CHRO Kevin Silva has built a human capital blueprint that provides a sense of inclusion, purpose, and opportunities to grow. The result? A 95 percent retention rate of accelerated talent.
By Debbie Bolla
Research from LinkedIn finds that today’s workers feel most engaged when they are challenged and personally connected to their work. Voya Financial is one organization that is providing that type of environment. CHRO Kevin Silva has helped build a culture that is based on the philosophy that the sum of all the parts is stronger than the individual parts. In fact, the phrase “we are the we” is one of the organization’s corporate values.
These efforts are driving some very impressive results that shine a light on how connected employees are at Voya: 93 percent of employees says the organization has a great atmosphere that presents growth challenges, and 95 percent of employees have great pride in their work. Voya has also been able to maintain a 95 percent retention rate of top talent. How else does Voya achieve such leading numbers in today’s candidate-driven market? Here, Silva shares more about the “One Voya” culture, its employee value proposition (EVP), its corporate responsibility efforts, and how building the leaders of tomorrow ensures success today.
HRO Today: Tell me about the “One Voya” culture and how it was developed and executed.
Kevin Silva: Every company has a culture, and it can either be a culture by design or a culture by default. We have a culture by design and it is done in a purposeful way to align with our corporate values. To do this, we lead by behaviors are the demonstration of the culture to employees. Organizations need to have consequences to ensure the culture becomes embedded: promote those who demonstrate it and apply pressure to those who don’t support company values. And it’s important to communicate and train the cultural ideals, but then re-communicate and re-train. The first time the message is heard it’s interesting to employees; the second time it’s being repeated; and the third and fourth time it starts to become closer to the truth.
The “One Voya” culture is based on the belief that the sum of all the parts is stronger than the individual parts. The phrase “we are the we”—one of our corporate values—is often heard around the halls. We understand that we are accountable both individually and collectively for the mutual success of Voya.
Culture can be an accelerant of performance. The way most employees experience culture is as the sum of all management behaviors. When management behaviors align with articulated culture statements, you have a culture that is in harmony.
We focus on recruiting the right, diverse talent, and ensuring they understand the opportunities of Voya that will help them prosper in their careers. We look for the right fit for the right role at the right time. We also look for candidates who have transferable skills for long-term investment in their growth. We don’t fill boxes at Voya—we bring people in for careers and grow them across the organization. We look at their aspirations and challenge them, and this approach helps create a “One Voya” concept.
HROT: What impact does Voya’s EVP have?
Kevin Silva: A solid EVP makes it possible for employees to understand what they are getting out of their work. This whole idea of work is about the exchange of energies and resources between employees and employers. Employees want a supportive work environment, and that’s an important part of an EVP. They ask themselves: “What’s it in for me?” And organizations need to think about that. Since becoming Voya Financial, we have developed an understanding about what’s special about our organization. We think about what our employees are giving us and what they get in exchange. Our EVP represents a unique set of offerings that characterize how we differentiate ourselves from competitors.
Our EVP represents who we are, what we do, and the expectations of our employees, and it tries to describe the appeal of working for our organization and why we are distinct and different. Many people have work, but not everyone has work and purpose. We want to give our employees both.
Our EVP states the following types of things:
- We are a different kind of company.
- We strive to improve the lives of our customers, colleagues, and communities.
- We offer a diverse and energetic environment where employees own their career and are rewarded for their contributions.
- We are committed to continually improving our employees.
When we were developing our EVP, our leaders as well as our employee groups spent a lot of time determining how we can move the company forward while, at the same time, helping to further their careers.
To fully understand our EVP, we listened to our employees’ perspectives about being part of Voya, their challenges and ambitions, and how they connect to the company. We held employee focus groups which reached hundreds of employees. Leadership members and HR alike were part of these discussions. We developed a unique and clear employer brand that accurately reflects the value of what’s gained from working at Voya. A large part of our EVP is that we grow employees to make them better, more developed, more capable, and more purposeful in their roles. We offer employees a great place to work, a diverse and socially responsibly environment, and a place to build a career.
