Retail Banking

Staff engagement is the basis of business success

by Alex Chan

Eric Tai, vice president and head of service quality and people development, human resources department, CITIC Ka Wah Bank Limited

Detailed training programmes and open communication build a winning team

Banks have long realised that customer loyalty is the basis for a successful business, and the more astute also recognise that the engagement of staff is generally just as important.

Consequently, CITIC Ka Wah Bank Limited has put in place a series of training and development programmes to give employees the opportunity to further their careers and make the most of their potential. Courses which relate directly to a person's job responsibilities are paid for in full by the bank and each member of staff is also offered subsidy to pursue other academic achievements. They can claim this on successful completion of the pre-approved course, explains Eric Tai, vice president and head of service quality and people management for the bank's human resources department.

This dedication to training is evident to all new recruits from their first day. To familiarise them with the culture, vision, values as well as products and procedures, there is a short orientation programme, which is followed by more detailed instruction specific to their intended roles. For example, counter service officers and salespeople respectively take an 11- and 17-day course involving time in a mock-up branch, and only those who pass the concluding assessment move on to the next stage working in a real branch.

Management trainees begin their one-year programme with three months in the classroom before handling assigned projects and receiving extensive on-the-job experience.

Learning days

The bank conducts annual performance reviews for all staff and creates a personal development plan to meet individual needs. "We offer ongoing training in many areas including management and sales service skills, the regulatory and compliance requirement, financial knowledge, languages and technology," says Mr Tai. The plan even outlines the number of learning days to be completed during the year.

Department heads also identify people considered to have high potential, who get the chance to discuss their future development options with their team heads or department heads. "We want to ensure they are in an area which interests them. They can see clearly their career paths and understand how they can contribute to business success," says Mr Tai. "Whenever possible, we help them to work in a department suited to their skills and interests." Progress is reviewed every six months or so.

Survey feedback

Staff can give feedback about all training and development programmes in one of the regular employee surveys or by speaking directly to management. The bank regards open communication as an important part of their corporate culture and is convinced that it facilitates smoother operations and more efficient performance. Therefore, to promote this philosophy, there are events such as the "CEO chat room", which is held every couple of months and gives around 12 employees chosen at random the chance to have an in-depth conversation with the CEO.

"They can voice concerns and the CEO, in turn, can learn more about how employees feel and think about things," Mr Tai adds. At quarterly forums, senior management members meet around 40 members of staff in a cafe setting to discuss a particular topic. "Last year one of them was how to create a better working environment," recalls Mr Tai. "As a result, we moved to a new office and integrated the different suggestions by switching to LCD monitors and grouping departments together in an open-plan space."

The emphasis on communication is also the bank's way of making it clear they care about employees. "It is a way of showing we respect opinions and advice, and of engaging them," says Mr Tai. "With more interaction, we are creating a tight-knit community where we hope employees will be more committed and loyal."

Education in communication

  • Subsidies for courses encourage employees to further their careers and fully develop their potential
  • Extensive induction programmes are tailored to specific job functions
  • Staff development plans give employees clear career progression
  • Interaction is encouraged between senior management and all levels of staff
  • Feedback from internal surveys is used to improve bank operations
  • Open communication shows respect and has helped to create committed and loyal employees

Taken from Career Times 19 May 2006
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