Leaning away from tradition
Leading a team of 152 HR staff, Jamaluddin Bakri, group CHRO of RHB Banking Group, details the innovative initiatives the group has recently embarked on to transform for the future. Jerene Ang reports.
Vital stats: As the group CHRO, Jamaluddin Bakri is responsible for developing and executing longterm HR strategies and building HR capability to help support RHB Banking Group’s long-term strategic goals. Leading a team of 152 HR staff, he is responsible for managing various aspects of the HR function, including development, succession planning, rewards, and performance management for 14,460 employees across nine countries – Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, Brunei, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and Hong Kong.
With the banking industry moving towards digital banking, Malaysia’s oldest local bank with more than 100 years in the market, RHB Banking Group, has recently embarked on a transformation to remain competitive in the future.
In this exclusive interview, Jamaluddin Bakri, group chief human resource officer at RHB Banking Group, gives Jerene Ang a rundown of initiatives that contributed to the transformation.
Q I understand RHB has just launched its new culture components, what do they entail?
We launched our new RHB culture components in February 2017.
The first part of our culture component is One RHB. It emphasises the importance of a strong collaborative and cohesive culture, while welcoming diversity in views.
It is called One RHB because it comprises a mix of people. We monitor our diversity statistics. For example, we have a fairly even mix of men and women (54% of our population are women and 46% are men). By generation, more than 56% of our population are Gen Y.
The second part is being results-oriented. We want to instil this culture that people are outcome-driven. So we focus on the outcome and value creation instead of activities and going to and fro on layers of processes and procedures. We treat everything with urgency and simplicity, but not compromising on the quality of work.
We make sure our KPIs and goals are all outcome-based and we have been working on this for the past couple of years. Customers are at the core of our business, hence, the last part of our culture component is “customer first”. Our brand promise is, “together we progress”, which includes being our customers’ trusted partner, and as such, we understand their needs instead of merely pushing our products.
Q What sparked the idea to launch the three culture components?
We have been in existence for a long time – more than 100 years. Traditionally, the culture of a bank is such that people are very conservative, there is a huge focus on activity, and it is very process oriented.
As the industry gets more competitive, this has to be changed so we can also stay competitive. Many players in the banking and finance industry – not just in Malaysia, but globally – are taking steps to move fast and understand the customer. We need to do this as well, hence, the focus on the three components.
We want to instil this culture that people are outcome-driven. So we focus on the outcome and value creation instead of activities and going to and fro on layers of processes and procedures.
Q As the banking industry moves towards digital banking, it is imperative for banks to keep their employees agile. How is RHB Bank approaching this?
Apart from the change in culture, we have a five-year strategy plan called FIT22.
FIT22 was launched in February 2018. The strategy is anchored on three key themes: “fund our journey”, “invest to win” and “transform the organisation”. Under FIT22, we have 22 initiatives up to 2022.
Our priorities will be to win in target segments, strengthen Malaysia as we focus on our strengths and niches, explore partnerships overseas, and build a winning operating model.
Some of the initiatives that are in place, in line with our five-year strategy plan, include: implementing robotic process automation and artificial intelligence to create efficiency and enhance productivity; institutionalising big data and analytics to boost revenue; implementing a digital channel platform for the delivery of a holistic customer journey and ecosystem; implementing key IT projects to support the digital offerings; and scaling up “agile” across the group to drive productivity and improve speed-to-market.
To make sure we are able to go digital, we need to have an agile workforce. We have set up an agile organisation which was piloted last year to make sure people work in an agile environment. We are now going to further enhance this and expand it across the organisation. This year, we are also going to set up an agile way of working within a few organisations in RHB.
Q When it comes to robotics and AI, one of the things that people are afraid of is the loss of jobs. What is your take on that?
Yes, it will mean fewer roles, we cannot hide that. What we need to do is provide an alternative for our employees.
As part of the organisation culture and our social obligation to the country, we must make sure we are supportive of our people.
