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Business & Finance

How banking institutions are upskilling without hassle

Banks responded well to the upskilling challenge of Covid-19. Whether it was pivoting into digital-first service and remote advice in the short-term, or flexibly redeploying talent to fill team shortages, banks enabled emergency learning to happen to maintain their service.


This does not mean workforce upskilling is not complex. In fact, for HR and L&D leaders in these institutions looking to the future, the upskilling project seems daunting, requiring significant effort now with no 'proof in the pudding' until the medium and longer-term.


This is a challenge to which the sector needs to rise, or banks will lose their skills currency.


Other sectors are facing similar challenges. For example, Volkswagen is mastering workforce capability management and upskilling against the backdrop of a changing automotive industry, to ensure it continues to stay ahead of trends in the auto sales and service industry.


What we know is that change has been reshaping the banking workforce in lots of ways, including through reduced branch presences and the impacts of digitisation. The skills needs of banks will continue to shape shift, and they need to be ready for the future of work.


How can organisations make such a complex task more simple?


Three steps for navigating the upskilling complexity


Upskilling and reskilling are different in scope, but are part of the same skilling continuum. When we talk about upskilling, we are really talking about employees learning new skills to perform an existing job. Reskilling means training for a full redeployment into a new role.


Banking institutions will need to do both. While reskilling may be more difficult to achieve than upskilling, both require an understanding of the skills that exist in existing roles and employees now, and what additional skills will make someone better or ready for new roles in the future.


McKinsey & Company has a way of conceptualising this challenge at a workforce level. Much like ReadyTech’s The Skilful Employer whitepaper, it divides the challenge into understanding skills needs, mapping workforce skills, and then bridging the gap with engaging learning.


1. Workforce planning to address potential skills gaps


The first ‘scout’ phase of McKinsey’s model is about assessing the demand and need for specific skills in the future, and determining the current supply of specific skills. In addition, it seeks to analyse where the skills gaps are, so organisations know where bridging needs to occur.


Part of this effort involves identifying skill adjacencies. This means identifying source roles with the closest match to required destination roles, so banks can focus on training in those missing skills. McKinsey notes examples like bank tellers being trained into customer service rep roles.


This also needs to align with a bank’s overall strategy. For example, McKinsey cites how ING is focusing on developing six workforce capabilities to stay relevant - customer experience, data fluency, leadership, non-finance risk management, cybersecurity and operations management.


2. Development of a skill strategy to ensure a future-ready workforce


When banks turn to the ‘shape’ phase of the McKinsey model, they are beginning to design a portfolio of initatives to close skills gaps, designing learning journeys and delivery plans for specific roles or groups of employees, and deciding on learning infrastructure and enablers.


McKinsey says this phase could contain work on several elements; for example, a skill inventory, an internal talent market to encourage mobility and upskilling needs, a central library to offer online and offline training, and a learning factory to build reusable learning content.


One bank, for example, channelled its efforts into a digital corporate academy, with a library of shorter content to reskill its tellers digitally. Another applied a future skill framework to guide individual skill assessment and learning design, as well as support better internal hiring.


3. Reimagined infrastructure for skilling at scale


The final ‘shift’ phase sees banks launching structures dedicated to learning, like a skilling hub, delivering skill transformation at scale across the organisation via comprehensive capability building programs, and implementing tracking of the workforce and impact of the program.


McKinsey cautions that these initiatives will be less successful without investment into a learning culture across the institution, as well as strong leadership that can bring the workforce along on the learning journey required to meet future skills needs.


For example, a bank upskilling 30,000 employees used a communication and engagement plan across nine channels, including email, webinars, posters, forums and the intranet. Updates were very regular, and included messages from leaders and managers.


The skilled banks of the future start learning today


There is no doubt that change will continue to impact banks. For example, McKinsey notes a shift towards agile teams is happening at pace in banks around the world, and has the potential to accelerate and support the delivery of high quality, omnichannel customer experiences.


This means banks will need strong technologies and tools to make their future workforce upskilling simpler. From centralised skills management to blended delivery of learning content, technology can enable the skilled banks of the future through streamlining learning.


Volkswagen is realising the benefits of such technology. For example, it is maximising control over present and future workforce capabilities through oversight of data and creating workforce learning pathways that define progress milestones and capabilities in line with skills needs.


Banks will need to do the same. As McKinsey concludes, 'equipped with the right mindset and tools, talent leaders can expand on these changes and get ahead of competitors in building the workforce of the future'. And there is no doubt they will succeed, if they start today. 


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