Article: Banking Reboot: A modern day upskilling culture & approach – A Leader’s View

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Banking Reboot: A modern day upskilling culture & approach – A Leader’s View

In a rapidly disrupted sector like BFSI, sustaining a hybrid work model requires a strong organizational focus on coaching as a way of learning.
Banking Reboot: A modern day upskilling culture & approach – A Leader’s View

Over the last eighteen months, the digitization of L&D has been at the top of organizational priorities. This is especially true in the BFSI space, which has rapidly grown, optimized, aligned, and had to develop, optimize, and align to changing consumer expectations. With increased emphasis on digital operations, banks moved from the traditional ‘brick-and-mortar’ models. They embraced next-generation technologies to deliver on the promise of a ‘banker-in-the-pocket’. At the heart of this shift is talent. Attracting and retaining talent for the emerging workplace models requires a deeper look into the skills, competencies, and capabilities needed to succeed.

To discuss the shifting priorities in L&D, leading industry leaders shared their views on the changing face of banking. This expert panel in partnership with Harappa included: Kishore Poduri, Country HR Head, DBS Bank; Prasad Barje, Director, State Bank Institute of Learning and Development; Carmistha Mitra, CLO, Axis Bank; Madhavi Lall, MD & Country HR Head, Deutsche Bank; Jayanthi Anilkumar, Senior Vice President & Head HR, Standard Chartered GBS; Nilanjan Kar, Chief Revenue Officer, Harappa. Divya Gupta moderated the session from the B2B India team at Harappa.

The changing demand for skills

As banks shift to lean and agile models, there is a need to rethink skilling and deploy talent to newer roles. These roles demand more than just technical know-how, and organizations need to enable talent to inculcate essential cognitive, social and behavioral skills, also called Thrive Skills.

L&D must create a learning pipeline that ensures learning and praxis– from helping employees to learn new behaviors to reinforcing and contextualizing the right behaviors and finally applying them. This systematic strategy will be critical to enable people-focused behavior to change in line with the required skills.

Naturally, the question that arises is, “What are the required skills?”

Carmistha Mitra, CLO, Axis Bank, outlined a 4-tiered outlook based on the career journey that the employee is at:

·   Campus hiring: For beginners, skilling relates to doing the core job well. Business skills, communication and confidence, and domain skills must be developed.  

·    Leadership basecamp program: A leadership basecamp for frontline supervisors can help meet the expectations around business and team management.

·    Leadership collective program: The backbone of the organization is the AVP-VP layer. They must anchor the new skills to enable digital banking, rural banking, etc., and build a leadership mindset with agility, design thinking, data orientation and thought leadership.

·    Leadership signature program: The top leaders come together to build a sustainable organization through innovation, digital-fluency, and a multi-generational approach while ensuring the organization’s wellbeing.

Other critical skills include problem analysis, a solution-oriented mindset, active listening, a growth mindset, managing diversity across teams and geographies, critical thinking, and influencing stakeholders.

Jayanthi Anilkumar, Senior Vice President & Head HR, Standard Chartered Bank, noted how the company uses specific tests to assess the behavioral and cognitive skills through carefully designed scenarios. It helps gauge the cultural fit and core values to identify the missing skills in an employee. 

The panel also highlighted the importance of having a whole-brained approach to learning.  Going beyond the conventional left-right-brained categorizations, leaders noted a need to focus on relational capability and execution bias that helps people understand their strengths, as it also gives them a sense of purpose early on. Today’s critical success factors are emotional intelligence and resilience, the ability to inspire, communicate and present thoughts, inciting enthusiasm, and learning agility.

Clearly, soft skills are in demand. And this need partly arises from the need to build relationships with customers while banking. “Banking products are highly replicable–hence adaptability, tolerance for ambiguity and the ability to understand trends becomes important to succeed”, said Madhavi Lall, MD and Country Head HR, Deutsche Bank. 

Madhavi added that building these skills is even more critical in a hybrid workplace. With these priorities in mind, Deutsche invested in learning experience platforms focusing on ‘learning on the go’, ‘self-paced learning’, and ‘learning what you need’. “Upskilling must account for business context by making employees' roles fungible and helping them contribute from a wider perspective,” she added.

Designing the learning ecosystem – challenges and opportunities

A strong business context can be added to L&D only by designing a modern learning system centered around hyper-personalization and AI tools. Kishore Poduri, Country HR Head, DBS Bank, noted that the Bank instated a technology tool that looks at job requisitions, career aspirations, skills and recommends hyper-personalized learning roadmaps. Such technology tools needed to be balanced with the human touch. So, DBS Bank initiated volunteer-based coaching to embrace social and experiential learning. Striking the right balance helped alleviate digital fatigue and enable an ongoing learning journey.

Jayanthi from Standard Chartered Bank added that while “AI and ML are helping curate hundreds of modules and products every single day, the real dilemma is how to get those to people?” Building on this, Prasad Barje, Director, State Bank Institute of Learning and Development, emphasized the need to interact and listen with empathy. “During Covid, our branch staff was unable to utilize e-learning simply due to the huge customer crowds, so we designed gamification-based modules and made them available to our people on their terminals,” he added.

On the topic of enabling learning, Nilanjan Kar from Harappa pointed out that, “you can empower, create a culture of what people need to do; people need to take accountability of future and careers, and learning by themselves.”

Build a future-ready learning culture

By bringing learning to the learner vs. the opposite, L&D empowers a mindset shift and enables a cultural transformation. While a great data architecture can help make capability decisions and help track productivity and performance outputs, these must be contextualized for the business. “Connect learning outcomes to business outcomes, to be in the game,” Nilanjan said.

Carmistha noted that true learning should be about creating an environment where people can walk up and admit failure. And it is only possible when leaders aim to solve organizational problems by embedding learning as a way of life.

“Learning cannot be disconnected. Leaders must see learning as a process rather than a disjointed HR process”, said Kishore. Leaders must recognize employees as their primary assets. If they can influence employees, employees can be passionate, so leaders must invest time in understanding the basics i.e. reflect on how an employee is perceiving his or her job. For this, leaders must themselves seek 360-degree feedback to learn and perform continuously.

In a rapidly disrupted sector like BFSI, sustaining a hybrid work model requires a strong organizational focus on coaching as a way of learning. The nature and requirement of leadership is changing, new ways of leadership make sense in the new normal such that the psychological safety of one’s people and empathy become paramount.


To know more on social, cognitive and behavioral skilling have a look at Harappa's website here.

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Topics: Learning & Development, #Work & Skills

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