Meet EXA’s Most Inspiring Leader 2022, Wong Sze Keed, CEO, AIA Singapore

At the 2022 Employee Experience Awards in Singapore, AIA Singapore took home trophies in two broad categories – Bronze for Best Employee Wellness Strategy and Gold for CEO Wong Sze Keed (pictured above) for Most Inspirational Leader of the Year.

We meet with the award-winning executive and learn about AIA’s people-first mandate, how simple gestures like checking people in make a difference, and the initiatives implemented for the mental and physical fitness of employees.

Q Congratulations on the success! Can you share with us the ups and downs of your winning strategy?

My strategy largely mirrors AIA Singapore’s – and ours is pretty simple. Our people are at the heart of our operations; Therefore, our “winning strategy” is a people-first mandate. This approach has helped us weather the uncertainties caused by the pandemic and deliver on our brand promise of enabling Healthier, Longer, Better Life (HLBL) for all.

This award is a testament to the value our people-centric approach has delivered to enable HLBL from the inside out, and we will continue to find ways to build on that to the benefit of our employees and customers.

Q Understanding and meeting the needs and expectations of your employees is never easy. How did AIA develop the perfect solution?

Internally, our People First mandate is all about creating a safe, healthy and inclusive work environment that empowers people to thrive and reach their full potential. Checking in with peers, be it formal or casual, is an everyday occurrence.

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Along with insights from our “Healthier together” In our study, we quickly found that work fatigue and poorer mental health were being exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. This has led us to launch various initiatives that promote not only mental well-being but also better physical fitness.

We have also leveraged our AIA Vitality program and enhanced its features to provide even more holistic support to our members, made up of customers and employees. To ensure members maintain healthy habits during lockdown, we offered free webinars that included sessions with industry experts on the ergonomics of remote work, nutrition classes, as well as meditation sessions to help them stay engaged.

Q How has the strategy contributed to the overall employee experience at AIA Singapore?

Our people-first mandate has helped us enable HLBL with a positive impact on AIA’s bottom line. For example, our total weighted premium income (TWPI) increased by 8% in 2021 and we continue to be the largest provider of employee benefits in Singapore.

I believe we also won the hearts of our customers and our employees as we ended the year with a 91% brand awareness score and achieved a 30% increase in HLBL engagement – strong interest from customers and employees alike.

Q Can you give your industry peers some recommendations on how to implement something similar for their own EX Foundation?

When it comes to advice, I believe the most important thing is to walk the talk. Executives are organizations’ most prominent brand ambassadors, and C-suite leaders should always seek to infuse aspects of their company’s brand promise into their everyday lives. There is a trickle-down effect – the energy and values ​​that leaders exude are reflected in their teams.

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Mental health is reflected throughout AIA Singapore and has helped achieve not only better employee well-being but also the launch of related products such as AIA Beyond Critical Care (AIA BCC); the first critical illness plan with mental health coverage in Singapore, covering five prominent mental illnesses such as major depression and schizophrenia.

Q If you think about it, what would you do differently if you implemented this strategy?

Talent development efforts can always be improved. In line with our People First mandate, employees are the lifeblood of our company. At the beginning of the pandemic and as we evolved into digital learning, one of the challenges was to fully transition to e-learning.

Ultimately, humans are social creatures, and while they have a wealth of e-learning modules at hand, we’ve found two things – 1) people enjoy learning with other people and (2) working relationships are enhanced and strengthened when people get together.

Strategic workforce planning is critical to ensuring our organization has adequate access to the skills and knowledge to be successful. With proper planning, we can pinpoint the talent needs or relevant skills required and determine what reskilling and upskilling programs are essential to building a resilient, future-ready organization.

Q Looking ahead, how will AIA drive this winning strategy higher and further in the years to come?

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Going forward, our team remains committed to building a more sustainable future for generations to come. This aligns with our people-first mandate and our brand promise to enable HLBL for everyone. Some areas of focus are:

  • Fostering a supportive work environment that further encourages diversity in the workplace and drives our culture of innovation and inclusion.
  • Demonstrating our commitment to physical and mental well-being and improving access to quality healthcare.
  • Empowering Singaporeans to achieve higher levels of overall wellbeing by raising awareness of the role of insurance in supporting holistic financial wellbeing.

Q 10 years later, where do you see the future of HR?

The future of work, including pandemic-driven changes in work models, has brought many challenges and opportunities. Workers today are increasingly looking for jobs that offer them “intangibles”; a job that aligns with their values ​​and prioritizes wellbeing and purpose. The role of HR and HR professionals will be critical in preparing for the workplace of the future, by identifying how best to attract, retain and engage employees while providing them with the value and purpose they derive from expect the work.

Image/Provided (with Wong Sze Keed, CEO, AIA Singapore)

Read more interviews on why organizations have won trophies for their HR practices – go to our Winning Secrets section!

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