Careers in Poland: Many employers say that people are the most important asset in their company. How does Citi understand these words?
Adriana Piotrowska-Milczarek: The financial sector, including banks, is a specific environment that relies heavily on people and their interactions with clients. It is the team that is crucial – not tangible assets such as property or machines. This is because our product is not goods, but services, which come from people, their knowledge and skills. Therefore, investing in human resources is one of the key elements in our company’s development strategy. What we offer to our clients derives from the creativity and innovation of our employees. It is logical that constant development of human capital is of great importance to us. We have to bear in mind that nowadays competitiveness is not measured by price, but by value added to a product or service, and their quality is shaped by the experience of our experts.
How do you invest then in the development of your employees?
Citi offers a range of perspectives for personal growth, but what makes us stand out from the crowd is the fact that we focus on individual careers by providing guidance from a manager and putting it in a global context. We take the line that there are three important parts to any employee’s development: the employee, their manager and the organisation. Managers at Citi are career sponsors – we teach them to perceive their employees not as tools in achieving their goals, but as people, whose value is gradually increasing in the long run. Supervisors enable their employees to see their role in the organisation, their abilities, knowledge and contribution in an objective manner. The third part of this process, Citi, provides them with proper tools and strives to give them new growth opportunities.
It is enough to look at our website and the tab devoted to global jobs at Citi. Each and every one of our employees can participate in the recruitment process. For instance, if a financist from our Warsaw office wants to relocate to the USA, we will not discourage them, on the contrary, we are always supportive of such decisions. Then comes the manager, whose task is to help the employee realise their potential, improve their skills and, eventually, make the right career decisions. What is more important, Citi always makes use of internal recruitment when looking for new employees in various offices around the world. An impressive 80 per cent of vacancies are filled in this way. Only if there are no suitable candidates among our employees do we direct our offer to a wider audience.
The most effective way of enhancing an employee’s growth is to let them gain experience, preferably through allowing them to approach tasks, during which they learn from other co-workers. Citi creates a working environment that encourages knowledge-sharing. Thanks to its global structure, our employees are able to participate in interesting international projects, which allows them to improve not only their knowledge of the task at hand, but also helps them develop cultural sensitivity and accept diversity.
The last thing I would like to touch upon is the formal ways of gaining knowledge. Citi gives access to learning platforms (in the MOOC system) which contain courses offered by renowned universities from around the world – Harvard, MIT and Stanford. We have also designed a dedicated mobile app called Development Insights/s4k with many articles and training programmes on developing soft skills, as well as hard skills related to finances. Apart from that, Citi invests in the development of management teams, offering them a lot of training on leadership skills. These include: Managing at Citi, Leading at Citi, Coaching for Results, Working Virtually at Citi, and Change Leader.
So you create a knowledge-based organisation that gives its members development opportunities and leaves it to them to decide whether and how they take them. Since knowledge transfer is so important at Citi, does this mean the company develops coaching and mentoring skills in its managers?
This is one point in our leadership training. We try hard to enrich the culture of cooperation and the ability to build relations based on trust and empathy in our management. Coaching is a part of all such training – it is offered to those who are about to be promoted to a managing position, managers at lower levels and finally executive officers, i.e. those at the very top of the hierarchy. Giving effective feedback and applying coaching are one of the many skills that we want to develop in our managers, regardless of whether they belong to sales, productive or operational departments.
Is Citi supportive of mobility within the organisation? What conditions are there? How do you assist such processes?
Employee mobility within the framework of our company can be divided into two major areas. First of all, employees can decide for themselves whether they want to participate in internal recruitments for a chosen post abroad. On the other hand, there are also many situations in which our employees need to be delegated to another country. In this case, we provide full assistance in handling formalities, both legal (for instance, obtaining a visa) and organisational (finding and paying for accommodation – a hotel when it comes to shorter trips, and a company apartment with regards to longer stays).
If an employee decides to pursue a career abroad, and they have successfully passed recruitment processes, they would receive support in terms of organisational aspects and guidelines for the relocation, but in terms of housing we do not provide such assistance, unless the recipient country has a different stance on that.
How does mobility support personal and professional growth of your employees?
First and foremost, it enhances knowledge transfer within our organisation – each participant of a given project learns from one another. Knowledge of the subject matter is crucial, learning and sharing new practices is vital, but the added value, which is invaluable in today’s world, is enriching one’s horizons by seeing new points of view.
One of our employees, who is currently working in the USA, was once delegated to Russia for four months. I caught up with her after her return and she stressed how enriched she was, even on a deeper personal level. Not only did she develop soft skills, but also learnt to interact with people who, despite being our close neighbours, follow different cultural patterns. Such cultural mosaics enable us to get out of our comfort zone and see many challenges from new perspectives, very often through details.
I would like to ask you one final question about the Bring Your Challenge programme. How does it work?
First, let me stress the originality behind the programme’s genesis. The idea of Bring Your Challenge was not born within our HR structures, but actually was initiated by the business departments. Its authors are Terri Gerosa, head of Citi Service Center Poland, and her closest associates, Anna Zawłocka and Paweł Grzegorczuk.
The key to the programme’s success is its simplicity – we got the idea from speed dating, which is also known in Poland. During short meetings, each participant, a Citi employee, has an opportunity to talk to three random mentors who each possess a great deal of experience. Thanks to these conversations, about 10-15 minutes long, each Bring Your Challenge participant leaves the meeting with three, often varying, perspectives on a topic. Let me stress that mentees are not obliged to implement the advice provided during the meeting – realising that there are different points of view, and using this perspective in our workplace, is what matters here. Mentors also see the benefits of taking part in this programme. They get to learn about their employees’ problems and share their experience. Through that, practical knowledge circulates in our organisation and accelerates the growth of human capital.
Bring Your Challenge definitely fits into our company’s development strategy, which focuses on enabling our employees to learn from one another. It was so well-received among them that we decided to launch an online version. We used dedicated software, which is able to imitate a traditional training environment, but with the use of video chat and breakout rooms. Because of these technologies, we can be more flexible and use the experience shared within the global Citi network without the need to have the mentor and mentee present in the same room. As a result, this year we have been able to invite several CCOs (Country Chief Officer) from the Citigroup to share their experience and advice with talented people from the EMEA region. We hope to get Mike Corbat, Citi’s CEO, to participate in this project one day.
Translated by Ewelina Nurczyk
Our expert: Adriana Piotrowska-Milczarek
PL&CEE Citi Learning Cluster Head
With over 20 years of professional experience at Citi, she has been responsible for various projects within the business, product and HR departments, where she was in charge of development, talent management, recruitment and business partnering. Currently she is head of Citi Learning in Poland, Romania, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary. A graduate of the Warsaw School of Economics.