Hence, we have the CURE programme for cross-skilling, upskilling, and reskilling our employees. We want to make sure the people who are impacted are going to be trained. We want to focus on their development to allow them to change into a new role.
We have set up a certification programme with the RHB Academy and we will look into ensuring staff continue to be relevant and make sure they continue to be upskilled. We will also make sure what they can do should complement their interests.
As part of the organisation culture and our social obligation to the country, we must make sure we are supportive of our people.
Q How were the initiatives launched and how were they communicated to staff?
There was a press release in February 2018 to announce the strategy to the market. Internally, we have done roadshows to all employees across the group, whereby group management committee (GMC) members, including the group managing director (GMD), personally delivered messages to the employees.
We implemented our strategy plan through different platforms such as: the FIT22 steering committee – a monthly meeting chaired by our GMD to discuss the progress of each of the 22 initiatives; management committee meetings such as the group human capital committee meeting at which people-related matters are discussed on a monthly basis; the group senior leadership forum – a quarterly forum attended by the top 200 employees of the group; and town hall meetings – a quarterly forum organised at the business/function level.
In terms of communications, one of the important platforms we use is Workplace by Facebook that we adopted in 2017. This makes it easier to communicate and penetrate a large number of the population within the group.
It is a great tool, especially for Millennial employees. Sharing has become a part of our daily lives. Uploading of photos and videos consistently from any geographical location of the group has created bonding among team members.
We want to make sure staff understand the reason for change as well as what is in it for them so we shared our vision for the future of the company and what commitment we needed from them. We tell them we will support and continue to develop them – that is the commitment we have on our part.
Q After the communication, what vibe did you get from staff? Do you feel they are ready to embrace the change or are they showing resistance?
I get the feeling they are accepting the change and are equally excited because they want to be competitive in the marketplace. They know that if we are not competitive, then we will not continue to be in existence.
We want to make sure staff understand the reason for change as well as what is in it for them so we shared our vision for the future of the company and what commitment we needed from them.
Q Change is tough especially when it involves culture. What are your plans moving forward?
As management, we have to talk to the people, communicate to them and show by example that we are ready for change. We have to show them how we change first.
We have initiatives such as flexible hours and workplaces to allow people to work from home if they are not in a customer-facing role. We also started having casual Fridays, and in fact, we introduced a change in June where our male employees no longer have to wear ties every day as long as they are smartly dressed. We are taking this one step at a time.
Apart from that, it is about the processes. Traditionally, banks have many processes which are time consuming. We are changing this by going digital.
We recognise there are easier ways to do things. For example, senior management has committed itself to approve or reject whatever comes to us within 24 hours. We will also get back on documents within 48 hours.
Q I understand RHB has a high performance culture. How is this culture cultivated? Please share the programmes involved.
I think this is in line with being results-oriented. When we set KPIs, we have to ensure the result is there and they are outcome-driven instead of being activity-driven. If you measure based on outcome, that is how you can drive performance.
For example, instead of having a KPI that says “visit 10 customers a week”, we have something like “close X amount of deals a week” – that’s better than meeting customers and not having any result. We have been making such changes across all roles. Of course, in line with that, we make sure we reward the people who are performing.
Apart from that, we have our employee value proposition which consists of five pillars: (CLIP-R) – RHB Cares, RHB Leads, RHB Inspires, RHB Progresses, and RHB Rewards. Hopefully all these will also help us drive a high performance culture.
Under RHB Cares, we have initiatives such as flexible work arrangements (flexi-hours and telecommuting) and corporate responsibility (RHB Touch Hearts).
Under RHB Leads, our GMD has chat sessions with employees. We have formal mentoring sessions during which the GMCs mentor employees themselves. We look to inspire our employees through inviting good leaders for our leadership talk series. We also leverage on Workplace by Facebook to conduct town halls to communicate more effectively.
