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Accelerated development
Published on Thursday, 12 Jan 2012
Sabrina Yuan
Chief HR officer, AXA China Region Insurance Company
Photo: Edmond So

Employee turnover rate has always been high in insurance, prompting companies to look for ways to attract and retain the best talent by designing fast-paced career development plans for their staff. With 1,000 corporate staff and 4,000 financial consultants in Hong Kong, AXA China Region Insurance Company has drawn up programmes to foster personal and professional development, and prepare their employees for higher positions.

“Career development is one of the most important and universal demands of employees,” says Sabrina Yuan, chief human resources (HR) officer at AXA China.  “And we are good at listening to our employees.”

Corporate staff who have demonstrated high potential in the first couple of years after joining the company are offered an accelerated development plan, for instance.

“We will assess their strengths and areas of improvement, and design for them tailored-made development plan – including trainings and mentoring sessions,” says Yuan. “The aim is to get them into senior positions in a relative shorter period. Our chief executive officer will also have casual meetings with them to find out how they are doing in their development.”

“Our business is expanding and our recruitment plan will support our business plan,” Yuan adds. “Globally, Hong Kong plays a very important role. Our recruitment plan has to be in line with business growth. Our focus is more on quality than quantity.”

Yuan says AXA China makes sure it is competitive in the market in terms of compensation and benefits. They also strive to offer their employees work-life balance and flexibility, as well as a chance to participate in AXA club activities and CSR programmes to give back to the society. 

Internship programmes are viewed as a talent-spotting opportunity for the brightest and talented employees, especially for sophisticated work.  “I have noticed that for such expertise roles as actuarial, market demand is significantly higher than supply,” says Yuan. “We have tried to build good relationship with universities and started internship programmes early enough to lock the top students.”

For financial consultants, the AXA Associates programme is aimed at fresh graduates with higher education qualifications. The one-year scheme includes training and mentoring, and is also designed to accelerate the career growth of new recruits. 

According to Yuan, who has more than 14 years of experience in HR management, one of the things that is good about AXA is that training and development are not entirely the responsibility of the HR department. For instance, the very popular AXA Academy in Kowloon Bay that trains new hires and offers continuous staff competency support is independent of the HR department.

Also, line managers can coach and support other employees, says Yuan, adding that these “people managers” are key to implementing the desired corporate culture.
These line managers are equipped with coaching skills, as well as effective questioning and active listening skills, which enable them to build one-on-one relationship and conduct one-on-one meetings.

AXA has defined three core characteristics for its staff in relation to their clients – attentive, reliable and available. “A good line manager has to demonstrate these attitudes towards their colleagues as well,” adds Yuan. “Products can be copied, but culture is unique for a company.”

“There are three different cultures – aggressive, passive and constructive,” Yuan adds. “AXA is pursuing a constructive culture.”

She says that the company has a set of system and standard to support its recruitment globally. “Basically, we hope our candidates will buy into our company values – integrity, team spirit, professionalism, innovation and pragmatism. Integrity cannot be sacrificed, but team spirit can be developed,” Yuan says. 


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