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Insurance sector to look towards inclusive transformation

14 January 2013 Leo Morwe, Aon South Africa
Leo Morwe, Executive Head: Human Resources of Aon South Africa

Leo Morwe, Executive Head: Human Resources of Aon South Africa

The insurance sector has faced tremendous challenges over the last 24 months – consolidations, mergers and acquisitions, significant corporate restructuring, a churn of skills and human resources and achievement of transformation underpinned in the BBBEE

With the dust settling, there is a lot of hard work ahead on the human capital and broader transformation fronts that go beyond the important equity imperatives of BBBEE, to build companies that support the ideals of inclusive transformation.

For Aon South Africa, this means building a company that supports all individuals on an equal and equitable footing and ensuring that individuals are correctly matched to jobs, right skilled, technically competent and most crucially, satisfied with the prospects for their professional development within a global organisation.

So says Leo Morwe, Executive Head: Human Resources of Aon South Africa, one of the top performing brands in financial services sector transformation. Aon is the largest risk management, insurance brokerage, health care, retirement funding and actuarial consulting organisation in South Africa and a subsidiary of Aon plc.

When Aon acquired Glenrand M-I-B Limited in April 2011, we understood that employees often imagine the worst in merger scenarios, which is one of the reasons why Aon South Africa invested heavily into a multi-phase integration strategy. We have worked hard to engage employees, educate them on the benefits of the new combined company and get them excited about the opportunities for their career growth.

“At the same time, we are also committed to addressing inequalities in South Africa and mobilising the energy of all South Africans towards sustained economic growth, development and social transformation. Going forward, we are working specifically towards creating an inclusive transformation agenda within the organisation. This requires investment in skills development of current staff and new staff through programmes such as graduate development, learnerships, scholarships for university students and a values-based leadership academy for high school learners.

Transformation is essential for doing business in the current South Africa and supports the imperative for ensuring that all South Africans can play a role in our economy. “But in the context of overall strategic transformation goals we also recognise that at centre stage of today’s insurance industry transformation scenario is the skills shortage. The harsh fact is that there is an acute lack of skilled, qualified individuals in the open market and the need therefore is to develop the broad base of trained individuals within our organisation from where senior appointments can be made, rather than being too dependant on external recruitment.”

Inevitably all the insurance players are developing their own transformation agendas and typically the solutions being sought are multi-faceted, underpinned by a strong educational drive, graduate development programmes, learnerships and ongoing professional development of employees.

Within Aon there is also a strong emphasis on the development of core or technical skills. Additionally, individuals who were appointed at junior level are now beginning to advance to middle and senior management levels through the focus on ongoing development during their working career with Aon. We have partnered with Leading South African Business Schools to ensure that our emerging leaders develop the requisite skills that enable them to thrive in a global economy. We also complement this through our Global leadership programme whereby these leaders complete international leadership development programmes in the United States and the United Kingdom ensuring that we go beyond simplistic tick-box approaches,” says Leo.

“In short, achieving inclusive transformation where all our employees feel a sense of belonging is imperative. It’s a business philosophy entrenched in the many talented individuals who lead and work for the company and we measure our success at the employee level in what we have done to change the lives of previously disadvantaged individuals by way of opportunities and the training and education, career mapping and personal development for all our employees.

 

“Transformation runs far deeper than employment equity targets. Ensuring that individuals are correctly matched to jobs, right skilled and technically competent is critical if you are to have happy, balanced employees who are able to master their current work requirements with a view to advancement and up-skilling. It’s the foundation upon which the successful growth and continued profitability of Aon depends.

“And vitally, it’s not about replacing white people with black people, but rather about creating more opportunities for personal and professional growth to the benefit of the company, our people and the industry in general.

“Putting people at the heart of Aon remains a priority. For Aon to continue to successfully address critical issues such as leadership, the explosive growth in emerging markets, the plans for growth into other parts of our continent as well as addressing the new and daunting set of risks that apply to global markets and transforming economies, we need a solid and robust base of skilled individuals who share the vision and plan for the business.

And to attract and retain such individuals, we also realise that a big pay check is not the most important consideration. Our new generation of employees thrives best in an environment that fosters learning and they need to believe that there's room for career advancement. This encompasses everything from clear career paths, professional development, continued education, advancement opportunities, mentorship programs and the security of knowing what their futures hold,” concludes Leo.

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