Tag Archives: Human Resources

Rubbing Salz in the wound at Barclays?

4 Apr


The Salz review of Barclay’s Business Practices was published yesterday, all 244 pages of it. And, kudos to the new brooms at the bank for publishing it online too.

So, hot off the press here is a set of excerpts, mostly from the front of the report (but not the headings, they are mine! Highlights are mine too). It all makes fascinating reading, essential text-book reading really for anyone involved in financial services, risk management, governance and organisational culture or simply fascinated by the sorry tale of a major UK bank brought low by toxic culture in one part – a dominant and super clever part – of the business.  

Multi silos = multi cultures

“The result of this growth was that Barclays became complex to manage, tending to develop silos with different values and cultures. (Turn to page 81 for Fig 8.2 for a great audit of the many differing value sets!). Despite some  attempts to establish Group-wide values, the culture that emerged tended to favour transactions over relationships, the short term over sustainability, and financial over  other business purposes”.

Void at the centre

“We believe that the business practices for which Barclays has rightly been criticised were shaped predominantly by its cultures, which rested on uncertain foundations. There was no sense of common purpose in a group that had grown and diversified significantly in less than two decades. And across the whole bank, there were no clearly articulated and understood shared values – so there could hardly be much consensus among employees as to what the values were and what should guide everyday behaviours. And as a result there was no consistency to the development of a desired culture”.

“However, culture exists regardless. If left to its own devices, it shapes itself, with the inherent risk that behaviours will not be those desired. Employees will work out for themselves what is valued by the leaders to whom they report. The developing cultures across Barclays were still less consistent as a result of a highly decentralised business model, that tended to give rise to silos. This left a cultural ambiguity at the heart of the bank”.

“The entire Group Guiding Principles had not percolated into the consciousness of the Group. Employees of all ranks were often unaware of the Guiding Principles. If they were aware, they could cite only one or two of them – often without much authority. They also told us that they were not a regular feature of induction processes, were rarely discussed as part of how they should work in practice, and were not embedded in training or performance management processes.”

“As Antony Jenkins (new CEO) said in the 2012 Annual Report: “For the past 30 years, banking has been progressively too aggressive, too focused on the short term, too disconnected from the needs of our customers and clients, and wider society and we lost our way.”

The unhappy voice of the Employee

“For the employees at Barclays this has been a difficult time. Our meetings with them and a survey we conducted made clear that the overwhelming majority are focused on the bank’s customers and doing their best for them. They are as disappointed as anyone by some of the behaviours”.

“Many employees told us directly about their sadness, disbelief and anger with what has gone wrong in terms of the much publicised poor behaviours”

You get the behaviours you reward

“There was an over-emphasis on short-term financial performance, reinforced by remuneration systems that tended to reward revenue generation rather than serving the interests of customers and clients”.

Kill the messenger?

“There was also in some parts of the Group a sense that senior management did not want to hear bad news and that employees should be capable of solving problems. This contributed to a reluctance to escalate issues of concern”.

HR powerless

“The HR function was accorded insufficient status to stand up to the business units on a variety of people issues, including pay. This undermined any efforts to promote correlation of pay to broader behaviours than those driving individual financial performance”

Customers 101 (!)

“In pursuit of its goal of being a leader among its peer institutions, Barclays should develop an understanding across its businesses of how to meet its customers’ needs and expectations while also meeting its own commercial objectives and those of its shareholders. It should seek to learn from customer feedback, and publish the measures by which it would judge performance in resolving complaints. Barclays should report periodically on progress against these measures by publishing the data both internally and externally so as to reinforce the seriousness Barclays places on continuous improvement.

And…so what?

“To address the trust issues and restore its reputation, we suggest that Barclays should communicate openly and transparently how, and to what extent, it will implement our recommendations.”

Barclays should be praised for publishing this report. Let’s hope too that this new spirit of openness and humility continues, and that this point above is also acted on. Fascinating times indeed, for the once great Barclays!   


Listening to employees shouldn’t be a big deal

19 Dec

At a recent  event run by the Customer Engagement Directors’ Forum, the HR Director of M&S got me thinking when she said at one point,  “You wouldn’tBLOG tennis balls only ask your customers for feedback once a year, so why do you think it’s acceptable to only ask employees once a year?”.

This reminded me of an article I’ve blogged about before, “Employee engagement is not an event”, where the authors, Switch and Shift describe the all-too-common way some companies handle The Employee Survey;

Each year or every other year an employee engagement survey is delivered via email to all employees. Its arrival is trumpeted by an email from the CEO explaining the survey’s importance. This is the event. It’s followed by survey results disseminated to managers and some messaging shared with employees”

To this I’d add, that after the results are published, the ‘process’ then requires (seeing as engagement is being treated as a Project), that the team sits down to discuss and create an action plan, that then, well-intentioned as it is, is all too often consigned to the shelf.  After a few months, it becomes all too easy to dismiss the findings from the survey as out-of-date, because, well, we’ve moved on, and things – and people- have changed since then. Better wait for the next survey for a more accurate snapshot of how people are feeling. So much for the standard process.

Surely, listening to employees and acting on it shouldn’t be such a big deal. Nixon McInnes, a Brighton-based social business consultancy take a different tack with a blindingly simple approach using tennis balls and buckets.

Each night, as you leave, you simply lob a ball in one of two buckets, the happy bucket or the unhappy one – see photo. This enables team leaders to get an instant ‘temperature check’ on the team, and discuss with the team.  Simple, immediate, cheap and low tech. In fact, Nixon McInnes has recently taken it to the next level with an electronic traffic light system but the principle is the same: find a fun and simple mechanism to engage easily and continuously with the team, a mechanism that is woven into the rhythm of the day, and that takes away the formality and unnecessary weight and significance of the annual engagement initiative that tends to get seen for what it is, yet another ‘project’ to be scheduled in on top of an already crammed workload.

I’ll finish with another great quote from the event I was at, that underlines the problem with this engagement-as-a-formal-event approach, that it tends to drive the wrong behaviours, “we hit the target but missed the point”!

Fair play to Nixon McInnes, then, where simplicity is all the more engaging.

Employee engagement is not an event

24 Nov

Whilst employee engagement is everybody’s hot topic (witness the “employees are our greatest assets” platitudes common to many an Annual Report), it doesn’t seem to happen that much in the real world.  

But it’s not rocket science, is it?

This is a nice post by Shawn Murphy of switch and shift in the teamster blog that is hugely quotable. I can’t help smiling (and grimacing) at his description of the annual employee survey process: “Each year or every other year an employee engagement survey is delivered via email to all employees. Its arrival is trumpeted by an email from the CEO explaining the survey’s importance. This is the event. It’s followed by survey results disseminated to managers and some messaging shared with employees. End of event. Now go about your work”.

The bottom line? Engagement is a leadership act. Not a management task, and nor will it thrive when it’s handled like an event, a tick-the-box exercise.

Click here to read the post. Role of Meaning-Makers in Employee Engagement | Switch and Shift.

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