Raising the bar on professionalism boosts engagement at NAB

'There is a positive correlation to both attrition rates for colleagues who have both enrolled and completed the program,' says HR leader

Raising the bar on professionalism boosts engagement at NAB

When the Royal Commission into Misconduct in the Banking, Superannuation and Financial Services Industry took place between 2017 and 2019, it unearthed a slate of shocking practices across the sector. These ranged from companies charging customers without a service being provided, to charging fees to customers who had died.

In response, National Australia Bank (NAB) introduced its Career Qualified in Banking Program in 2020. The program provides graduates with a globally recognised financial services accreditation.

Speaking with HRDTV, Darren Clarke, executive, talent and learning people and culture, at NAB, explained that the program was something CEO Ross McEwan was passionate about implementing.

“The real genesis of the program was to raise the bar of professionalism across our organisation and for our industry and customers,” Clarke said. “With a real focus on uplifting capability [and] introducing a globally recognised qualification for our bankers and for all of those colleagues working in our middle and back office.”

Implementing the program for professionalism

The program was created in partnership with the Financial Services Institute of Australasia (FINSIA) but there were some challenges to work through when designing it.

“It was important that we didn’t amend the content to suit NAB,” he said. “This is an industry-recognised qualification. And so what we did want to do is explore all of the considerations and complexities and challenges of a relatively broad sector – being financial services – but also seek to drive the right insight and the right capability for our organisation.”

The process also meant NAB had to work through how it integrates some of FINSIA’s systems with its learning management system, how it manages reporting and how it rolled out an exam to a dispersed workforce during the COVID pandemic.

“That certainly was a hard problem to solve for and it’s taken a good 18 months to really drive what I think now is a world-class experience end-to-end,” Clarke said.

Boosted engagement with training

NAB has enrolled 20,000 colleagues into the program and by the end of the financial year, ending this September, it aims to have up to 15,000 graduates.

“That’s 15-odd thousand colleagues who three years ago might not have had a qualification,” Clarke said. “So in terms of the progress, we’re extremely proud of where we are today.”

There were a range of benefits that came from the program.

“This is not in the quest for simply rolling out another learning program,” Clarke said. “What we really wanted to do is not only drive the professionalism of our workforce, and particularly that of our bankers, but also drive real business outcomes, things like engagement and attrition.”

Over the last three years, NAB has been tracking the correlation between enrolments and graduations from the program, and the impact this has had on engagement, compared to the results of colleagues who haven’t enrolled or graduated.

“What we’ve seen is that there is a positive correlation to both attrition rates for colleagues who have both enrolled and completed the program, positive correlation for engagement and the flow on impacts to customer NPS (net promoter score) as one of our core business metrics,” Clarke said.

Advice for HR teams on rolling out programs

HR teams looking to roll out a program in their own organisation should engage and partner with business stakeholders early to understand where the key priorities lie, he said.

“How might we deliver value in a really simple and streamlined way? How do we work in line with our business stakeholders rather than in opposition to [them]?” he said. “Working in partnership from day dot, from conception, I’ve found to be probably the single biggest determining factor of the success of an initiative like this.”

While funding is critical, a lot of HR teams are working in a cost-constrained environment and HR practitioners are doing more with less, Clarke said.

“I think getting creative, getting innovative and in so doing, building our own capability as HR practitioners is absolutely critical.”

And lastly, he said, “Simplicity is key, as is… ensuring that you’re able to link your initiatives back to measurable business outcomes.”

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