Citibank International, Greece: equal opportunities policy
Citibank, a US-owned subsidiary operating in Greece since 1964, provides banking and insurance-related services. With a network of 57 bank branches all over Greece, it employs 1,400 people. Some 40% of the Greek employees are men and 60% are women. The age profile of employees is as follows: 32% of workers are between 20–30 years old; 46% are between 30–40 years old; 16% are between 40–50 years old; and 6% are 50–60 years old. All of the employees are white-collar workers. Internal promotion is estimated at 8% per annum, with a 1% retirement rate. The staff turnover rate is 4% per annum. Employees mainly consist of university graduates, and in the higher staff grades employees usually have a masters degree. Citibank also employs staff from higher technical colleges (TEI) and private colleges (IEK). There are no problems with labour supply and all vacancies are filled within one month. Postgraduate staff are employed mainly in financial services and in central administration.
Significant changes in the past decade include the expansion of services, e.g. CitiPrivilege, a new investment plan in collaboration with seven international investment houses, and Citibank’s entry in 2001 into a pan-European organisation, which makes it the largest foreign bank in the European Union.
Human resources (HR) policy is focused on employment stability and on development and training for all staff, with the involvement of older workers as mentors. Although the works council is consulted, company policy originates from the management.
The original initiative
Citibank describes itself as a learning organisation, promoting ongoing innovation, continuous learning and team-work. One positive aspect of the company’s non-discrimination policy has been the use of older workers as trainers and mentors of younger employees. This has enhanced the company’s ‘cognitive culture’ by maximising the practical knowledge and experience of older workers. The effects of this measure are perceived as being positive for the company, since older workers are able to pass their knowledge on to the new generation, thus corporate continuity is not lost. At the same time, the experience of older employees is recognised through their work as trainers and mentors, while younger employees are able to obtain the support of the ‘veterans’ as they gain experience. A negative consequence is the higher costs entailed in employing the older workers; however, Citibank believes the benefits outweigh this. The introduction of new technology has forced the company to undertake training for all staff. Older employees did not report learning difficulties in this respect.
The company’s equal opportunities policy, which originated in the US, prohibited discrimination on the basis of age and gender. Payment was not based on seniority and salary levels were related to merit, i.e. job positions and performance levels. Older employees remain with the company until retirement.
The use of older workers as mentors is a policy and practice that is easily transferable to many other business sectors.
Good practice today
There have been no substantive changes in the company’s HR policy or in its policy towards older workers. Citibank’s equal opportunities and non-discrimination policies are implemented rigorously and discrimination, especially on the basis of age, is prohibited. The commitment to non-discrimination on an age basis is reflected in all the company’s practices from recruitment to promotion, to training and evaluation. The good practice of using older workers as mentors has remained in place.
In collaboration with the managers of each branch and department, training curricula are developed and available training places are announced to all employees. The availability of training courses for all employees provides greater opportunities for self-development and a life course development schedule is in place for staff members who wish to be promoted within the bank. Due to the bank’s expansion in recent years, the retention and development of senior staff with knowledge and experience is extremely important. Continuous training has ensured that staff members are kept abreast of developments, e.g. in IT or management methods, which new employees tend to be familiar with only through their studies. The company continues to value its older staff members by ensuring that they act, where appropriate, as trainers and mentors to the younger staff members, passing on their knowledge to the new generation. This ensures that this continuity in experience, e.g. knowledge about customers, procedures and networks, is not lost. Younger employees benefit by gaining the moral, practical and knowledge support of older workers when starting out in their careers. Despite the higher costs associated with the employment of older workers, i.e. salaries and additional benefits, the company estimates that the benefits outweigh these costs.
There are very clear benefits associated with the implementation of a non-discrimination and equal opportunities policy: the company’s HR policy is transparent and clear to employees in relation to recruitment, promotion, training and evaluation and as a result, employees feel more secure. In addition, employees’ productivity has risen and their motivation to remain and work well within the company is high, as demonstrated by the low employee turnover. This policy has remained stable over time, and although there are some rewards for long service, essentially bonuses and promotion are not given on the basis of age. The consistency in the company’s policies also makes employees feel secure; thus, even if the individual managers change, there will be no substantive change in the HR policy.
The company’s commitment to its older workers is part of a continuous effort to recognise and provide certain benefits to long-serving staff. Benefits for long-term employees include:
• more extensive holiday leave (up to 32 days);
• annual medical checks for all employees, which are more extensive for older employees in order to detect any age-related problems;
• a pension programme for employees with more than 10 years of service;
• full salary to those on sick leave for more than 15 days;
• a bonus offered to all employees who obtain their university degree while employed at the bank.
Citibank also places an emphasis on health and safety issues and finances full-coverage private medical and pharmacy insurance for each employee and their family.
Contact: Christina Kefala, Email: Christina.firstname.lastname@example.org, Telephone: + (210) 9293000
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