Enabling employees to be their exceptional best: Old Mutual’s key to success

Old Mutual has a legacy of iconic leaders who have contributed to building who we are today,” says Anisha Archary, Human Resources director at Old Mutual Emerging Markets.

Established in 1845 in South Africa, the Old Mutual Emerging Markets business is privileged to have 11 million customers and over 30 000 employees, spread across 18 countries in Africa, China and Latin America. To overcome the complexity presented by its broad geographical spread, size and diverse environments, Old Mutual’s People strategy focuses on creating best in class people practices across its operations to ensure distinctive consistency.

“We set out eight years ago to take Human Resources out of the bunker and into the boardroom. Each year, we built on the feedback received from the Top Employers benchmarking information, to strengthen and elevate our performance. In addition, we are delighted to be the Industry Leader in Financial Services and Insurance for the seventh consecutive year. All 13 operations on our continent have achieved certification,” says Archary.

This achievement comes at a time when Old Mutual Emerging Markets is embarking on an exciting journey to prepare for its independent future next year, which entails a primary listing on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.

It has taken a well-orchestrated plan to ensure this achievement. The dial shifters have been (1) effective use of HR analytics; (2) active employee participation; (3) digital enablement; and (4) building an HR capability that is a catalyst for change in the business. “Our success is underpinned by a strong partnership between business and HR leadership, committed to achieving business results through our people,” says Archary.


Effective use of HR analytics

Over the past years, Old Mutual has shaped an integrated Employee Value Proposition focused on the critical pillars of culture, leadership, career opportunities in a top multinational company and fair reward and recognition.

“It is essential that we engage our employees on what matters most to them. We deep dive specific employee groupings and develop differentiated offerings based on their feedback. For example, with our millennial employees, we recognized that they value ‘experience hopping’ rather than ‘job hopping’, choice of benefits, access to inspirational leadership and working for an organisation that makes a difference. Purposeful Fridays was introduced to encourage everyone to contribute to a theme for the month, such as support for Read to Rise and Food Forward SA.”

“Depth of female succession for key roles is another challenge we identified. Our data showed a high turnover of women within their first year of returning from maternity leave. We researched key retention drivers and introduced the ‘MyParenting programme’ to support mothers in their dual roles in society. A programme for line managers on reintegrating new mothers into the workplace was also implemented. Since the launch of this programme, the reintegration experience of returning mothers has improved by over 30%,” she explains.

Old Mutual’s pre-retiree programme is yet another offering to assist employees within 10 years of retirement, to prepare for their next chapter. This programme covers areas such as readiness assessments, financial workshops, transitioning roles and how to leave a lasting legacy in the business.

“Fundamental to our success has been the importance of thinking in an integrated way, focusing on a segmented view of our employees, matched with multi-faceted delivery,” Archary says.

Active employee participation

A great source of pride for Old Mutual is the environment it has cultivated to promote the holistic wellbeing of employees. “Our ‘We Care’ Wellness Programme is our signature offering built on the foundations of financial, physical, emotional and psychological wellbeing. Purposeful Living is another core tenet of the programme,” she says.

“In August this year, we hosted a Festival of Wellness, a week-long programme to encourage employees to kick-start their journey to a healthier lifestyle. Over 2 000 employees participated in sessions that included yoga, Zumba, mindfulness and workshops with expert talks on wellbeing.”

A crucial aspect of wellness is financial education. “Our ‘On the Money’ and ‘Moneyversity’ programmes allow employees easy access to our financial offerings. Financial inclusion and financial education are key to our Responsible Business commitment,” says Archary.

Digital enablement

Aided by the power of ever-evolving technology, Old Mutual has created spaces that promote collaboration, innovation and creativity. Employees are kept updated on the latest digital advancements in areas such as the Genius Hub and Digital Garage. The Genius Hub is a place where employees meet and learn about Old Mutual’s digital future and where cutting-edge propositions are showcased. Employees are able to experience live demos and interact with customer solutions long before they are launched to the market.

This year, Old Mutual introduced a mobile solution for employees. Connecting the Old Mutual Way provides employees and leaders with access to information on managing performance and planning their careers, as well as opportunities to participate in engagement surveys.

Building HR capability as a catalyst for change

“A major philosophical shift that HR is driving is ensuring that employees take equal accountability for their career to unlock the greatness within them,” says Archary.

“Transforming the HR capability has required a relentless focus on getting the basics right, while working on being a catalyst for change. Breaking down silos between the centres of best practice and HR business partners across our geographically diverse business has been a major achievement.

“Everything we do at Old Mutual is founded on our core purpose of championing positive futures every day. We truly believe that raising HR’s strategic contribution to the business and our employees is a ‘journey without end’. We at Old Mutual remain committed to continuing on this path. We are both delighted and humbled by this recognition of being South Africa’s number one Top Employer,” Archary concludes. 

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