Banking Can't Afford to Be Inflexible - Royal Bank of Canada, HR, Vanessa Gilardi

Banking Can't Afford to Be Inflexible - Royal Bank of Canada, HR, Vanessa Gilardi

E12 S1 - Talk Roleshare Podcast

"Rolesharing is potentially a way to live a longer fulfilled work life."
-Vanessa Gilardi, Head of HR Wealth & Global Asset Management at the Royal Bank of Canada in Europe

Vanessa Gilardi, Head of HR Wealth & Global Asset Management at the Royal Bank of Canada in Europe, shares how banking must embrace flexibility and new ways of working to attract and retain diverse talent. She shares her thoughts on leadership strategies required to enable this transformation in a traditional banking environment.


Episode Transcript

Sophie Smallwood: Hey, this is Talk with Roleshare. I'm Sophie Smallwood, co-founder of Roleshare.com. So, before returning to Facebook, after I had my son Leo, I attended a lecture by Columbia University in London about returnship to work. I was super surprised to hear that banking offers the best of breed returnship programs. It's just not what I would have expected. Today, we talked to Vanessa Gilardi, head of H.R. at Royal Bank of Canada and Europe. Here she is to tell us about transformation, change and flexibility in the banking environment.

Vanessa Gilardi: Why banking is so proactive today, maybe in ways that we didn't see before. The financial crisis 2007, 2008 really opens up the conversation about, who are we as organization? How can we attract talent to basically talents that we're driving away from banking simply because the influence or the reputation of the industry was not there anymore? For good reasons, to be fair. Since then, banking itself recouped some of the reputation. But we have to really work hard to be at the forefront of making sure that we propose and offer work that are really meaningful to people. It's not about only getting to work to get a certain pay level, we've passed that. We've been, there that doesn't work. It's actually been a very bad practice together. So, I think it's really about having a more fulfilling life and working life balance that's actually banking that our certain size can offer. And again, well with talent it's definitely the digitalization has broadened access for young graduates to really do what they want to pursue. So, opening their own business, finding some social communities with which you can work, and banking itself is not as attractive as before. So we really have to put all games together to attract talent in different ways. The returners program or the strategy behind the one that we have done at the World Bank of Canada, specifically in the U.K., is really to see pockets of talent that are driving away from large organization, generally speaking, because they don't find the balance in their life to do different things that matter to them. And sometimes it's absolutely valid to take that into account or they want to focus on different things, like the family, taking care of partner, taking care of parents, or simply going abroad and having other experiences when they come back to the workplace. I've experienced that myself when I came back to work after almost four years of taking care of my own son, there is this kind of disconnect between the recruiters and someone organizations who think that having taking a break is still a negative impact on your career when actually we should celebrate that. And this is really the kind of focus we have taken to try at the Bank of Canada is to see that as a very positive point, to add some skill sets that you don't get if you stay in a position for a long period of time and you don't have exposure to other meaningful experience.

Sophie Smallwood: Initially, what was it about this concept of shared roles that piqued your interest when you heard about it from me.

Vanessa Gilardi: To start looking at job sharing or sharing the discussion there, there are sometimes intangible indirect thinking about the risks and difficulties to put the methodology together, because I think we are individuals. If we can, we want an easy solution for a very rapid problem. So, we are going to invest a lot of time thinking about different ideas when we know that things that we have done in the past works. And that's humanistic, I think. But I think most of the professionals, although if we think about it, it's really the kind of idea that needs to be discussed because we are thinking about long term longevity, loyalty, happiness at work. And I think it goes along with giving people freedom and flexibility to actually come to work and enjoy what they're doing, sharing practices but also being able to have the freedom of time to do other things that they actually value outside work. So, role sharing and job sharing or flexibility of working, or any of those things that are very inclusive and somehow will put people's trust first are very important to talk about because there are ways of driving engagement and people loyalty back to the organization.

