia

Swiss Re Asia took home the gold awards for Excellence in Diversity and Inclusion, and Excellence in Work-Life Harmony at the HR Excellence Awards 2021, Singapore.

In this interview, Helen Birnie, HR Partner SEA, Swiss Re Asia, shares why and how the organisation prioritises equality in its workforce, and at its workplace so that everyone can bring their whole selves to work and perform at their best.

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

At Swiss Re, our vision is to 'help make the world more resilient'; and to do that, our people need to be resilient first. That means taking care of our wellbeing – for everyone individually, and for us as a collective in areas like mental, physical, financial, and community resilience. This has been part of Swiss Re's DNA long before the pandemic hit.

We recognise this starts with truly exceptional people and high-performance teams. Our global personal resilience strategy is our commitment to this area. Through a range of initiatives and programmes, we have been able to raise the quality of life and professional excellence through cutting-edge technology and flexible workplace solutions that allow our people to create an environment where everyone can bring their whole selves to work and perform at their best.  

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 believe our initiatives help look after our physical and emotional health so that everyone can be more resilient and live life to the fullest. Important themes such as inclusion & diversity, and personal resilience can only ever be successful with senior management support. Our mental health network has an executive sponsorship, and a pledge which has made commitments to making a difference in this area.

Launching a global personal resilience campaign titled "It's Okay" has encouraged more conversations around these themes, and inspired colleagues to increase their awareness and understanding.

With our senior executives' support of "It's Okay", it has made a significant impact on the working life of our employees.

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?

It takes time for mindsets to change and we recognise this by ensuring we implement 360-feedback throughout the entire process when new initiatives are introduced. Whether it is an internal webinar to provide updates on our 'Own The Way Your Work' programme, or a panel discussion with guest speakers on inclusion & diversity, it is important to gather feedback before and after the event. This gives us a better understanding of what people need. We also look at feedback and metrics holistically so we can better understand where the gaps may be. For instance, if our people are not able to attend, why and how can we get those people engaged, attending these sessions when they need it most, and facilitate access to the support and materials they need.

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?

We have worked hard as a company and our regional HR Team is dedicated to building an environment where people feel supported, not just day-to-day but through the pandemic. We have observed this in our employees' feedback and via our retention figures. We are striving to make continuous efforts in building a diverse workforce that brings together the best of multiple generations, cultures, skillsets, and thinking.  

Q We’re now seeing HR manage portfolios that were previously considered far from their job description. In your view, what are the top three skills and attributes of today’s successful CHRO?

  • Leadership – possessing strong skills as a leader to manage diverse and virtual teams, and to guide and motivate them. This can bring its own set of challenges, especially throughout the pandemic, when you may have never even met face to face before.
  • Agility – having the ability to make sound commercial decisions whilst adapting at speed.
  • Resilience – prioritising your personal resilience, and the personal resilience of your team. It is resilience that has got us through the pandemic, and it will be strong resilience that gets us ready and fit for the future challenges.

Image / 123RF

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