Empowering growth: MetLife's strategy for talent development and skill enhancement

June 21, 2024 | 14:52
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Elena Butarova, CEO of BIDV MetLife, talked to VIR's Linh Le about talent development, the challenges in diverse markets, and strategies for future growth.

What are MetLife’s key priorities for talent development in Asia?

Butarova: Starting a position in MetLife, employees receive a career development framework and are encouraged to regularly communicate with management to understand their career patterns, the skills they have, and the skills they need to build.

We have also created a customised training programme for MetLife employees. Initially, MetLife hired external experts, but we realised that these trainers might not fully understand the company, leading to less impactful training. As a result, we began developing internal trainers. To date, we have certified over 100 internal trainers across more than 20 countries in 18 different languages. This allows employees to choose trainers in their preferred time zones and languages for training.

In June 2024, MetLife will certify an additional 25 trainers, in addition to organising global connectivity programmes to provide maximum support to its workforce.

Empowering growth: MetLife's strategy for talent development and skill enhancement
Elena Butarova, CEO of BIDV MetLife

What unique challenges do you face in developing talent across such diverse markets as Asia?

Butarova: I believe the most important skill is the ability for employees to self-assess and be ready for change. Misjudging your own capabilities without any efforts to improve can put you in a "dangerous" situation.

10 years ago, I worked with a major bank in the bancassurance sector. At the time, their employees were selling life insurance, investment products, and other similar offerings, much like what BIDV MetLife employees are doing now. It was difficult to get them to participate in training sessions because most of them thought: "I know everything, there’s nothing more to learn." We administered a test, and surprisingly, 50 per cent of these experts couldn't answer half of the questions. If a problem arises that is covered by the 50 per cent of questions they couldn’t answer, wouldn't that lead to substantial harm for both the company and the customers?

The market is evolving, customers are changing, and the world is rapidly transforming. If you don't learn new things and embrace change, it will be hard to maintain your position.

What are the areas for improvement you see in the Vietnamese talent pool?

Butarova: In Vietnam, only about 26 per cent of individuals reassess their skills and identify areas for improvement. That’s particularly needed for language proficiency, especially in English. Working in a multinational corporation offers numerous fantastic opportunities. You might get the chance to travel to Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and other destinations for business trips or key projects.

However, if your English skills are weak, these opportunities could easily be given to someone else. In a multinational environment, English is the primary language for communication. Poor English proficiency can deprive you of many valuable opportunities.

What advice would you give to young professionals in rapidly growing markets like Vietnam?

Butarova: Regarding skill improvement, my advice would be to make a list of the skills you want to improve and focus on one or two at a time. Once you've made progress on these, you can move on to other skills. You can also utilise tools like Strength Finder to identify your skill gaps and determine which skills to strengthen.

Learning should be paired with practice. It's important to build habits that allow you to apply what you learn. For example, many people find English challenging. To practise, you could hold meetings in English with your team or, as a leader, encourage your employees to use English more by asking them to prepare reports or plans in English. This is the best way to practise.

Reassessing one's skills and identifying which ones need improvement is the key for each individual to plan the acquisition of necessary knowledge and skills to seize future opportunities. Continuously reviewing and upgrading oneself is crucial. As the Vietnamese saying goes: "Biết người biết ta, trăm trận trăm thắng."

Could you share more about MetLife's future plans to attract talent worldwide?

Butarova: MetLife's global talent development team was formed with two core purposes. One is talent development, and the other is talent acquisition. The acquisition is the function where we help bring talent into the organisation and also have talent within the organisation moving to Europe. It involves hiring people, whether from internal or external sources.

MetLife has been and will continue to invest in attracting talent worldwide. We’re launching a platform called Talent Acquisition Space to hire talent both externally and internally. This global platform allows external candidates to visit the website to see available positions worldwide. Internal candidates can also access the website to view global job openings. The platform has already been rolled out in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and the Americas. It is expected to launch in Vietnam this year and will reach the rest of the world by mid-2025.

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By Linh Le

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