Allianz is the largest insurance company in the world, and innovations in leadership and recruitment are crucial to its HR strategy. Angelika Inglsberger, head of talent development at the German group, talks to Sally Turner about identifying and nurturing future leaders, and ensuring diversity.

Germany is the world’s second-most popular migration destination, yet its population is predicted to fall from its 2002 peak of 82.0 million to 74.5 million by 2050. Around 500,000 workers are set to retire every year, meaning that labour shortages are now common in all sectors, so it has never been more important for the country’s employers to find ways of engaging the best talent.

Developing diversity

In the latest Thomson Reuters Diversity & Inclusion Index (October 2017), Allianz ranked 18th out of 6,000 publicly traded companies assessed globally. The insurance giant is now one of the most diverse and inclusive corporations worldwide.

New initiatives have been launched to drive inclusion and equality in all areas of the business from recruitment to training, on a global scale, but also at local level in response to specific regional and cultural needs: ‘Challenge Accepted’ is a series of projects with the aim of encouraging international collaboration between diverse teams. The junior executive talent (JET) mentoring programme is aimed at non-executive women to encourage peer-group networking and engagement with national Allianz leaders.

Also, as part of its bottom-up succession planning, the company has been identifying female successors for numerous executive positions worldwide.

Angelika Inglsperger, head of talent development at the German group, explains the importance of diversity
in driving the business. "It is crucial to have the right mix between male and female but also, because we have a lot of global roles in Allianz, it is important to include a lot of people from different parts of the world and of different nationalities," she says. "In some of our regions we make sure we have 50% female, 50% male, and you can see that in our senior management team and on our board – there will be lots more people coming from other parts of the world as we develop.

"We will have a new board member [in 2018] coming from Australia and the board itself will be very diverse in terms of nationalities, but also in terms of male/female."

Performance culture

While organisations are under pressure to make far-reaching improvements in staff performance to ensure strategic targets are met, it is clear that performance management systems are not always effective.

The corporate executive board has suggested that businesses need a minimum 20% improvement in output from employees to meet company aims, but over the past two decades, there has only been an improvement of around 10%. Appraisal systems often fail to engage staff, and this affects morale and performance.

The 2014 CIPD Employee Outlook Survey revealed that more than 30% of employees in the UK believe the performance management process at their place of work is unfair.

Inglsperger explains that Allianz is addressing this issue head on by integrating core values and multiradar feedback into its performance and appraisal strategy: "At Allianz, it’s not just about the ‘what’ but also about the ‘how’. Performance and people both matter, and we are tracking that, so it is not just that the manager evaluates you, it’s also your peers, direct reports and customers – people get feedback from various sources. We have this multiradar approach that is helping us move towards a new performance culture.

"We want to become more digital and more customer-centric, so we have launched new strategic values that will be very important to future development. These include entrepreneurship, customer and market excellence, collaborative leadership and trust. We have embedded these values in our performance management scheme so that from now on we evaluate people 50% on the ‘what’, but also 50% on the ‘how’, which is the values. Every executive is evaluated against this model."

This values-driven approach also feeds into employee training and leadership strategy, with comprehensive succession planning a key part of Allianz’s global HR strategy.

"For all our executives – which means middle management, senior management and all our critical positions – we identify who is ready now to take over if someone would leave, who will be ready in the next two to three years and who will be our next generation of leaders, so that we have a succession plan," says Inglsperger. "If we do not have it, then maybe we will look to other departments, or worse case we would need to get that from the market. In a succession plan, we also look at what a person would need to develop into the position. For high-level positions, people get nominated as having future potential and then we have some development programmes in place to prepare them. For senior and global executives, we have training to prepare them for these leadership challenges."

Recruitment – attracting the right talent

Recruitment strategies must thrive and adapt to capture the attention of potential employees across multiple platforms. Inglsperger outlines the digital outreach strategy at Allianz: "Candidates need an end-to-end experience and want a fully digital experience, so we have to adapt and make sure that everything we do is set up for that.

"We have to make our systems faster and make sure we provide really easy access for candidates. Allianz has full employer branding, a comprehensive website, a presence on LinkedIn and Facebook, and is using social media to shape its reputation as an employer.

"We have an application tool in place, and in our different markets, we go into universities and position Allianz as an employer of choice. We also have our employers’ programmes and people are always happy to recommend others for key roles."

Managing millennials

The millennial generation is arguably the single largest workforce in the global market. A 2015 study carried out by PEW Research discovered that more than a third of US employees were millennials, and identified 80 million people in the US overall as part of ‘Generation M’ (roughly, those adults born after 1980).

This dynamic sector of the workforce has singular needs and expectations that HR professionals have homed in on as a vital part of recruitment and leadership strategy. Millennials are considered open-minded, ambitious and innovative thinkers who gravitate towards collaborative and flexible working environments.

Allianz has risen to the challenge. "Millennials want to decide when and where they work, and to be able to do so from home," says Inglsperger. "They also want to be able to say, ‘I’m an IT designer today, but tomorrow I may want to work in marketing’.

"They want to be able to switch jobs easily, and to have flexibility between career paths and roles, and also to move between countries and different functions and sectors. They also require a different leadership style – millennials want to work in expert groups more and with their peers, and this requires more open management.

"Today, they might be experts, but tomorrow we need to move away from that towards leaders, and to develop their approach to leadership. First of all, though, we have to attract them through digital tools that explain the Allianz culture in a more interesting way. So, we need to set out our new values differently from the outset when recruiting."

HR and new technology

As an example, Allianz has just launched a game called The Rise of Drones, which involves employees taking part in a race using aerial drone technology. The decision-making process involved is strategically aligned with the company’s core values and aims to demonstrate to participants how key values can impact upon crucial decisions and outcomes.

Inglsperger is sanguine about the possibilities: "Millennials are bored reading a PowerPoint slide; they want gamification, so that is what we are giving them."

This enthusiasm for digital innovation in HR reflects Germany’s long-held commitment to groundbreaking systems and new technology. Alongside gamification, Allianz is implementing various tech projects with the intention of transforming its in-house systems and customer experience.

"We are starting to work in a matrix environment," says Inglsperger, "and leading a global team means having good influencing skills across various projects and regions. Allianz is now moving to one HR system that will manage talent, recruiting, performance management and include new technology like a relationship management tool.

"We are developing some bots. For example, if you are interested in working for Allianz, you contact the bot – called Ellie – through our website to say you want a job. Ellie then helps you find the right role. Ellie is available 24 hours and seven days a week. Ellie will also be able to talk about culture at Allianz. These are exciting times for global HR."


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