Sophie Smallwood: So, that's a good point of the individuals I've interviewed who are in role share arrangements or in the past shared a role, many of them, if not actually all of them, were strategic and or very senior executive roles. And the second point, they're all incredible ambassadors for the companies that actually helped enable that arrangement and supported them and took a chance. And the way many of them approached it was in a pilot sense. So, they presented the need. They came up with the plan and with their role share partner identified a set of principles, a unified vision, which they then presented to the organization and said, hey, let's test this out. This could be a way to trial a new working model. And many of them are still doing it today and. Those who aren't. It wasn't that it didn't work, it's just that for the period that they did it, it sufficed and then they were ready to go back full time in the role. So, when it comes to diversity, workforce, leadership, what do you think it will take to get to the point of true representation across senior levels?

Vanessa Gilardi: Most banking organizations, especially in the U.K. Have signed the Women in Finance Charter, which actually is a very good starting point, to bring together a large organization in banking or information services to break that glass ceiling by virtue of signing a specific agenda with regard to making sure organizations are taking into account women in leadership. So, that's a starting point. That said, Royal Bank of Canada, for example, have done on top of that many strategies to try to bridge that gap, because we know that we in the financial industry have a problem to develop women to a certain level. And that's why sometimes there are gender pay gap issues that's appearing. It's not about equality. It's about whether we have enough women at senior leadership role to also give the next test for other women from mentoring, to sponsorship, to role model as well. And I think that's what we're lacking. So, it's really boosting the succession planning from the very early stage of the career up to giving ways and making sometimes positive discrimination to be fair to reach that kind of objective. So, two things, we know that the financial industry as a whole has a problem because it really starts at the beginning of the career and making sure that women are seen as equal as men and have equal opportunities. But we also need to engineer things internally to be able to see that gap and those conversation going. So, it's not about simply adding numbers to headcount. It's not only about looking at programs and how they deliver metrics. I think it's really about having this conversation in every single meeting that we're having at every corner or coffee shop, because it's very easy to just believe that we have reached a certain level and we are happy with that and just drop the conversation and we really need to embed those conversations going forward. It's the only way forward. I think there is a realisation everywhere in the world that we have to be more forefront to include the other half of the population to the table because they are also increasingly adding value and wealth to the table. And I think it starts with a different kind of mindset that we had, say, 15, 20, 10 years ago. So it's getting there. I see really good progress and I'm really excited about it. But I think it's not about stopping the conversation now. We have to push it forward.

Sophie Smallwood: So, you've been sharing your role, in essence, as part of the organisation that you're a part of for the young professionals with the Swiss UK Chamber of Commerce and having had this level of exposure. How would you say you could take this information, this first hand experience, and apply it to the corporate sector at Bank of Canada?

Vanessa Gilardi: So, it's interesting because I think the Royal Bank of Canada is really at the forefront of things for working in a very open way. And it can be wrong, but I don't think role sharing or job sharing has been yet on the table. I'm sure it will be. I think it's a question of making sure people are comfortable to start the conversation. I think for me, it's looking at how more agile we can be. So we started saying we need to be more open about new ways of working and start to definitely lead the way into testing and trialability around that. And I think for a large organization, when things move obviously slower than a small organization, sometimes it's about creating a group, nuclear group, or focus group that will test and try the methods and iterate and go back to the table, but continue the conversations. I would say it's less about the operation or the mentality that needs to be more engaging. I think it's more about changing the mindsets. So changing the mindset of people managers who have used to have one person of contact to have two, maybe three. We can extend the concept. It is something that is really prevalent to make sure that the strategy will be embedded and will be approved internally. But I think once we pass that, then we can come from a successful example, and see that there are opportunities that doesn't exist in other flexible working options. That's where the benefits lie. And we were talking about the longevity of a career. I totally agree with you that maybe the social benefits for retirement in the early century is completely outdated. I can see already that most of the people I'm talking to do expect to work longer. They don't certainly wait for government to make plans for them financially to live, not to live a longer life. So they have to make plans that's really diverse from the typical standard, which means we are going to potentially work or we are going to have to have more resources physically as well to be able to do that, as well as having the people to continue longer. How can we sustain that? And I think it's a very valid point, because if we keep going into a direction where we exhaust ourselves after a certain peak, we will have the energy ability or the physical capability to be able to work. And so role sharing in that sense is a typical example where you can potentially live a longer fulfilling work life by not sacrificing your ability to do other things that interest free life and follow your passion.

