Inside age diversity at Deutsche Bank

by 19 Aug 2009

The ageing workforce and coming labour shortage is an issue for organisations around the world. Deutsche Banks diversity manager Ute Drewniak looks at how the bank has tackled the issue in Germany

Age diversity is one of Deutsche Bank’s main global diversity initiative issues. This is based on our vision of demonstrating industry leadership by fostering an inclusive work environment in which all employees contribute to their full potential and diverse teams maximise performance. The bank sees this as essential for a true meritocracy, increased shareholder value and greater profitability.

Management of age diversity means that the bank’s business and people strategy is focused on all age groups and their individual demands for personal development, career, working practice and job design. Cooperation between different age groups is necessary and an important prerequisite for the success of teams, while managers are responsible for creating an inclusive work environment for all age groups.

Ageing workforce initiatives

Age-related initiatives at Deutsche Bank focus primarily on the following aspects:

Employability. Deutsche Bank is engaged in various activities focusing on learning throughout the work life. This program includes measures with special focus on older employees, such as part-time retirement, and new professional perspectives inside and outside the bank as consultants or coaches.

Training. Needs of older employees as well as their personal and professional perspectives are picked out in special training that focus, for example, on personal and professional orientation at the age of 40, or on preparing for an active retirement.

Mentoring. Sharing of personal experience and networking are an integral part of a close cooperation between more junior employees and experienced managers. This program has been in operation for more than five years, and also assists in supporting women in their personal and professional development.

Advanced professionals programs. Know-how transfer has been implemented in several divisions of the bank. Throughout this program, we also conducted ‘age awareness’ training for HR managers, along with an interview and an internet-based survey to gauge feedback on the appreciation of experience.

Learning and know-how transfer

There are four working models to support learning for experienced people and sharing of experiences between different generations in the bank.

The first model is based on ‘intergenerational teams’ where younger and older, more experienced employees cooperate within a project team. The team is supported by two experienced members of the bank’s corporate HR centre, with the aim of improving the service of the department and conducting a customer survey. The open and supportive behaviour of the HR colleagues is critical to the success of this model, in their role as clients – not teachers – which supports an atmosphere of mutual respect and appreciation.

The second approach, ‘the X% job’ model, focuses on building up experience and knowledge across different functions within a previously defined timeframe (X%). In this model, older workers spend two to four hours per week with an external service provider. Special emphasis is placed on dialogue with colleagues from the service provider, which helps acquaint the workers with their management strategies and processes. Back within the bank, there has been ample interest in the acquired insight and knowledge of the workers as they help to optimise internal processes. Participants have pointed out that this model is ideal for transferring organisational knowledge and strategies between business units and should be implemented on a broader basis in the bank.

Closely related to this is the third model – the ‘Experience sharing model’. A good example of this approach is when a project manager was recently assigned the task of implementing an IT project in Germany, using software already tested in Spain. In order to optimise implementation, the project manager partnered with an older and more experienced bank employee from Spain who provided the sought-after intercultural competence and language proficiency. Additionally, the employee was appreciated the investment in training and support for him – not as a trainee, but as an older and experienced employee – an important signal that the bank appreciated him and his experience.

The fourth model is based on the cooperation of an older and more experienced worker, and a more junior customer advisor. This model, ‘Know-how tandems’, was used to develop customer contact and acquisition skills, facilitate transfer of IT-related knowledge, and optimise the process of customer handover. Younger and older colleagues got to know and understand the specific skills and abilities of the ‘other generation’, and the cooperation also facilitated a comparison of competencies and provided an incentive for further learning.

Participants suggested that this collaborative learning approach be employed on a wider basis within the bank, due to the need to keep experience-based know-how inside the bank. Additionally, customers profited directly from this approach: a tandem of two relationship managers works more effectively than one person. The succession planning process was improved, the younger colleague received a solid understanding of business relationships, and the bank also benefited in its bottom-line.

The transfer of experienced know-how

In 2002, we conducted an interview survey of managers within the bank, which focused on knowledge management and the acquisition and transfer of experience. The most important results of the survey included:

• Professional experience is an important prerequisite for relationship management with clients.

• Being successful in the future requires experience in change processes and the skill to continuously acquire new competencies.

• Learning, developing professional experience and transferring knowledge have to be encouraged systematically and become an integral part of the regular day-to-day work of managers and employees.

