It was in early 2003. ICICI Bank was on a growth spree. The passion for growth and leadership required building a strong foundation of relevant skills and capabilities. The challenge was to create training initiatives that were effective and could be scaled up consistently. Employees in branches required to be equipped with selling skills. A major selling skills training was planned to be rolled out to 2000 employees in branches across the country. The Bank planned to cover all the employees in a couple of months’ time. Any prolonged roll out of the program ran the risk of the impact being diluted. The Bank faced two challenges – creating an effective program and rolling it out across the country.
The solution came through a bold model. It tapped into the knowledge and expertise of its young team to create a world class initiative. The program was designed by a cross functional team. The Line Managers brought content whereas the Human Resources team applied instructional design principles and converted them into training modules.
Having designed the module, the next challenge was to roll out the program across the branches and its 2000 employees. The Bank was looking for trainers who could bring professional sales and service experience to the classroom and deliver the already codified content in an effective manner. It was futile to look for such trainers outside the organization. In order to overcome this problem, the Bank took the risk of converting practicing business managers into facilitators and trainers.
This experiment started with the Bank selecting 30 business managers as its first guinea pigs. These 30 business managers went through an intense 7 day TTT program of stretched hours and repeated practice labs, followed by feedback sessions. Finally, two third of the batch were certified and handed over a training-kit-in-a-box. They completed the mission in the targeted 3 months’ timeline. I was lucky to be one of them.
Initially, we were apprehensive. Several questions came up in our minds. Am I cut out to do training? Will people listen to me? Do I have the capability? If I engage in training, what will happen to my core function? If I take time out for training, will I fail in my primary business goals?
As we slowly went on to the training floor and experienced it, our anxiety transformed into excitement, passion and devotion. I think all of us in that trainer pool echoed the same sentiment and for sure this new skill was directly honing my own leadership skills.
The success of this experiment, I think, paved the way for the Bank to build further on this model. Since line managers could now deliver training, it opened up the opportunity for us to deliver training in a much more distributed manner and within shorter time frames.
In the years to come, this model of delivering training through front-line managers by grooming them as trainers became a very effective model. It could be scaled up and was therefore welcomed by the business groups.
Again, in late 2003, the bank revisited this blitz. Recruitment of front-line customer facing employees was at full steam in line with an increasing branch network. New recruits were joining the branch. Most of the new hires were either fresh college graduates or from diverse industries. They were not formally trained in banking products, processes or customer service skills. Their speed to job, naturally, was not in line with the Bank’s aspiration. This is when the bank firmly resolved not to allow any new recruit face customers without completing a formal induction. The bank’s “speed to market” philosophy required a mechanism where every new recruit would complete a formal induction that ensures that the new hire delivers on most areas from day one. Again a cross functional team designed the program and about 50 business managers were converted to trainers who brought functional expertise of service and processing skills.
Success, they say, breeds success. The next year, the Bank’s hunger for delivering learning to its employees moved to a new horizon. This time it was building its service skills for all its 4000 branch staff. Additionally, it put up a daunting task of training all the employees in one shot. Each branch manager was to be converted into a trainer. By this time, I and some of my peer trainers, has spent some considerable time on the training floor. We were made master trainers to train the branch managers to become trainers. About 300 branch managers were trained to become trainers through a similar 7 days TTT. The beauty is, they all got trained in one shot through 20 parallel TTT programs and subsequently the same ‘pulse-polio’ method was used to train all employees in branches across India. What seemed a distant dream had now become a reality.
This approach became stronger and stronger by the day and more large scale roll outs were possible. I remember a similar roll out of another training called ‘Business Etiquette and Sales Training’ ( BEST) in 2005 where more than 20,000 people were trained in one go. Line managers became an integral and important element of ICICI Bank’s training initiatives. The organization leveraged the content and the experience they could bring on the table. The HR team played the role of converting raw content into effective learning content through use of instructional design and by hand-holding them throughout this journey. In the end, both quality and quantity could be scaled up because the line manager also shared the responsibility for training.
In my experiences, there are many benefits of this model. They are:
- In a distributed and fast growing organization, learning inputs have to be standardized using high quality content and instructional design.
- Specialists in instructional design and content providers should team up to ensure the quality of codification or else standardization will be questionable.
- Taking a long time to deliver learning dissipates the benefits. The delivery has to be concentrated, focused and should saturate the whole universe within 2 to 3 months.
- This requires front-line managers to be both content suppliers and deliverers of learning.
- Letting front-line managers loose to train without high quality training and certification is fraught with pitfalls.
- Learning delivery by in-house front-line managers brings credibility and enhances learn-ability.
- The best leadership development to budding talented front-line managers is to be learning facilitators.
- Lastly, imaginative use of the force of technology multiplies standardization and delivery.
Does this model work for all? Perhaps not. This is a tested and proven case for a large diversified institution like ICICI Bank, where we can draw from the resource pool of front-line managers. Small and medium sized organizations may not have this luxury. They may not have a training infrastructure, dedicated trainers in line management. In such cases, contract training may be suitable. Even in this model the content and instructional design should be codified and standardized to ensure quality.
The views and opinions expressed or implied herein are my own and do not reflect those of my employer, who shall not be liable for any action that may result as a consequence of my views and opinions. This article has been authored by Sai Prasad Somayajula and edited by Soumendra Mattagajasingh.
© 2014, K. Ramkumar. Used by permission. Originally published at http://theotherview.in