EurWORK European Observatory of Working Life

BNL, Italy: Fostering employability


Organisation Size: 
Financial services
Fostering employability

In 2004, Banca Nazionale del Lavoro (BNL) and the trade unions signed an agreement that focused on continuous training and lifelong learning. The agreement provides for employee-tailored training measures and training supply depending on the professional area. An innovative element of the agreement is the introduction of the ‘training credit’ in order to guarantee the right of training for a longer period and to optimise attendance on the training course.

Organisational background

BNL was founded in 1913 as the ‘Istituto di Credito per la Cooperazione’; it adopted its current name in 1929. In 1992, BNL changed its status from a state-owned bank, 80% controlled by the Italian Treasury, into a joint-stock company. In November 1998, it was privatised through a public tender offer. Today BNL is the sixth biggest Italian banking group and ranks amongst the top 60 European banks and the top 100 banks in the world in terms of total assets. Following the completion of the public tender offer by BNP Paribas S.A, BNL became part of a large international group which works in France and in other 85 countries and is ranked the 17th worldwide group by Forbes.

BNP Paribas is an international network with European nationality and French origin. It is a leader in financial services, with a market capitalisation of 70 billion Euros, and No. 2 Company in the eurozone with a net income of Euro 6.3 billion in the year 2005. Today the participation of BNP Paribas S.A in BNL ordinary assets amounts to over 99%. BNL is organised into five regions and each region has its own independent management structure. Each region coincides with one or more Italian regions. In 2006, the total BNL employment was 15,830 employees (33.9% of whom were women) and it has about 900 branches. BNL is a member of the employer organisation Abi (Associazione Bancaria Italiana).

There is no Unitary Workplace Union Structure (RSU) in BNL, but there are still plant-level Union Structures (RSA), one for each federation (Fiba/Cisl, Fisac/Cgil,Uil C.A., Dircredito, Fabi, Sinfub, Falcri, Ugl Credito e Silcea). Each federation has its own coordination committee at national level, composed of plant-level representatives and trade unionists. The coordination committees appoint a negotiating committee that is entitled to negotiate with the central management. Union density is 61%.

Description of the initiative

The idea of investing in training as an instrument for increasing competitiveness represents one of the main cornerstones of the ‘Protocol on sustainable and compatible development of the banking sector’ signed by the trade unions in June 2004. The principles of the protocol inspired the following industry-wide agreement for the banking sector, including the training agreement signed by BNL. The main objectives of the training programme are to develop the individual’s skills, to support the industrial changes affecting the banking sector through favouring interchangeability, to hold the professional value of human resources in high esteem, to foster employability and to maintain employment levels.

The training agreement signed in July 2004 provides for a more flexible and accessible training provision aimed not only at improving the vocational profile, but also at favouring the development of autonomous growth paths for each employee according to the idea of employability. The agreement is the result of a long dialogue process among the social partners, which, after the initial phases of analysis and assessment of the training supply at BNL, brought about the establishment of a technical committee with the view of examining the current transformation processes and putting forward the two-year Training Plan.

The definition of the Training Plan takes into consideration all the information and suggestions coming from:

  • Operative Plan;
  • restructuring plans at the company level;
  • Personnel Plans;
  • the different heads of those departments involved in the training courses;
  • the training needs identified and codified within the evaluation system;
  • the analysis of the training department on those subjects in which the company intends to invest;
  • legal norms.

The BNL training system offers three different training programmes:

  • Professional Programme: This programme is essentially focused on the technical and specialised job competencies. The programme is different for each professional area: business development, operative management, credits, ICT, finance and human resources.
  • Training on ‘Company Community’: This programme essentially focuses on the distinctive competencies in BNL. The programme is different for the executives, management, ‘talents’ and young people.
  • ‘Ad hoc’ training on specific projects or business needs: The programmes concentrate on several themes, such as managerial behaviour, information science and technical sophistication.

Each training programme is composed of five modules: an introduction module, three separate technical and/or motivational modules and a conclusive module. Participation in modules will depend on the employees’ seniority. A new employee should participate in the whole programme (five modules), while a senior employee should focus more on the ad hoc training in order to guarantee continuous growth of the competencies he already has.

The training courses consist of either e-learning, theory lessons at the workplace or mixed models (at home and at work).

An innovative element of the agreement is the chance for the employee to benefit from a ‘training credit’: this means that the training hours that remained unused during the year do not vanish at the end of that year, but rather the employee maintains the right to use them in the next year. In 2005, this time credit scheme became part of the national contract in the credit sector.

The agreement establishes that the social partners are responsible for monitoring and verifying the correct implementation of the programmes and have to intervene where necessary. After two years, the social partners have to analyse the results of the training courses and have the chance to lay down new initiatives or to modify the programmes. In order to monitor the satisfaction level of the employees, BNL also conducts user acceptance analysis.


The social partners have agreed that lifelong learning and continuous training are the keys to ensure the company’s competitiveness, to safeguard jobs and to increase the employability of its employees. The agreement was signed with the aim of continuously upgrading and adapting the knowledge of the employee in the workplace as well as in personal life.

The agreement is the result of a full collaboration between the social partners. Indeed, they managed to create an innovative, flexible training programme that is:

  • structured, through specific modules;
  • innovative, as it provides for e-learning, workplace training and mixed modules; it has also introduced the ‘training credit’ to increase employee participation in the programmes;
  • dynamic regarding the various tasks and the needs of the employees depending on public demands.

In 2004, more than 20,000 training days were scheduled: 68% for the retail sector, 23.8% in the operative sector, 7.6% in the corporate sector and 1.5% in the private sector, accounting for almost one-third of the employees. The number of training days per person has been increasing over the last few years, from 2,943 (2003) to 3,842 (2004) to 7,917 (2005).

Exemplary and contextual factors

The agreement on continuous training and lifelong learning is an exemplary case in fostering employability at company level as it improves the quality and the adaptability of the workforce by increasing BNL’s competitiveness. The training system consists of a vast range of programmes divided into professional and productive areas. The ‘training credit’ has been used as a model and is inserted into the new national agreement for the credit sector.

Davide Dazzi, Fondazione Istituto per il Lavoro, Bolgona

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