Learning priorities for banking

Published: December 8, 2014 12:08 AM

It is a skilled and robust workforce that lends an organisation its competitive advantage, rather than superior processes...

It is a skilled and robust workforce that lends an organisation its competitive advantage, rather than superior processes and products, as these are easily replicable. Read on for some insights and points in the learning and development space that can propel the banking industry closer to its business goals.

The recently released report by the Committee on Capacity Building in Banks and non-Banks, by RBI, lays down a framework for building and managing talent with a view to improving the efficacy of human resources in the banking sector. In the context of a world marked by changing technology, customer preferences, market players and regulations, this is a step in the right direction for preparing the banking sector to meet the challenges of a highly competitive, global environment.

A focus on the following areas within the precincts of the committee’s recommendations would help public banks get a competitive advantage.
Build a learning organisation

“The only sustainable competitive advantage of an organisation is its ability to learn faster than the competition,” was the astute observation of Peter M Senge, author of The Fifth Discipline:The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization.

In order to remain a step ahead of the competition, it would behove public banks to work towards inculcating a learning culture which is marked by robust learning processes and systems; a supportive learning environment; and leadership that fosters and inspires learning.

The first theme—robust learning processes and systems—forms the core of the framework recommended by RBI, the key highlights of which are:

* Development of a competency model, with a linkage to all major talent management processes.

* A well-defined skill and leadership development process, woven around components like coaching, mentoring, e-learning and assessment centres, along with a five day per person per annum training norm.

* The 70:20:10 model of learning, which purports that a person learns 10% in the classroom, 20% from feedback garnered in the right environment, and 70% through experience and his will to learn.

* Emphasis on creating a training infrastructure, an appropriate mechanism for certification in the realm of training, and having specialists handle the talent management function.

The concept of a learning organisation, however, goes beyond just implementing strong systems, as systems and processes only thrive in an environment that is conducive to learning. The leader sets the tone for creating such an environment by nurturing a culture where people feel comfortable expressing views and feel encouraged to explore unchartered territories, take calculated risks, try new approaches, and learn from their mistakes. It is marked by a support for and receptivity to different ideas and perspectives.

Inculcate a customer service culture

It would benefit public banks to take a page from the perspicacious comment of Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart: “There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.” So take care of your customers, or somebody else will!

Comparison, and holding banks to a service benchmark, comes easily to people today as they often engage with multiple banks. The contrast between the way a service is rendered at a public and a private bank is sometimes quite stark. Being greeted with indifference is not uncommon at a public bank—right from the security person at the entrance down to the executive behind the counter who won’t so much as acknowledge your presence, let alone greet you with a smile and ask “how may I help you?”

It is important to understand that a customer not only seeks a solution but one that is quick and easy. Being asked to come and collect a demand draft or a fixed deposit receipt the day after tomorrow does not work any more, because at other banks such services are rendered within minutes. Further, the customer looks beyond just the service. He is seeking an engagement that is lined with friendliness and punctuated by a quick smile, eye contact, a lively voice, coupled with complete attention. Even a fleeting flicker of a frown, failure to make eye contact, or a monotonous voice sends the customer a strong message—that the service provider is bored, inconvenienced or plain uninterested. According to research, 68% of the customers quit an organisation because of the treatment meted out to them.

A customer-centric culture is not just good to have but a business imperative today, and some serious training on the subject is crucial.
Create a great first impression

According to research, a customer gathers 11 impressions not only about the person he is interacting with but also about the product and the organisation, within the first seven seconds of an interaction. Further, it takes eight bits of positive information to undo a negative first impression. How are these impressions formed? Every interaction, face-to-face conversation with a company representative, a telephonic conversation with the call centre executive or a casual perusal of the website, product brochures or advertisements, constitutes a moment of truth for the customer, giving him an opportunity to form an impression.

While the wisdom of the adage “don’t judge the book by its cover” is unquestionable, it is important to acknowledge the crucial role of the cover in determining whether the book is picked up and opened in the first place. Whether we like it or not, packaging is important. When a customer is offered a glass of water and invited to wait in an area marked by a cool ambience, and then politely greeted by a person who is crisply dressed, tells the customer that he is important and gives him the confidence of good service. The importance of personal grooming in the service industry cannot be brushed aside but grooming is not just about dressing for success, it encompasses the way you carry yourself, the way you write your emails and the way you communicate on the phone. Imparting such skills through some basic training in communication, grooming and confidence building would go a long way in enhancing the effectiveness of staff.

Create a compelling brand

A brand symbolises an identity or a reputation, and an organisation’s brand is concomitant with that of its CEO’s. The CEO brand is positively correlated with the top line revenue, because the better known the CEO, the greater the propensity of the organisation to win business. Private banks have built their brands by promoting their CEOs through clever strategies designed around media presence, speaking engagements, book deals, awards and savvy PR. It would help public banks to similarly reap the benefits of a strong brand by devising plan to not only promote their CEOs but also the members of the senior management teams.

By Charu Sabnavis

Charu Sabnavis is a learning and organisational development facilitator and founder director of Delta Learning

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