Recruitment & Retention

How Aflac uses data to engage and retain employees

Data from employee feedback helps the insurance giant develop programs to support its staff.
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· 3 min read


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Creating a culture of trust where employees feel empowered to share their honest thoughts about the workplace is something insurance giant Aflac prides itself on.

“Every 18 months, we do an enterprise-wide engagement study,” Matthew Owenby, SVP and CHRO at Aflac, said. “From the feedback from that study, we will create…action teams for people who are gonna focus on the themes from the engagement survey.”

These themes include managerial effectiveness, benefits, learning and development, career trajectory, and more, and have resulted in the creation of internal programs that have helped its workers progress in their careers, improve their well-being, and create a positive work environment—a key part of Aflac’s retention strategy.

“We take the time that people utilize to complete our survey very seriously, and we take that feedback we get…extremely seriously,” Owenby said. “Aflac appreciates enormously positive engagement scores defined by a benchmark that we have from our peer group. It is not uncommon for Aflac to have in the high 80s low 90s engagement survey feedback consistently year over year.”

Collecting the data. Aflac recognized that employees may feel uneasy about providing honest feedback, Owenby said, especially if it’s negative. So, the company hired a third-party vendor to conduct the surveys and ensure employees remained anonymous.

“There is no hesitation in providing transparent feedback regarding areas of improvement that may exist in the organization,” Aimee Houston, HR business partner at Aflac, told HR Brew in an email via PR rep Darcy Brito.

Using the data. Once the feedback is collected, Owenby digs into what the organization can do better for its employees and puts a plan in place.

“I’ve seen Aflac implement employee recommendations consistently over my 25 years with the company,” Houston added. “One important implementation that stands out is the creation of the Aflac Career Success Center.”

The center was created in 2014 after survey data highlighted a perception among Aflac employees that the company was only hiring external candidates for open roles, leading many to believe they had no career advancement opportunities within the organization. Since then, it has connected employees with resources and professional coaching that will help them perfect their résumés, improve their interviewing skills, and explore open positions within the company. 

Retaining employees. Using data and analytics to measure employee engagement and feedback can be an effective tool to retain employees.

“Feedback from the surveys materially impacts future offerings like benefits, onsite activities, and the type and frequency of communications,” Owenby said in a follow-up email via Brito. “Survey feedback doesn’t only impact retention-related efforts, the feedback becomes the basis for evolving our programs and for being connected with our employees’ needs and wants.”

Increasingly, employees expect to have a voice within their organizations, Owenby said. They want to know that their concerns and suggestions are being heard and taken seriously, and employers who aren’t doing this, he said, are missing the mark.

“I recognize that most organizations don’t have perhaps the most broad HR capabilities that we have at Aflac, but every people leader could have a discussion around engagement,” Owenby said. “Get the voice of the employee so you know where they are, you know what they’re struggling with, [and] you know how to make things better.”

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