DFCC Bank promotes a ‘people-first’ culture amid COVID-19
August 20, 2020
In line with DFCC Bank’s strategic imperative of being the ‘Bank for Everyone’, the Bank has continued to focus nurturing and developing a ‘people-first’ culture. From career planning to staff engagement activities, premier commercial bank DFCC Bank’s Senior Vice President, Sonali Jayasinghe reveals measures taken by the Bank to ensure an inclusive and diversified workforce over the years.
1. What role does DFCC Bank’s Human Resources play in the bigger picture of the Bank’s operations?
Human resources at DFCC Bank is primarily responsible for developing strategic solutions for employee-related matters that ensure the Bank’s ability to meet its productivity and performance goals. In a basic sense, HR formulates and delivers on a workforce strategy to address the current and future strategic objectives of the Bank.
Our workforce strategy encompasses keeping our employees apprised and engaged around the Bank’s vision, mission and culture. Our culture is one that values and emphasizes on professionalism and transparency, respect for the individual, teamwork, diversity and inclusivity in terms of both social strictures and voicing of opinions. Since most of our new recruits are first time entrants into the job market, there is some effort required to ensure seamless assimilation to the Bank’s culture and envisaged job role.
Ensuring the availability of resources with the required skills and competencies necessary to deliver on the Bank’s strategic goals is a key focus and this entails the necessity to ensure availability of transparent and robust recruitment, retention, development, succession and performance management frameworks. The efficacy and relevance of these mechanisms also need to be consistently reviewed and adjusted as necessary to meet business and market demands.
Provision of continuous learning and career growth opportunities to enable employees to rise to their full potential remains a priority. We offer multiple training and development opportunities through class room based learning, e-learning, job rotation and enrichment opportunities, special projects etc. Employees are also offered targeted coaching and mentoring opportunities based on their individual requirements as well as the needs of the Bank. In addition, we offer varied career development schemes targeting employees at different stages of their career trajectory with the Bank.
What are some upgraded internal systems that DFCC Bank implemented to improve mobility of staff during the COVID-19 lockdown?
We commenced an entire overall of the HRIS system last year which includes the transition to a cloud based platform, full automation of most HR functions as well as attendance management through facial recognition. This transition proved very useful during the COVID-19 lockdown as it enabled staff to login their attendance, apply for leave etc. from their homes or alternate work stations, using a mobile app.
During this time, work from home options were made available where possible and relevant staff were provided with access to VPNs, data allowances etc. to enable them to securely access Bank systems and perform their job roles as seamlessly as possible. The Bank also initiated the use of digital platforms such as Google Meets and Zoom. These platforms are now used extensively for meetings as well as in house and external training programmes and highly appreciated by the staff due to the ease of access, convenience and time saved on travel.
We have now transitioned adopted the use G-Suite enterprise tools extensively, and applications such as Data Studio and Google Classrooms are now used for process improvement and training purposes. In addition, the Bank’s e-learning portal proved to be invaluable and was used extensively over the last few months by our regionally dispersed staff to facilitate access to knowledge.
A very positive development of the lockdown has been the much faster progression made by the Bank in the digital sphere and we are proud and appreciative of the manner in which our employees stepped up and positively and proactively adapted the changing work patterns of the “new normal”.
When it comes down to the COVID-19 crisis, a lot of companies have been laying off their staff. How did DFCC Bank ensure that their staff was well taken care of during the crisis?
The Bank did not layoff any employees during this time. In fact, the CEO during many of the town hall meetings held, clearly communicated to our staff that ensuring job security would be a priority. During this period salaries and other cash benefits due to employees were paid without delay. In fact, bonuses and annual increments were also not withheld.
Since banking was declared an essential service during this time, it necessitated certain staff reporting to work. Since the safety of our staff and their families are a priority, the numbers required to come in were kept to a minimum while roster systems were implemented and transport arrangements were made for employees as well. Moreover, the importance of adhering to mandated safety measures and sanitary practices were impressed upon our staff through continuous communications. All required safety and sanitation measures were implemented in all our business premises while lunch rooms and work areas were also revamped, as required, to facilitate social distancing. All frontline staff continue to be provided with necessary safety equipment such as masks, gloves and face shields.
How has DFCC ensured a dedicated workforce and managed employee churn over the years?
We continue to place emphasis on areas like communication, grievance management, provision of development and career growth opportunities as well as robust reward and recognition mechanisms.