Sophie Smallwood: It's a really good point. So a couple of things that you brought up made me think, when you think about people managers and some of their reservations, I understand people have a tendency of going to the models that, as you said earlier, are easy. They know them. So I would call that legacy thinking. Right. But then you have to look at trends and you have to see what people actually want. And there was a study by Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends in twenty eighteen where they looked at well-being, what employees value versus what employers offer. And the most important benefit as far as well-being goes from employees is the need for flexibility. So flexible schedules, it was about eighty-six percent, but yet only 50 percent of them are offering that. So it's looking at what employees actually want and coming up with programs that work for both. So I understand that part-time isn't always ideal for a company. Right? So if it's a role that actually needs to be a full time role, but you have someone doing it on a part-time basis, one that's really difficult on the person who's doing it part-time, because you're never going to compare to your full time self and to it can be difficult for the company as well because you're still responsible. The manager is still responsible for one hundred percent of the goal for that role. But then they might have somebody working 60, 70, 80 percent. So, there's pressure. One of the benefits of sharing roles, if you look at it, it's a forward-thinking model that actually has been around quite a long time, but really needed the support of technology to enable and to be enabled. And when you have two people sharing a role, one, you have two sets of skills together that are either complementary or duplicate, depending on what the role requires, there will be some crossover. Then you also get full time coverage, right? So you have a continuous loop of coverage. When one person is away, you could assume the other person is there to keep the role moving forward. Imagine people going on leave on sabbaticals, things of that nature. You have that coverage in the role. So those are some of the things that's looking at what is the legacy thinking that needs to be, in essence, truncated, giving people what they actually want to versus what's being given to them today and in giving it a go, just piloting things. It doesn't have to be something that's set in stone. I mean, pilots are very common in large enterprises, right? So give a new model try, if it works phenomenal. If it doesn't, then great, at least you gave it a go. But it's also about promoting them properly. If you're going to give something a go inside of a company, it's due diligence and the best chance to succeed. Right. So, if people are not aware that they can actually share roles in a company as part of a pilot, then it's not going to be successful. It's like anything around change management inside of a company. It needs to come with the small internal marketing campaign so that you can actually give it the best chance and the most representative results in essence.

Vanessa Gilardi: The world of work has taught us very early on to be a bit binary in looking at all resources. For instance, that's either a question of whether you are an employee or not. But I think you can be an employee in different ways and an individual pursuing a different set of goals in the society as well. So, again, it's wellness and mindsets that really needs to be pushed forward and you need some kind of education to get there, but it really comes to a point where we see tremendously people having different trajectory in the career and we want to push that. It's the world of work that has taught us that Millenials and Generation Z are expecting different objectives in their career and not necessarily staying in one line of business. So, we need to probably engineer that in organizations a lot more where we have a lot of movement throughout roles, and role share could be an option. I could typically foresee that when there is a part-time in a role and a part-timing in another, that doesn't mean it's something that cannot be engineered. It might be something that needs support from different different teams to be able to be successful. But I don't think we should start with a negative outlook without having tried. So that trial method is super important. And as long as organizations are open to think differently about the workforce, there are great outcomes that can happen from those discussions. And basically, it's going to be pushed by the employees themselves. So, we are much more in an employee-led market than we were, say, 10 years ago. This is something to take into account, so we can talk about digitalisation bringing robotization and automation. Yes, it will impact jobs, but the essence of the relationship that we need to have with our clients will remain very much led by human interaction. And that's something that will be embedded by having employees being engaged and engaged by different ways and meaning of being connected with the organization and working flexibly is one big piece of.

Sophie Smallwood: That's right. It's looking at, as you said, the human connection in a world where we're looking at automation and we know roles are going to be replaced, or parts of roles will be replaced by technology. This is a way for people to augment people and putting strengths and skills and experiences together. I know you guys are not offering shared roles today at Bank of Canada, but I think it's exciting and I see potential opportunities in the future to trial. But let me ask you, why share roles at Bank of Canada?