• Appreciation of experience is an important part of daily business, where cooperation between older and less experienced colleagues is a central responsibility of managers. Nevertheless, managers felt that this aspect seems to be less appreciated by more senior management in the bank, and that business decisions coming from headquarters don’t take this into account sufficiently.

The managers recommended that there should be an opportunity for continuous reflection and feedback for each team member, and job rotations should be organised in a more systematic way, such as establishing partnerships with other teams and organising regular exchanges. They also suggested that the bank should aim to build age-diverse teams that vary in background and experiences, use specific competencies and know-how of each generation systematically, and provide support for on-the-job measures for individual and team development.

The bank is currently developing a tool to provide HR advisors and line managers with information to promote and support experience sharing in their respective areas. This initiative will be rolled out as a part of our overall Age Diversity strategy in the second half of 2004.

Challenges and lessons learned

There have been a number of challenges and lessons learned in the process. Emphasising competitiveness and profit for the business is critical for implementation and management commitment, while high levels of flexibility in learning and mentoring models will assist in meeting individual demands of participants. Additionally, older employees have to act as ‘ambassadors for their own interests’ to bring their experiences to market.

HR has an important role to play. It has to support know-how transfer by promoting successful examples in innovation processes or projects, and HR development initiatives should focus on employability as well as on measures that are both suited for all employees and adaptable for different life-cycles. Real win-win situations for all participants are essential for the success of the initiatives.

There are a number of steps we are planning next in our Age Diversity initiatives. We are aiming to make age diversity a global initiative by developing the business case for the other countries and adapting it to the regional needs. Core to this is integrating age diversity into existing HR practices, and the realisation of a life-phase oriented HR development strategy.

We are looking to develop and remunerate know-how transfer between generations. This requires open communication and cooperation where an older more experienced worker who passes on their know-how to another employee is not afraid of being replaced by them.

Objectives and career opportunities have to be clear in engaging cross-generational initiatives, while we will rely on mid-term instead of short-term decisions with regard to recruiting, developing, and retaining talent. This also includes a more thorough focus on the employability of staff throughout their work lives to prevent dead-end careers where people aged 50 and over are ‘not applicable’ anymore.

We are aware early retirement plans will nevertheless be maintained in the future and that there will always be people who can profit from the possibility of early retirement. However, this number should be as small as possible.

Lastly, we will continue to establish a corporate culture where differences between employees are appreciated and accepted.

Achieving CEO and stakeholder buy-in

The business case for age diversity within Deutsche Bank rests on the following premises:

• We observe the ageing demographics of our customers which impacts target groups and their needs as well as our products and strategies.

• The aging of our society leads to an extension of the work life time – people will start to work earlier and retire later. Initiatives have to focus on developing and motivating employees throughout their work life. Employability of our staff will be a critical job requirement of the future.

• The shortage of qualified talent is a direct consequence of the demographic change. We have to be prepared to focus all our efforts on being an employer of choice in the future and creating a culture where younger employees are well accepted and integrated – a prerequisite for innovation. At the same time, older employees have to be open to change and integrating to integrate new aspects, and younger people, in their day-to-day work. Initiatives have to build support for cooperative age diverse teams.

• Europe’s demographic changes must lead to an increase of immigration and the ratio of women in gainful employment. Furthermore, extension to people’s working lives is needed, leading to a higher pension age, shorter academic training and an earlier work entry. At the same time we must give women the possibility to combine career with family and provide for the respective measures. Additionally, we have to create a culture that is open to integrate different ethnic groups and to actively manage intercultural cooperation.

Deutsche Bank has to be well prepared to deal with the shortage of young talent, the need to keep older people in the workforce, and the challenges of managing a multi-generational workforce. Furthermore, the bank also faces the challenges that an ageing client population will bring to our business strategy.

Meanwhile, Deutsche Bank’s diversity team has clear goals and wants to cultivate an inclusive atmosphere within the bank – one in which all employees can develop their whole potential. We know that diverse teams are important to boosting results, and this also applies to age diversity. Therefore, our initiatives are focussed on awareness building, leadership behaviours, on mainstreaming our business and HR processes, and developing an open, inclusive work culture.

Ute Drewniak is diversity manager for Deutsche Bank AG. Email: Ute.Drewniak@db.com