Many large banks in the country have declared huge vacancies. Several have a recruitment process on. Fortuitously for them, the slowdown in India will ensure that eligible youth apply in good numbers. However, will the banks be able to retain this talent and extract benefits? Almost every one I speak with is sceptical. Banks need a paradigm shift in their human resources (HR) practices.
They need six new paradigms.
1. One more “image makeover”
Many banks have had an image makeover to suit young customers. But to potential young recruits, their image as an employer continues to be stodgy. Why should they come? Just a few months back, many banks noticed how the ratio of applicants to vacancies had come down from over ten to sometimes close to one. Public sector unit (PSU) banks do not necessarily make unattractive offers. But jobs need to be marketed. This needs a paradigm shift. Marketing to customers is getting due attention. Similarly, HR departments have to don the marketing hat. Many questions need to be answered. Who are the target recruits? Where to find them? How to reach them? What to say? The PSU banks’ natural talent pool are graduates from degree colleges. Rushing to top MBA schools for campus recruitment may be premature.
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2. “Held till maturity” careers vs “Marked to market” jobs
A friend in a PSU bank recently resigned after 30 years of service and joined a private investment bank. He told me how his young colleagues felt embarrassed about presenting him to customers, as someone with more than three decades’ experience. The paradigm has changed. Life-long careers are out. Jobs that enhance “market value” are in. Willingness to stay till retirement cannot be taken for granted. Career paths have to be defined in various streams, to allow developing new skills every few years. This will need new placement and training processes.
3. Promotion, posting and discipline to HRD
Recently, another friend was promoted from assistant general manager to deputy general manager. Apart from designation, perks and a dislocation, nothing changed for him. He did not know what new to expect and what new was expected of him. HR departments have long confined themselves to “promotion, posting and discipline”. The young today place a high premium on personal growth and learning. It requires a development focus in HR. This is a tough task. It might be better to create a new department rather than try to get the existing HR departments to change. Technology has to be deployed to create talent inventory of staff, their training needs, their deployment after training, and their personal growth.
4. Filling in for “one missing generation”.
People join due to a company’s reputation. People leave because of their direct boss. This was not true when people did not think of leaving come what may. Today it is. It gets accentuated in PSU banks by the multi-year hiring freeze that has resulted in a “missing generation”—a layer of immediate bosses not too much older in age. The older bosses grew up in an environment where “you earned your stripes” before claiming recognition. The new generation wants to feel valued before giving its best. Current middle management has to fill this gap. They have unfortunately missed out the last decade and a half, as the banks were inward looking. Extensive leadership training can help sensitize on how to connect with, inspire and motivate their young staff.
5. Not generalist, but not a “specialist” either.
Organizations are becoming complex. They need to nurture specialist expertise in different business units or functions without becoming silo driven. Corporate and retail bankers are different. Finance, IT, HR, operations and marketing need expertise. In PSU banks, being a generalist officer is a matter of prestige, almost as if inspired by the Indian Administrative Service. This paradigm has to change. But the word specialization is loaded. It conjures images of the handful of specialist officers who face difficulty in promotions. So a new paradigm is required. A cadre of officers can be created based on experience, aptitude and potential. Training and posting need to be aligned to it. This is tough when the HR department has to post over 5,000 officers manually. Technology should be used to optimize posting under multiple constraints.
6: “Accountability” for performance.
The word “accountability” has a meaning in PSU banks. It is accountability for making mistakes. This is the only credible (dis)incentive system that exists. The new generation seeks recognition for performance. It values differentiated rewards between individuals. Appreciation letters are not enough. Accountability for performance is a big paradigm shift, from accountability for mistakes in vigilance. But then, performance has to be measured. No measurement means, no recognition, no accountability, no incentive. It is time that the industry adopted modern concepts of performance management. Training people on how to rate their subordinates will be crucial. How to give an honest feedback will be even more crucial. Incentive has to follow measurement. Ministry guidelines on cash incentive are welcome, but flawed. They make incentives a race rather than a predictable benefit to work for.
We may soon see a lot of young faces in PSU bank counters. Bankers have learnt how to prevent good customers from leaving. Preventing good employees from leaving will deserve equal attention.
Saurabh Tripathi is a partner and director at Boston Consulting Group. These are his personal views.
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