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#OpenUpTheWorkforce with Rachel Winoski, Chief Human Resources Officer for AXA XL

Published by Mitra LeBuhn on August 23, 2023
4 min read

Mitra LeBuhn

Mitra is the Head of Impact and Communications at Symba and leads social impact, PR, and marketing partnerships for the business. She combines a unique background in Global Health and Higher Education, and speaks French. Beyond Symba, Mitra spends her time outdoors, traveling the world and making music.

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Presented by Symba, #OpenUpTheWorkforce interviews feature executives advancing inclusion, diversity, and equity for the future of work. In these short audio-only episodes, host Ahva Sadeghi speaks with top leaders about what it takes to develop and implement inclusive processes. 

In this episode of #OpenUpTheWorkforce, Rachel Winoski, Chief Human Resource Officer for AXA XL, shares her inspiring journey within the company. With over 12 years of experience at AXA XL, Rachel's story serves as a true success story of progressing from an intern to the C-suite. In this interview, Rachel offers invaluable insights on career growth, diversity and inclusion initiatives, and the innovative approaches AXA XL is taking to create a thriving workplace. Listen here.

A journey from intern to CHRO

Rachel's career began as an intern within the internal audit department at AXA XL. Despite lacking formal training in HR, Rachel set her sights on becoming a CHRO early on. She strategically placed herself in situations that allowed her to learn, absorb information, and progress toward her goal. This early decision laid the foundation for her eventual success, as she transitioned to a full-time role at AXA XL and steadily grew within the organization.

Her advice to early talent centers around having a clear career vision. Rachel emphasizes the significance of the environment and the people one surrounds oneself with in shaping their career trajectory. Leaders who fostered open dialogue, acted as mentors, and provided shadowing opportunities played a pivotal role in her development.

7 ways AXA XL fosters a culture of inclusion and respect

AXA XL is committed to treating every employee with dignity and respect, allowing individuals to bring their authentic selves to work. This is reinforced through various internal and external activities aimed at educating employees about the meaning and feeling of inclusivity. AXA XL’s tagline, "Know You Can," encourages colleagues to challenge themselves, learn, and grow together. Here are 7 strategies the company applies to cultivate an inclusive culture.

  1. Track metrics for accountability

From a leadership perspective, AXA XL establishes and cascades goals that promote accountability across all levels. The organization utilizes an Inclusion and Diversity (I&D) dashboard that spans across departments, which they review quarterly. Each leader is assigned I&D goals for their respective units, and every colleague is encouraged to have an I&D goal integrated into their performance plan.

  1. Empower employee engagement through Business Resource Groups

Business Resource Groups (BRGs) such as Rise, Pride, LEAD, and EnAble play a pivotal role in AXA XL's diversity and inclusion efforts. These groups are open for all to join, fostering connections and understanding among colleagues. Throughout the year, these BRGs organize events that celebrate diversity and promote inclusivity.

  1. Involve Leadership Advisory Councils in big decisions

A noteworthy strategy at AXA XL involves the Leadership Team Advisory Council, comprising high-potential diverse colleagues. This council advises the CEO and direct reports, creating a top-down approach that challenges and engages leaders. This approach ensures that diverse perspectives are considered at the highest levels of decision-making.

  1. Revolutionize Learning & Development with personalized plans

Addressing the unique preferences of Gen Z, Rachel acknowledges the need for dynamic and engaging learning and development plans. AXA XL breaks free from traditional methods by aligning business and development goals between talent and their managers. While some training aligns with business priorities, colleagues are empowered to voice their preferences and participate in crafting personalized L&D plans. This approach treats learning as a living document rather than a one-time review.

  1. Empower managers through inclusivity training

The organization recognizes the pivotal role managers play in employee growth and satisfaction. To bolster its capabilities, AXA XL introduced the concept of "new manager essentials." This program is incorporated into the onboarding process for new managers and leaders, allowing them to learn from peers facing similar challenges. This collaborative space facilitates knowledge-sharing and strategizing solutions.

  1. Identify and address unjustified pay gaps

AXA XL's commitment to pay equity shines through its approach to Gender and Ethnicity pay gap reporting. The company firmly believes in equal pay for equal work, and its compensation team ensures this principle is upheld. The process involves submitting reports to pay analytics, which are then used to identify and address unjustified pay gaps. The organization takes further strides by not only addressing gaps but also defining pay ranges based on internal and external data, ensuring consistent salaries for all colleagues.

  1. Take a holistic approach to employee experience and well-being

Two key aspects define AXA XL's approach to employee experience. Firstly, the organization partners with professional groups like Gamma Iota Sigma to support student training and access to the industry. Rachel describes Gamma Iota Sigma as, “an international professional  group with over 100 chapters nationwide and they're organized to promote and encourage student interest and risk management and actuarial science.” Secondly, AXA XL takes a holistic approach to employee well-being, focusing on physical, mental, and financial health. The introduction of family-friendly benefits, a generous time-off policy, virtual therapy solutions, and comprehensive mental health care underscores the company's commitment to its employees' well-being.

What do leaders need to do to #OpenUpTheWorkforce?

Rachel's final message revolves around the necessity of focusing on skills and potential rather than rigid qualifications. This shift to skills-based hiring is essential to creating lasting change and fostering diverse, dynamic workforces. She recommends developing and upskilling existing internal talent, and training external hires that don't necessarily fit the role but have those transferable skills, fit the culture, and exhibit leadership behaviors.

Rachel Winoski's journey at AXA XL highlights the importance of being intentional, adaptable, and focused on continuous growth. Her insights reveal strategies to develop a corporate culture that values diversity, fosters inclusivity, and champions employee well-being. Rachel encourages individuals and organizations to have the courage to pursue their aspirations and embrace opportunities for growth.

About Rachel Winoski

Rachel is a human resources professional with experience in Insurance and Aerospace industries. She is currently the Chief Human Resource Officer at Americas at AXA XL, a division of AXA.




You can view other episodes of #OpenUpTheWorkforce here. Are you an executive leader increasing access to jobs and wealth creation? Request to be featured and show us how you #OpenUpTheWorkforce.

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