Under RHB Progresses, we offer accelerated growth and progression, with a focus on a continuous learning experience coupled with regional mobility for a holistic experience via our comprehensive talent management practices. For this, we collaborate with institutions such as Harvard to conduct Harvard ManageMentor®, and we work with Melbourne Business School to hold the signature leadership programme series. This helps ensure we train and continue to focus on the learning experience of our employees.
For rewards, we offer competitive and timely rewards through a robust pay-forperformance policy that is benchmarked against the industry.
We do this through differentiated rewards such as performance bonuses and increments as well as employee awards.
Q It is quite straightforward to make KPIs outcome-oriented for sales positions, but what if they are not in a sales position, how do you make sure the KPIs are outcome oriented?
I think an outcome-oriented KPI can be implemented for any job.
For example, even in HR you can measure based on outcomes. You can measure things such as the number of hires and the number of people who have stayed for a certain amount of time and are performing well. For the talent function, you can measure it by the number of people who have been promoted and if they are happy in their role. You can also measure things such as staff turnover across the organisation and engagement scores, and compare this with the industry standard.
Our pay-for-performance philosophy is applicable to all employees. For sales, it is more robust, it is a quarterly payment based on incentives and based on the KPIs they have got.
For the non-sales roles, we also pay good bonuses for those who perform well. The high performers will get higher bonuses and those who don’t perform well, they won’t get any bonuses. It depends on their KPIs and the culture that we have.
When we set KPIs, we have to ensure the result is there and they are outcome-driven instead of being activity-driven. If you measure based on outcome, that is how you can drive performance.
Q Do you also measure the three culture components?
In our performance review, we have a KPI component and a culture component. The culture components are separated into One RHB, results-oriented, and customer first. Under each component, we have definitions and we evaluate employees based on how well they meet the definition of the culture components.
Q Who owns the initiatives mentioned above?
HR and line managers co-own the initiatives. There is joint responsibility and collaboration. We understand that we need to take care of our employees and provide them with a platform to develop and grow.
There is a specific training that we provide for the values and the high performance culture. It is a compulsory training that we conduct for managers in the organisation. Other than that, managers are also being measured based on how well they are able to do this.
At RHB, we take pride in our people and our teams. Great relationships built on trust, a “leading it right” environment, challenging assignments, and a culture of excellence are the pillars to the dynamic workplace we call home.
Q Among the initiatives which one did you find the most challenging? And how did you overcome the challenge?
When we introduced telecommuting, it was a challenge because some managers are not used to having staff work from home. They may question if the staff are really working so they may not approve of telecommuting.
We understand that these managers, who have been with us for so long, are used to working and managing people in a certain way, so it’s about sharing facts and educating them to change their mindset about flexible working.
It’s about letting them know that workplaces today are getting more dynamic. For the younger generation, if you don’t give them the flexibility they want, they will look elsewhere. Also, mothers with young children need this flexibility – and there’s no reason to not give them that since they can be equally productive at home.
We convince managers to set outcome-driven KPIs. For example, to assign an employee something in the morning and make sure that it is done in the evening. We also share with them that it doesn’t mean that people are productive just because they come to the office – they could be staring at the computer and doing nothing. We have to give them these examples so they understand.
My advice is to understand what makes our employees tick – what makes them engaged, what motivates them. Sometimes, to get this information, you just have to ask them. It makes it a lot easier.
Q What advice do you have for HR leaders looking to implement similar programmes?
My advice is to understand what makes our employees tick – what makes them engaged, what motivates them. Sometimes, to get this information, you just have to ask them. It makes it a lot easier. Once we know what our employees want, we can work on specific initiatives to help improve engagement and enhance their productivity.
Another thing is to get staff involved in the programme and activities – even when it comes to strategy and the designing of certain things. You have to get them involved because they are the ones who are going to implement these and they are the ones who will get the benefits.
Art Direction: Mohd Ashraf; Photography: Idees Photo Studio