Vanessa Gilardi: Because it's just the right thing to do. It's thinking about how to be more engaged with or being more connected and about loyalty. And I think whatever makes common sense is always something that needs to be taken into account.

Sophie Smallwood: Why not share roles at Bank of Canada?

Vanessa Gilardi: Mindset and education. That needs to still happen and be at the top of the conversation. I am quite confident those conversations will happen. It's just a question of probably messaging from the top and being able to embed that to the strategy but we've been there. We have done a lot of work and flexible working. I think it's probably the next step.

Sophie Smallwood: So say you're willing to trial shared roles. What would you want from potential candidates in order to make it happen?

Vanessa Gilardi: I think that's where we started the discussion. One of the very important piece of a successful role sharing is matching. And I think that's probably why some of the opportunities that I have put out there have failed. The matching is so key to a role sharing exercise to work that it really requires great competencies as being able to bring together those sort of match. And that's why role sharing is very at the forefront of reflection. It is how to think about that broadly and being able to really calibre candidates for a particular role. So I guess it's also something that organizations don't have the capabilities and the skill sets yet to to be better at job matching. But if you think about recruitment is just a step ahead and I don't see restriction or risk or issues to do that going forward. I'm sure this is a natural step that will be established and embedded into the recruitment process.

Sophie Smallwood: What types of skills do you think people need to be aligned on?

Vanessa Gilardi: You have to start with people who are extremely thinking collaboratively, being very open at the outset, being ready to change. I think change management is going to be pretty embedded into any role share anyway. I'm flexible, obviously and also very committed, committed, and motivated. I think that requires to anyone considering to jump to a commitment to really be able to think differently, because the world of work has put a lot of individual competition against each other. Role sharing is about collaboratively thinking for a few people for once in a role. So I think it's really a mindset that has not probably made an organization for a long time.

Sophie Smallwood: And once you have two people potentially matched or a person who has potentially a couple of good matches for a role within Bank of Canada, what would you need from them beyond that point? Do you have expectations, right? This would be something new from Bank of Canada, so great they present the matches to you. What else would you like to see from them as you consider the approval of a shared role?

Vanessa Gilardi: I think support, support on onboarding, as well as both educating people that are matched as well as managers because it's a partnership. And so a partnership always works better when there is a very clear sense of goals and expectation for both parties. And so coming with a sense of guidance as well as how success look like is proving very important to start the conversation and the relationship together.

Sophie Smallwood: So you would want them to lay out, in essence, a plan with goals and their mutual vision in essence?

Vanessa Gilardi: Absolutely. I think it's important. That said, this plan can actually evolve all the time. Starting with a clear message. And what's the expectation from the manager as well? To be able to really start fresh and with a clear mindset is very important just because it's a new environment and clarification or sometimes a good set of guidance that we can give to anyone to to start actively and positively to a new position.

Sophie Smallwood: Who are the key stakeholders, in your opinion, to enable these types of future of working arrangements inside of an organization?

Vanessa Gilardi: The leadership on the I think it's people managers and people managers are really the key focus into anything that we need to drill down in terms of the beginning a new culture of work. If top leadership wants to embed a strategy, but it's not embedded by the people manager, nothing is going to work the way the organization wants to. It's really a partnership between the strategy, the leadership and people that have day to day interaction with the teams.

Sophie Smallwood: Right. So people, managers, the leadership, any specific arm of leadership, are we thinking arose CFOs, CIOs?

Vanessa Gilardi: Business heads, because they are the ones who see obviously the results of the performance towards the declines. And I think they are the ones that we should be engaging with this new type of work.

Sophie Smallwood: And that was Vanessa Gilardi, head of H.R. at Royal Bank of Canada in Europe. So while C.H.R.O, and people who want to share roles are the ones bringing the topic of shared roles into organizations. It's the business heads and the line managers that seem to have the final say. So how do we encourage more line managers to go for it? I'd say, one, hire empathetic leaders, two show them the benefits of new working arrangements, and three, show them how easy it will be. I'm Sophie Smallwood, co-founder of Roleshare.com. Thanks for listening and join us for the next episode of Talk with RoleShare.


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