A Glimpse into the Heart of AIA, Sri Lanka’s Best Life Insurance Company – Director of Human Resources of AIA Insurance Lanka Ltd, Thushari Perera

AIA Insurance Sri Lanka bags 4 prestigious awards from Great Place to Work® in 2021

  • Best Workplaces™️ in Asia list- Large category
  • 40 Best Workplaces™️ in Sri Lanka
  • Best Workplaces™️ for Millennials
  • Best Workplaces™️ for Women

In an interview with Thushari Perera, AIA Sri Lanka’s Director of HR, she discusses what makes AIA a desirable employer and how the organization sets the workplace. At AIA, the focus is on creating an environment where the team can learn, grow and enjoy a strong sense of community. Building employees’ trust in the workplace is a top priority and it all starts with the employees’ experience, including how they perceive the culture, work environment, and how their psychological and physical requirements are met. 

In terms of the recent accolades AIA has won, Thushari states that this year has been remarkable for AIA, with the company receiving four prestigious awards from Great Place to Work®. AIA has won the “Best Workplace” award for the 9th consecutive year, a first-time international recognition being ranked #45 in the Asia’s Best Workplaces List, AIA was also recognised as a ‘Best Workplace for Women’ for the fourth consecutive year and also as a ‘Best Workplace for Millennials’. 

Thushari reiterates that AIA is working hard to create an environment that is ideal for everyone. Having been inducted into the “Great Place to Work Hall of Fame” after the 5th consecutive year of recognition, these continued accolades are a testament that AIA is doing the right thing, the right way, with the right people. She notes that the management thrives on the fact that its people are what makes AIA such a unique and great place to work. Their employees recognise AIA as an organisation that is driven by its purpose of helping people live healthier, longer, better lives and this permeates everything the Company does, in turn giving employees a sense of passion and pride for such a unique purpose. 

Furthermore, she expresses that AIA is proud of its highly diversified workforce in terms of generations (Gen X, Millennials, Gen Z), gender (39% are women) and multicultural backgrounds. In simple terms, at AIA we try to understand and accept all our employees for who they are, and we respect the individuality they bring in. “It is easier to say this – but what is important is how we practice it.” Thushari explained that individuality is respected through all interactions with employees, starting with recruitment, development, compensation and all processes and practices. In terms of recognition, it’s a great achievement to receive an endorsement locally and internationally, appreciating our efforts for workforce diversity.

In terms of the Covid 19 pandemic, Thushari notes that AIA, like any other organization, initially experienced hurdles. AIA ensured that their employees were engaged on a fundamental level. For example, the infrastructure to Work From Home (WFH) was already in place when the pandemic struck last year, so it was easy for employees to connect to WFH efficiently. However, since the concept of WFH was a first timer, the next level was figuring out how to stay engaged and connected. AIA is known for its workplace culture which creates a great sense of community amongst staff. With the pandemic forcing a 100% WFH, AIA’s main focus was to connect with people and engage them to keep the work culture, relationships and friendships alive. To this end the HR team built a schedule of virtual engagement programmes and events. Notably, as the working environment changed from a physical office to WFH, the HR team swiftly transitioned from a physical to an online virtual setting, maintaining high levels of engagement among colleagues and their families. Further, as a company focused on health and well-being, Thushari asserts that AIA ensured all safety precautions were taken and monitored for essential staff that had to come into work. The company also ensured that any of its staff and their families impacted by COVID were provided the best care. 

AIA’s ability to stand strong and stable amidst the pandemic was another important factor in ensuring employee confidence and security. According to Thushari, AIA was able to ensure uninterrupted financial security and peace of mind of its employees by delivering salaries to all staff without any reductions in pay, and even paid out its bonuses in 2020. In fact, 2020 was a record bonus year for AIA Sri Lanka. 

When asked about the challenges faced, Thushari commented, “Indeed, 2020 was a challenging year due to the pandemic but yet, we were able to successfully carry out over 90 online employee engagement activities that served to keep staff excited and enthused, and connected as a community despite working from home. We completed 27 projects out of the planned 28 digital projects for the company and totalled 12,476 learning hours, including virtual and physical. We continue to give employees freedom and empowerment for creativity and innovation with greater ownership to improve effectiveness and efficiency in all aspects of the workplace, resulting in better products and processes with high quality services to customers. All in all, despite the challenges, it’s safe to say that AIA continues to thrive with our employees at the very heart of our success.”. Her comments are validated by the fact that despite the challenges of 2020, the company expanded and had strong financial results. 

When asked about the Millennials Award, Thushari shared, “Millennials make up a large percentage of our employee base. They are a purpose led generation and are more motivated to work with employers that make a positive impact on society. This resonates with AIA’s overall purpose of helping people live healthier, longer, better lives be it with our customers, employees or the communities in which we serve.”

She added, “AIA recognises that millennials are goal oriented with an entrepreneurial mindset, so we offer rewarding career experiences while focusing on their development and enriching their skills to be future leaders. At AIA we have a culture which is flexible and less formal and this appeals to millennials. We further empower people with their job roles and promote leadership at all levels, ensuring that everyone has the opportunity to be the best of themselves regardless of their position, age or tenure in the company.” 

She further commented, “AIA’s digital transformation journey is constantly evolving with special attention to technology, data and analytics- which keeps things up to date and top of the game, making it attractive to the millennial generation.”

With regard to the ‘Best Workplace for Women’ recognition, Thushari enthused that AIA is immensely proud of this recognition, which is a testament to the company’s commitment to creating a truly fair and productive workplace for women. She said, “We understand that gender parity is central in having a dynamic balanced workforce and our female employees play an integral part in our business success. AIA recognised the trends of diminishing female participation at work beforehand and took many strategic steps over the years to ensure that our female colleagues have a work environment that provides opportunity and flexibility to arrange work within family circumstances where such support is needed the most.”

She added, “We wholeheartedly believe that caring for oneself and one’s family helps us be our best at work. That is why we were the first EFC (Employers’ Federation of Ceylon) member to implement a comprehensive maternity benefit scheme for female employees, in the country. We offer a host of maternal benefits, including benefits for mothers who need special treatment and attention prior or post childbirth. We have also approved a special scheme where mothers who are adopting children are given one month paid leave to bond with their baby. As a result of our continuous focus to build a sense of trust, hopefulness, inclusiveness and pride in our people, we have managed to retain many of our employees, especially our female workforce.”

When asked how AIA binds the entire organization to the yearly objective, Thushari answers, it comes from its business plan annual aim, which is related to our purpose. According to Thushari, employees’ goals are explained and clarified at the start of the year but are not rigid; they can adjust their goals throughout the year depending on the situation and priorities of the business / function.

Regarding employee expectations, Thushari explains that AIA has a merit-based performance and incentive system, therefore, all raises and bonuses are based on their performance, which means when employees do well, their rewards reflect it. As a result, employee and company expectations are inextricably connected.

Finally, when it comes to employees’ contributions to innovation and business success, Thushari cites that AIA employees have clarity about their goals, expectations and how their contribution links to the overall business success of the organisation.  People are empowered within their job roles which helps to take decisions, innovate and contribute to the best of their ability while building an intrapreneur mindset.  This whole structure helps connect the company with the employees’ creativity and abilities to support the business growth.  

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