Mihaela Bitu, CEO ING Bank Romania: “Leaders have the responsibility to empower and engage constantly with their teams”
“Internal communication is essential in any circumstance, and even more so in times of crisis. In this period, we have intensified communication with our employees. We used the same transparent approach that we normally follow, while introducing new virtual activities to maintain a sense of belongingness and to help people go through this difficult period, and remind that we continue to be a united team, that they can rely upon,” Mihaela Bitu, CEO ING Bank Romania told The Diplomat-Bucharest.
“As leaders, we have the responsibility to empower and engage constantly with our teams. By doing so, we can constantly strive to improve life of our employees, the experience of our clients and the success of our organization.”
How can a CEO and leader of an organization capitalize on the current challenges to enhance and promote the company’s competition advantages currently?
Accelerate going digital and the new ways of working are the two more obvious answers. At ING, we have constantly promoted digital/ mobile banking services and the current context determines us to even accelerate our plans. We are perceived by many as a digital leader in the local banking sector and we intend to take new steps in this direction and to further capitalize on our strengths. Not only our services changed and became increasingly digital over the years, but our organization has also changed significantly. Nowadays, about 25% of our employees are working in the IT domain and we reduced over time the proportion of the staff working in operational areas. For instance, two years ago we undertook the bold move of closing counters in the corporate branches and substituting the traditional counter service with innovative, modern solutions. We believe our strategy and direction remain very relevant in the current context, which can only determine us to accelerate on our path.
Which are the current concerns of a CEO / leader in 2020? Which are the hopes for 2021?
Our main concern this year has been the safety and health of our employees and customers, but also of the vulnerable communities. We strive to be a socially responsible company, we focused on supporting financial health programs such as Banometru, and we donated over RON 3 million, together with our friends from ING Tech, to support the sanitary system in the fight against Covid-19.
Naturally, we have also taken measures to protect our business and to adapt to the changed economic and social environment. Adaptability and efficiency will continue to be extremely important in 2021. Hopes are that the economic situation will recover, even if not fully, and we will all be able to return gradually to normality, or to a new normal, as many expect. In our case for instance, we have already decided that we will target a proportion of 40% work from home, after the pandemic.
What kind of innovative measures and inclusive leadership initiatives have been applied within your organization this year, to better cope with the current context and bring the business forward in 2021?
Internal communication is essential in any circumstance, and even more so in times of crisis. In this period, we have intensified communication with our employees. We used the same transparent approach that we normally follow, while introducing new virtual activities to maintain a sense of belongingness and to help people go through this difficult period, and remind that we continue to be a united team, that they can rely upon.
During lockdown, we launched a new platform for internal communication – Yammer, which attracted over 1,600 active users (out of 2,200 employees) in just two week and allows an interactive, vivid communication within the many self-organized groups. We also organized regular virtual sessions and townhalls to inform about the bank’s current situation and future plans.
Aside from rolling out in record time the necessary infrastructure to accommodate remote work for over 90% of our staff in, we also shipped to our employees’ homes chairs and monitors, on top of the mobile devices that we all had even before the pandemic. Ergonomics of the working space is extremely important for both health and productivity, and we tried to bridge that gap, as many people do not have a proper working space at home.
Moreover, adjusting to a new job in the current circumstances can be quite difficult. Therefore, we created a new onboarding strategy for new employees, so they can integrate as quickly as possible and not be overwhelmed by the volume of information. We tried to focus more on video content – lots of conversations on Skype/ Microsoft Teams, webinars and we tried to have everything clear, transparent, and friendly.
We also have programs like an internal Hackathon that could not survive year after year without the soul and minds of our employees – each year, they come with proposals on how to improve the service offered to clients, our Life@ING or, this year, our internal processes in order to be more efficient.
As leaders, we have the responsibility to empower and engage constantly with our teams. By doing so, we can constantly strive to improve life of our employees, the experience of our clients and the success of our organization.