In October 2018, the Establishment Office of the IBCB commissioned the UK Banking Standards Board to conduct the first culture survey of Irish bank staff. The survey focused on exploring bank staff’s views on a range of issues which lie at the heart of banking culture. The findings of that survey helped inform elements of the IBCB’s work programme, including staff events on Speaking Up, Staff Pressures and Resilience, and Ethics.
In 2021, the IBCB commissioned Karian and Box to design and conduct the second staff culture survey, now re-branded as the éist industry staff survey. The survey was conducted during the Spring of 2021 a period characterised by immense pressures for many bank customers, staff and the wider economy due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. In addition, there were a number of material announcements from IBCB member banks during this period which will result in changes to organisational structures and the wider banking market in Ireland.
These announcements will have both direct and indirect consequences for many customers and staff and wider stakeholders. These results are therefore very timely and give real insight into culture in a crisis – which is its real test.
The Karian and Box methodology assesses core behavioural traits: Psychological safety; Risk based decision making; Accountability; Diversity of thinking, and a number of critical cultural drivers: Performance management; Aligned processes; Strategic direction; Tone from the top/Leadership behaviours. The survey also included a focus on protecting and promoting the best interests of customers; and Integrity & Ethics.
10,648 staff participated in the survey, which is almost 50% of all staff across our member banks. We are very pleased that the results show real progress on cultural change has been made across all IBCB member banks in the period since 2018 – a strong emphasis on the customer is evident across all 5 banks and there has been a material improvement in staff’s confidence levels in Speaking Up – which is core to an effective culture.
- Staff across the sector reported material improvements in how their organisation does business – of particular note is that 85% of staff consider that in their bank, people do business in an ethical manner – this is well ahead of the global FS benchmark – by a full 9 percentage points;
- Related to this is a 10-point improvement since 2018 in staff’s perception of the alignment between their bank’s stated values and how it does business – or in other words what is said and what is done;
- 3 in 5 bank staff (58%) feel that their organisation’s commitment to building a speak-up culture has strengthened and importantly there has been a 10-point increase to 69% of those who had a concern and felt comfortable to raise it in the period;
- A further very positive finding for the Irish sector is that 75% of staff report that people who make a mistake are treated fairly – this is a key indicator of culture – reflective of ‘organisational justice’ and is 3 points ahead of the global benchmark;
- Overall, two thirds of bank staff are positive about the day-to-day culture in their organisation – in particular, emphasising a strong customer focus and risk awareness across the sector. However, while this score has improved since 2018, it remains below the global FS benchmark (by 12 points) pointing to continued room for improvement.
Specific areas where the Irish sector scores lower than the FS benchmark relate primarily to the more operational aspects of internal bank culture – staff have cited bureaucracy, inefficient processes and procedures as areas that need to be addressed. The survey results point to a need for senior leaders to do more to really role-model the right behaviours – particularly as regards ways of working such as the need to manage workload, long hours and the right to disconnect.
The survey also looked to assess overall wellbeing and causes of strain for staff, particularly relevant in the context of some of the pressures on staff as a result of the pandemic, including remote working, home schooling, financial and health stresses. 53% of bank staff reported that, in the past 6 months, they have felt under constant strain at work – concerningly this is 10 points above the global norm and a vital area to address.
Of particular note, 57% of bank staff have stated that they are proud to tell others where they work – this is 16 points behind the global benchmark and clearly of real concern. It is imperative that this be examined further and addressed as the banking industry needs to attract and retain staff who have a strong sense of pride, both in the industry and their employer, for it to flourish into the future.
The results of the Bank Staff survey will shape the areas of focus in our work programme in 2021/22 and beyond. We intend conducting this survey on two year intervals.