When an employee of India's second-largest private sector bank, ICICI Bank, goes to a retail or a corporate customer for sourcing business, he offers the entire range of products and services from savings account to mortgage to credit cards. When a customer reaches out to any employee (including HR or legal team) at any branch or the corporate centre, he gets to experience the full bank. This is part of a huge business transformation under way at ICICI Bank for aligning nearly 1,00,000 employees with the new strategy of organising itself around the customer ecosystem.
The new HR strategy has been woven around 'One ICICI, One KPI and One ROE.' The seeds of this new strategy were sown two-and-a-half years back when Sandeep Bakhshi took over as MD & CEO. The bank was facing headwinds due to the vacuum created by the exit of Chanda Kochhar, forcing it to rejig its overall business strategy to focus on operating profits, risk management and strengthening the balance sheet. As a first step to align HR policies to a common goal, the bank decided to move from grade-based organisation structure to role-based (head of asset, liabilities, etc.) designations and empowered teams at the zonal and branch level. This immediately crashed the hierarchy or department structure and helped in faster response time. The results are reflected in India's Coolest Workplaces study where the bank has made it to the Top 5 in the list.
The bank is working towards its goal of collaboration, working together and removing departmental and product boundaries. T.K. Srirang, Group Chief Human Resources Officer, is the man tasked with the transformation. But these kinds of changes do not happen overnight. It requires mindset change and competency building. Employees have to keep abreast with product details, processes and build new skills.
So, as part of the transformation, there is now a common goal sheet for the top leadership team. "Today, they all get assessed based on that one common criteria," says Soumendra Mattagajasingh, Head - HR (Retail Banking Group and Employee Relations) at ICICI Bank. The bank has been focusing on bolstering its work culture. The old workspace system has been replaced by open offices. This goes well with the young workforce. The average age of employees is 30 years. The need to learn has come back as an important aspect of the value proposition, says the bank.
The focus on technology and digitisation helped the bank during Covid. Some three to four years ago, it switched from physical to digital town hall meeting through its iStudio model. This facilitated two-way communication and connected employees across locations. iStudio was extensively used during demonetisation when communication had to be fast and to all branches together. "iStudio came in very handy during Covid," says Soumendra. All 5,000-plus branches were e-visited by the senior management team. Every day some communication had to be delivered. We had to reach out to employees, and employees had to reach us," says Soumendra.
While Covid -19 taught organisations to be nimble, ICICI Bank started the journey to dismantle departments and hierarchy ahead of time. The in-house app, Universe on the Move, which started as an HR app, became a mother app for ICICI Bank last year. It is a single point for business applications, HR applications and even lead generation.
To align business goals, the bank has built a new training and learning architecture. It has also identified certain must have and 'future' skills. First is "Relationship Management", a fundamental tool for the ICICI banker. "We covered skills around understanding data. Then we built a third aspect around Technology. And fourth was Design," says Amitabh Kumar Singh, Head - (Business HR, People and Leadership Capability). The bank layered the learning programme with its customer offering ICICI Stack, -- a digital product suite.
In the initial months of the lockdown, the bank did around 1,000 sessions to get employees acquainted with ICICI Stack. On talent acquisition, the bank has gone completely digital via advanced AI- and ML-based platforms, online screening and a seamless interviewing platform. "So, a candidate can come in, upload his application on our site, and it goes through an AI-based algorithm which looks at his suitability. Based on that, he gets intimation for an interview. The interview is done on the iStudio app," says Kumar. "Our pace of hiring engineers has doubled compared to last year," says Kumar. The bank is hiring more engineers from IITs and other institutions and putting them not only in data analytics but also risk management.
Over the years, the bank has a build a pipeline of leaders across levels. Internal candidates fill up roles whenever there is a vacancy or sudden exit. Bakhshis return from the life insurance subsidiary to the bank was seamless. Succession planning is done across levels from the board down to branch manager or even branch sales manager.
The bank believes in giving opportunities to people ahead of time. And we have always seen that people measure up to responsibilities very quickly, it says. And that shows up in the leadership position across the groups businesses where in-house leaders are managing large businesses independently.