Getting the best out of the talent they already have is increasingly important for banks in the GCC. People Management spoke to the head of learning and development at Commercial Bank of Dubai (CBD), Neha Mohunta, about the bank’s national development programme, and the direction L&D will take in future.

Since 2015, CBD has been running a UAE national development programme. What are its main goals?

The idea is to proactively identify, recruit and drive the development of UAE nationals to take on senior levels of responsibility that have a positive impact on the banking industry, in line with Dubai’s vision of building a knowledge economy. We are building leaders for tomorrow, today.

This is the second year for us implementing this programme. We have batches of 12-15 individuals in each round and we have success stories of UAE nationals who have gone on to achieve significant progress in their careers. The previously trained nationals will be mentoring the new recruits for 2017.

What are the challenges to finding young leaders? What does the Commercial Bank of Dubai offer to coax them away from public sector jobs?

From previous experience, a common challenge I’ve seen organisations face with such programmes is lack of continuity. After the first 12-18 months, once the structured programme with the vendor partner is over, such initiatives usually fall flat. Participant experience changes from a highly structured programme environment to one where there is ad-hoc support. When this transition is not managed well, there is bound to be lower engagement and poor retention.

However, this is not the case with CBD. Our programme is designed to ensure blended learning solutions – formal, social and experiential – with industry exposure, to create continuity. We support the transition throughout the leadership journey for the participants.

The UAE economy has slowed somewhat. You are now in a cost-conscious environment, so how do you manage L&D successfully?

Cost consciousness is not a recent phenomenon. Organisations across industries and regions have been more aware of it since 2008-2009. L&D in this environment can be viewed as a value creator or a cost centre. We fall in the former category, with a consistent commitment to L&D investment.

Being new to the role, what do you have planned for the future of L&D at the bank?

L&D is identified as one of the top contenders for HR disruption. It is such an evolving space that what is new today will not be relevant tomorrow. That said, the key is to create a ‘pull’ for learning rather than a ‘push’ to attend training.

Our learning roadmap has been designed to reinforce a results focus, accountability, change orientation and flawless execution, which we call RACE. Our top priorities to institutionalise these behaviours are: ensure that learning solutions are relevant to business needs; increase awareness to create ownership for learning and development; offer blended solutions – for example, using massive open online courses, and apply micro learning techniques and experiential learning.

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