How TAL generates a people productivity dividend

TAL encourages high levels of collaboration, openness, trust and accountability, which all helps in building an ethical business, according to its group CEO, Jim Minto

In response to considerable change in life insurance markets, TAL has reorganised how it does business in order to provide customers with a seamless, engaging experience which helps them understand the firm’s value proposition, according to its group CEO, Jim Minto.

“Building consumer trust is a huge issue for this industry, and we work very hard at trying to take steps forward down that path,” he said.

Another key to TAL’s business success is staying true to its core purpose as a specialist life insurer. “We’ve tried to engage all our staff in understanding our purpose and being aligned to it,” said Minto, who explains that much effort has gone into improving the business on a HR front.

“So we focus on values, culture, engagement, diversity and inclusion as well as good employment practices in our business operations.

“We’re trying to encourage very high levels of collaboration, openness, trust and accountability, and this all helps in building an ethical business.

“It’s all about the people and the way they work together to deliver value to customers, so these elements are enormously important to us being successful,” he said.

The results are positive, too, with TAL’s premium income up 21 per cent in its most recent financial results, while underlying profit after tax rose 12 per cent to $146.6 million – making it the number one insurer in terms of market share and annualised premium income (API).

Improving diversity and gender equity
TAL – Australia’s largest life insurance company with in-force premiums of $2.2 billion – also places a strong focus on diversity and gender equity, and Minto has been appointed an honorary pay equity ambassador for the Workplace Gender Equality Agency (WGEA) in recognition of this.

A couple of years ago a review was undertaken across TAL’s business, which found that women were paid about 82 per cent of what males earned for an equivalent role. This now sits at 98.5 per cent.

In addition, TAL offers maternity (and paternity) support (including popular working mum’s and working dad’s programs), hiring of both genders on equal pay for the same roles, management training on gender equity, as well as regular monitoring, measuring and reporting of diversity and inclusion activities.

While Minto acknowledges that some organisations would see pay equity as a cost to the business, he says TAL’s bottom line results are consistently improving as a result.

“We’ve had a lift in our earnings, and that come from what I’d call a productivity dividend, which is the positive impact of leveraging these things because people want to pull together and really help drive success.

“If you get the right pay for your people it helps you get the right economic results, it helps with building a far better base for gender diversity in your workforce as well as retention and engagement of employees,” said Minto.

Improving retention
TAL’s turnover levels are two to three percentage points below its competitors, while its engagement levels are also four or five percentage points above the norm in Australian financial services, according to TAL’s chief people and culture officer, Andy Moffat, who said good retention levels have delivered a range of other benefits to the business.

“TAL, like every other employer, has a limited amount of money that we spend. Now if you think about our ability to retain staff through flexible working, diversity and the other things we do to create a good work environment, the more we retain staff and the less money we have to spend on recruiting replacement staff.

“We’ve made significant inroads, particularly in the call centre environment, where there are traditionally higher levels of turnover.

“We use to spend probably 60 to 70 per cent of our recruitment budget on agencies, but this has now reduced to less than 40 per cent. So this means we can focus our spend on investing in skills and capabilities for the organisation,” he said.

For the full story and interview with Minto and Moffat on how TAL has boosted productivity and business performance through its people, see the next issue of Inside HR magazine. Image source: Hayden Brotchie