We communicate our EVP and embed our principles during the interview process, recruitment, onboarding, training, and as we build managers. We even put it in our performance review process. For leaders, 50 percent of their evaluation is based on what they accomplish and the other 50 percent is on how they accomplished it. We have leadership behaviors—which are a big part of our secret sauce—and one of the criteria is measuring leaders on how they grow people. We grade our managers based on how effectively they are growing successors and investing in people so they know the business and can deliver results.
Our approach is having an impact. Our last third-party survey found:
- ninety-five percent of employees say they take great pride in working at Voya;
- ninety-three percent say Voya has a great atmosphere; and
- ninety-three percent report that their work provides them with great challenges.
HROT: Why do you think training and development is so crucial for productivity and retention?
Kevin Silva: We start with the belief that managers are never fully formed regardless of their level in the organization. Managers always have the ability to grow and are in search of reaching their full potential. We push for ongoing continuous improvement in our organization at all levels. We push for people to be intellectually curious. Our employees need to understand not only their jobs, but also the business we are in.
Training and development are about challenging employees to grow. We do traditional leadership training, change management training, crucial conversations, relationship building, and team building. We saw a 23 percent increase in participation in our training and development programs in 2017.
But training is not only classes—it can be mentoring. We have four, if not five, generations in the workforce. One of the great challenges we have is: How do we transfer knowledge? We should be able to move people ahead in the organization through mentorship and the transfer of knowledge. At Voya, senior employees mentor junior employees and vice versa. Executives are also mentored by executives from outside of our organization and, in exchange, we do the same. We want to provide our employees with knowledge and we want to create a self-sustaining learning environment.
These programs have direct results on retention. Last year, we saw a 95 percent retention rate of our accelerated talent. We were able to keep 95 percent of our best people! Our stock has performed at almost twice the rate as S&P 500 since our IPO. We’ve got great financial performance because of our unique talent.
HROT: Do you see financial wellness as a trend and, if so, what should HR offer its employees?
Kevin Silva: The ability for one to understand and manage their finances will create options in life. That’s not to be confused with wealth. We are talking about the ability to understand the consequences of making financial decisions or the consequences of not making financial decisions.
Companies definitely should offer financial wellness programs to enable employees to better understand their business, how they serve customers, and to better understand their own financial wealth. At Voya, we have an understanding that financial wellness is a healthy balance of living for today and preparing financially for tomorrow. Financial wellness is a responsibility. We help take our employees on the path to financial security. We have assembled tools and resources to navigate through complex financial decisions like retirement, long-term healthcare, and saving for college.
We recently introduced the program “Life Stage Guidance Experience” to provide employees with a view of people in similar situations (single, married, later in life) and advice on the types of decisions they need to make and how they may affect financial well-being.
HROT: You also head up CR for Voya. How do HR and CR align?
Kevin Silva: There are different ways to think of HR—in the small context or the big context. I think about it in the big context. It has everything to do with work environment and culture. And if you look at the broader definition of HR and culture, of course CR fits in. Our HR team and our efforts are about bringing Voya’s financial capital and human capital together to produce the best results for customers, employees, and shareholders. If you are trying to bring those things together, then you see the importance of CR. Our CR efforts are a main driver of employee engagement and a top reason people want to work here.
We get very high marks on our employee surveys because of our engagement in CR. We have several programs that are supported through our corporate foundation. For example, we promote financial literacy in schools. Through our support of the “Teacher of the Year” program, we help children prepare for better, more financially secure futures.
We also have an annual “Employee Giving Campaign,” which is a month-long campaign designed to engage employees in team building and activities that demonstrate our core values and raise the visibility of the importance of giving back. During that month, every dollar that an employee gives to an eligible nonprofit, up to $5,000, is matched by the Voya Foundation on a dollar-for-dollar basis until we reach a $2.5 million match. We also provide all of our full-time employees with 40 hours of paid time off to volunteer in their communities and provide them with additional opportunities to volunteer through our employee-led teams known as “Community Partners.” This ties into the theory that it is not just what you attest to, but it’s the actions that demonstrate who you are.