If you work full time, you probably spend around 40 hours a week working. Given this, professional fulfilment is hugely important. It has ramifications not just on your general wellbeing, but on the business, too: research demonstrates that happy employees are 13% more productive.  

Fulfilment in the workplace can come from many things, including close relationships with colleagues; feeling like you’re making an impact on the world; and overcoming challenges. To me, one of the keys to happiness at work is having continuous opportunities to upskill and grow professionally. 

As an HR specialist at Allianz Trade in Middle East, I’m involved in developing lifelong learning programmes for our region, and collaborating with other regions to share initiatives and improve our upskilling practices. A focus for us is cross-functional knowledge transfer. We believe that increasing cross-functional knowledge between teams helps employees perform more effectively, and it also enables us to provide excellent customer service. 

Take a client-facing employee, such as an account manager. When they understand the processes in place in the claims team, or the day-to-day role of an underwriter, it sends a great message to the client. It also helps to avoid any friction between departments, thanks to an understanding of the challenges that other teams are up against. 

Last year, my region launched the #Athena project for this purpose: to develop cross-functional knowledge amongst employees at Allianz Trade in Middle East. Having insight into other job functions can be illuminating – for everybody! It not only increases cross-functional collaboration and general efficiency throughout the company. A colleague from another department may challenge you to think in a different way or apply a new approach to problem solving.

With #Athena, we offer training modules to local employees through an online upskilling platform. At the start of the project, heads of functions across the region determined six core cross-function teams—including Credit Assessment, Distribution, and Finance—which we call “building blocks”. You can think of these as Lego blocks, which all fit together to create a complete model of our core business. Within each building block, we developed training modules covering key skills and processes specific to that team. These were developed with the expertise of the heads of functions of Allianz Trade across the region, to ensure the quality of selected trainings. Function heads then identified building blocks that would benefit their own teams. They assigned those blocks to their team members, to complete during working hours at their convenience.

The feedback on this project has been great. We have currently achieved 60% completion despite only launching in January 2021. Several participants have partaken in “job shadowing”, where you follow a colleague around for a day. We also witnessed several cross-functional moves within 2021, which is one of the main benefits of #Athena.” 

We are focused on developing our employees across all levels and geographies: professional development should be accessible for everyone. While #Athena is a local programme, all regional HR teams across Allianz Trade develop and implement their own initiatives to promote lifelong learning. Successful projects are shared with other HR leaders around the world, and are often replicated to suit local needs. By sharing best practices throughout the business, we ensure that employees are receiving the best development opportunities, tailored to them.

Some initiatives are available globally. For example, Allianz Trade organizes Group Learning Fridays on the last Friday of every month for employees worldwide. During these virtual sessions, we share insights and knowledge about topics that are relevant for our employees and company. We also have a global management development programme, #LEAD , which aims to help our leaders inspire and motivate their teams.

At Allianz Trade, we are advocates of self-development and take training very seriously. We recognise that our employees have a drive to learn and grow, and our development initiatives provide a way for them to do that. 

Investing in our employees’ development can inspire new interests and renewed motivation, and increased self-confidence. And we can feel confident that they are heading in the direction that is right for them, as well as for the business. 

Thérèse Masoud

Human Resources specialist