Workplaces of the Future

Ramesh Gopalkrishna, Market Development Lead, APAC, Workplace by Facebook Ashish Vohra, CEO, Reliance Nippon Life Insurance

New products can be copied, and so can business processes. What cannot easily be replicated is a work culture, which can either be one of the key differentiators of success, or else a key roadblock on the path to business transformation. In a fast-changing, increasingly uncertain world, a whole spectrum of jobs is being eliminated, and many new ones are getting created. People are being asked to solve problems they have never seen before. At the same time, there is a growing schism between how they use technology in their everyday lives – where they rely on tools like Facebook, WhatsApp, Snapchat and WeChat – and how they employ it at work. Many workplaces feel like they were designed for the 1980s. Millennials have virtually never filled in a paper form, for instance, and rarely use email.

Attention spans are also dropping, down from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8 seconds in 2013 and 2.8 seconds today. Neurologically, the human brain is capable of processing images 60,000 times faster than it does words – and visual cues are far more powerfully recalled. Keeping in mind that 70% of all the social media content that is consumed today is video, no organisation can afford not to have a video strategy. Finally, Gallup surveys reveal that the companies most employees like to work for have high levels of trust and openness, and allow people’s voices to be heard. Alarmingly, just 13% of workers feel engaged, while conversely, 68% are actively disengaged, pulling themselves and others down with them. Bringing all of these strands together, it is obvious that the way workplaces function needs to drastically change – and tools such as Workplace by Facebook help achieve just that.

Success stories for Workplace…

Using a familiar interface, but tailored to business needs…

Workplace is a collaborative platform that works much like the social network that is so familiar to most people. It allows for chats, messaging, video-sharing, news feeds, and so on, with access options such as closed, open and secret groups. Already, over 30,000 companies use it to give their people a voice, and ultimately, to transform their culture.

…workplace has found thousands of takers, abroad and in India

Facebook uses Workplace, among other things, for a weekly Q&A, including regular interactions with Mark Zuckerberg. This keep morale high, yields valuable feedback, and helps maintain a particular work culture. Airtel uses the tool to connect its front-line staff. At Ginger Hotels, which runs 80 properties across India, it links all employees, whether cooks, cleaners, or front-office staff, via their phones. Cooks might share their recipes, others their videos – all to create a community that brings people closer. The platform also enables reduced emailed workload, and shorter incident-resolution times. At L&T Infotech, Workplace connects 25,000 employees, and has helped eliminate 21 million emails a quarter. Its ‘safety check’ feature allowed workers to post regular updates, and ensure that everyone was safe during floods in Mumbai. A 100-year-old hospital in Singapore encourages workers to post updates on Workplace anytime they notice something broken – whether a drain-pipe or a light bulb. This has reduced the time taken to fix small issues by 70%. On a different level, Starbucks uses it to connect its various retail stores, generating live feedback and comments. Thanks to Workplace, it quickly added several new beverage recipes to its ‘main’ menu, all based on customer response – something that would otherwise have taken months to effect.

…and how it helped transform Reliance Nippon

Reliance Nippon faced multiple challenges, not least on the HR front.

India’s 8th largest life insurer, Reliance Nippon Life Insurance is the country’s biggest non-bank insurer in terms of total premium, with over 65,000 agents, more than 3 million policies in force, and over 10 million customers, all counted. HR is a major challenge for life insurance companies, because the industry tends not to attract the very best talent – but at the same time, growth hinges on outbound solicitation, which demands specific skills. Training is a perennial issue: the costs are high; personalisation (in terms of learner ability and language) is hard to achieve; and, given low attention spans, most conventional, classroom-based training programmes yield poor outcomes. Added to that, there are challenges around standardisation, particularly with alternative sales channels such as banks and third-party distributors.

A Workplace-based training platform sought to fix this…

To overcome these issues, Reliance Nippon developed a new Workplace-based platform that focuses on training. The aim was to build a standardised, scalable and comprehensive training programme, using innovative content, yet one that adapts to varying needs – the ability to be consumed in bite-sized portions, accessed anytime, and available in multiple languages, including English. The company invested in 250 separate videos, with specific messages on different topics (e.g., segmentation), and made provisions for new modules to be added on later. It allowed for continuous feedback, and also provided for a number of group activities. Additionally, the platform supported regular webcasts, such as by the CEO (some 12,000 employees regularly ‘tune in’), and the broadcasting of important announcements.

…and has had notable successes in a short time-span

The results have been impressive. Reliance Nippon’s claims ratio has gone up, complaints (as a share of issued policies) have dropped sharply, premium income is growing again (it was earlier falling), retention rates have improved, as has profitability. Customer centricity is back to the fore, top-line growth now stands at 29%, and the average product case-size has grown 36%. (The number of cases worth over Rs 100,000 has doubled.) Measured productivity levels of new recruits is up by 50-60%, and the company saved on the cost of hiring 200-250 trainers who would have been required in the absence of an online platform. Just how effective the new system became clear when Reliance Nippon introduced a new cancer policy, which achieved impressive penetration rates within just 5 days.

Strong partnerships and leadership buy-in were key

As with any major transformation, multiple initiatives came together in this case. A strong partnership with Facebook, and with certain technology companies, yielded robust solutions. Crucially, the necessary cultural change got a big push from the top, but still required time to gain traction. Ultimately, however, the leadership’s belief in the new system, ensured that it succeeded.