Article: Organisations must articulate their sense of purpose and create a positive difference: Singlife with Aviva’s Vicky Chai


Organisations must articulate their sense of purpose and create a positive difference: Singlife with Aviva’s Vicky Chai

‘Businesses tend to believe that you can’t be profitable if you have to look after the planet or its people, but the truth is taking care of our planet and communities will lead to taking care of our profits in the long run,’ advised Vicky Chai, Group Head of People, Singlife with Aviva.
Organisations must articulate their sense of purpose and create a positive difference: Singlife with Aviva’s Vicky Chai

Vicky Chai is the Group Head of People at Singlife with Aviva. She designs and executes transformational HR initiatives to drive business growth. With a passion for unlocking the potential of people and teams, Vicky has held roles in consulting, technology and FinTech sectors, working with the likes of Deloitte Consulting, BT Global Services, AMEC and Avaloq. In an exclusive conversation with People Matters, Vicky shares incredible insights on driving purpose, innovating people practices to increase collaboration and heighten efficient decision-making by nurturing self-organised teams. Here are some excerpts

Coming from an enterprise that is a pioneer in the financial services industry, what are some of the emerging trends in this sector?

When I think about the emerging trends in our sector, it’s the convergence of online and offline end-to-end customer journeys. Although it’s been happening for a while, this has picked up speed, especially in the last two years of the pandemic. As a result, businesses have been forced to figure out how to meld the two to service their current customers and attract new ones effectively, quickly and visibly. The focus on the customer journey and experience has also come to the forefront. 

The critical questions that need to be answered are: Regardless of the medium through which a customer interacts with us, how do we provide a seamless experience? Simultaneously, how do we empower our employees in all business functions to bring that experience to life? Finally, as we shift between the online and offline world and balance both, how do we continue to give our customers an excellent experience? 

How does Singlife with Aviva bolster organisational performance, work culture and employee wellbeing in a post-pandemic world? 

The last one and a half years have been an interesting journey. When Singlife joined hands with Aviva, it was the coming together of two very different worlds: one an established Insurance company, and the other a young startup in the domain of InsurTech. This gave us a unique opportunity to redefine and shape our culture, workforce, vision and passion and bring it to life. We’re in the process of embedding new values in our people processes, from recruitment to L&D to even our performance appraisal systems. 

We came together virtually under very stressful times, but our workforce was always resilient because our employees were passionate about their work. Because of our strong foundation of employees who strive to do their best for our customers and support each other, resilient work culture was ingrained. But over time, there was the realisation that mental wellness was a hygiene factor in how we care for our employees. Our employee benefits have been implemented to cater to that, and we ensure that our people are aware of these opportunities to seek help in the form of talk therapy, coaching sessions and more. While we also look at the physical health of our employees, we also want to normalise the conversation around mental wellbeing and bring that awareness about the state of our mental health more visibly to the forefront. Also, as pandemic restrictions loosen in Singapore, we’re looking for ways to bring more people into the office in engaging and exciting ways. 

As you zoom out and look at the future, what is the #1 trend or force that you see ahead of us that is really going to change people practices in the near to mid-term?

The need for flexibility and choice in how we work and where we work is becoming a very big consideration. Organisations must find ways to support how employees can work collaboratively beyond physical formats. By empowering virtual or hybrid collaborations, it has been found that we can identify and attract highly skilled talent from around the world. Creating virtual accessibility is vital to access greater talent, be it through constructive brainstorming conversation, working virtually on whiteboards or even generating process maps.

In the last couple of years, it has also become important for organisations to communicate and articulate their sense of purpose. With the increased focus on ESG, the purpose needs to highlight how we can make a positive difference for our environment and our communities. In terms of governance, we have to protect our employees and customers and how we do this needs to be articulated with a lot of clarity. Today’s workforce has higher expectations from companies, especially in this area, because a job is no longer just a means to earn an income, but a means to make a difference in our world. 

As you zoom in, what is the #1 roadblock or barrier that needs to be broken to make the most out of these opportunities?

Ultimately, it's about the will to make a difference, and all businesses can find positive ways to do this. For instance, packaging and delivery by utilising re-usable materials is one way in the retail industry. In insurance, we can think about how we structure our policies to motivate and encourage healthier consumer behaviours. 

Businesses tend to believe that you can’t be profitable if you have to look after the planet or its people, but the truth is taking care of our planet and communities will lead to taking care of our profits in the long run. There needs to be more education around ESG and then harness our people's intellect and passion for making a positive difference in incremental steps that will go a long way. 

As the theme of the event this year is Rethink What’s Possible, how is Vicky Chai rethinking what's possible? At a personal, professional and societal level?

I'm curious and passionate about how we can nurture, build and provide the infrastructure or the ecosystem to have self-empowered and self-organised teams. Most organisations work hierarchically, and that has served its purpose, but today, given that so many changes are happening overnight, decisions and actions need to be taken at a faster rate. 

There are so many events happening, so many inputs from different spaces and functions that we don’t fully understand. In order to function at speed, the notion of self-organised teams is critical. We have to make decisions where the information resides so businesses can execute faster, more efficiently, and effectively. This will be fascinating to accomplish in our Asian culture and move away from a system that always pushed information up the chain of command. By giving importance to competencies and empowering our employees to make decisions at speed by collaborating and sharing diverse knowledge and perspectives, the outcome is a set of very energised, passionate and engaged employees who produce good business outcomes for their organisations. 

What is your word of advice to other leaders in inspiring them to look at the world with fresh eyes? What is one thing to start and one thing to stop as they venture into this new era of people and work?

To the HR community, I would say what got us here isn’t going to get us there. We must move out of our comfort zone and be open-minded to new ideas and concepts from different industries and practices. We need to be curious to seek out those opportunities to learn actively. I’ve been pursuing learning about the ESG space, and it’s been eye-opening to try and understand how we can make people practice sustainable, and help people grow not only in their jobs and careers but also in how they contribute to their communities alongside their companies. 

One thing to stop is to tell ourselves that we know how things work and that we’ll keep doing what we know. It’s advice to myself as well. Maybe it’s time to say, ' I’m going to try something I have never done, don’t know how to do and don’t know how it will turn out. But I’ll try it anyway and learn from it.’

To know more about leading purpose-driven communities and innovating our people practices for the fast-changing business landscape, join us at People Matters Tech HR Singapore this 25th- 26th August at Marina Bay Sands. 

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Topics: Leadership, Culture, #HRCommunity, #TechHRSG

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