We have multiple reward and recognition schemes which are primarily driven through performance measurement and delivery of assigned targets. In addition, providing varied and inclusive training and development opportunities as well as avenues for career advancement are important aspects of staff engagement and retention. Supervisors are expected to conduct one-on-one performance discussions with their direct reports and stemming from these discussions, development needs are identified and communicated to the HR Department, which in turn, uses these needs to formulate training plans and other individual development measures. We also offer several career development and certification programs targeted towards assisting our staff acquire the necessary skills and competencies to aspire to higher or more broad based roles. Over the years we have also supported the professional growth of our employees by providing several grant and loan based schemes to encourage them to obtain banking and other relevant qualifications.
Communication is an essential component in establishing and maintaining a ‘people-focused culture’. The Bank offers many avenues for communication in order to encourage a participatory and collaborative environment focused on mutual growth and advancement. We practice an open-door policy, where all staff have easy access to all members of the management, including the CEO, while dedicated and confidential phone lines are also available for direct access to CEO and Chairman. In addition, the CEO conducts regular town hall meetings in order to apprise staff of strategic developments and address any queries and concerns they may have. In fact, we conducted this meeting digitally for the first time in May this year, which proved to be very successful and cost effective.
The Bank also has a digital tool, ‘Listening Wall’, which provides another avenue for employees to raise suggestions or grievances, using the option of anonymity if they so wish. Moreover, through the HR Business Partner programme, specific HR staff are allocated to identified departments and branches and can be approached for business and other requirements.
A core focus of our ‘people first’ strategy is to ensure a work environment which operates on a platform of equitability and fairness and free of harassment and intimidation. In this context, in addition to some of the measures I mentioned above, the grievance and secure environment policies of the Bank, which are freely accessible to all staff through the intranet, details expected behavioural norms in the work place and also gives information on the recourse available to employees in the event they encounter difficulties. The Grievance Committee, made up of cross functional employees, is available to employees to concerns or seek advice. In addition, the “Reach Out” programme focuses on our female employees, which comprise over 45% of our work force, and provides them with a support network to seek advice on personal or professional matters.
We pride ourselves on being an equal opportunity employer and continuously work towards reviewing and improving our HR processes, commencing from our hiring and on boarding practices right through to separation. We make a conscious effort to ensure our policies and processes are consistent and equitably implemented with no gender or social bias of any kind.
Last but certainly not least, we prioritize on providing opportunities for staff interaction and social engagement. Our employees have opportunities to participate in multiple sports events organized through the Sports Club of the Bank. In addition, the HR Department, the Welfare and Recreation Club of the Bank as well as the #TogetherWeGrow initiative provide more opportunities for our employees to participate in a multitude of varied activities. Another cross functional committee, DFCC Reds, is mandated with organizing opportunities to engage our millennial employees, who now constitute the larger segment of our talent pool.
Recently, due to pandemic related social restraints imposed, we have focused on the digital route for our engagement activities as well. A virtual Poson Bakthi Gee programme was held and very recently we conducted a virtual team engagement competition in which a good number of department and branch teams enthusiastically participated. Going forward, we will continue focus on more virtual programmes to engage both our staff and their families as these events give much more opportunities for those based in more remote locations to participate as well.
How does DFCC Bank plan on continuing a people-first culture in the future?
We will continue to prioritize on ensuring availability of varied cross-company communication channels and promote active usage of these channels. Since effective HR practices is a journey of continuous improvement and adaptation to suit the needs of the time, based on feedback received, we will continue to take action where necessary to improve HR offerings, whether it’s performance management, promotions or any other HR framework.
Since the developments of the last few months have provided an impetus to many organizations to up their digital offerings, of which DFCC is no exception, going forward we anticipate that we will continue to invest in and develop on virtual mediums for meetings and provision of training. Investment in improving on e-learning platforms and content will also be a priority.
In the current times, in order to ensure sustainable employment and growth opportunities as well as to retain attractive remuneration and benefit programmes for our employees, I believe we need to give a lot of emphasis to cost and resource optimization. In this context, focus on process efficiencies and employee productivity enhancement needs to be a priority. This may also entail aspects such as work force sharing and re-engineering of our current work patterns. In this context more permanent work from home solutions would also be an area of focus.
We will also continue to conduct activities to engage employees though two committees driven by HR, the ‘Reds Committee’ and ‘Together We Grow’. The Reds committee targets the Bank’s junior staff to organise activities to enable the staff to interact and engage with each other, as well as to integrate well into the Bank and with its culture. It’s also meant to be a channel for junior staff to have a collective voice in the organisation or make suggestions for improvement. The ‘Together We Grow’ committee was formed last year and encompasses all levels to engage staff with different activities, and involve them more with the strategic objectives and initiatives of the Bank. These two committees have been successful in engaging staff, so we will emphasise a lot on them going forward as well to nurture and develop talent, especially in terms of succession planning.
This is of course in addition to our continued focus on equal opportunities and equitable treatment of all our employees.