For The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc., last year proved the perfect backdrop for meeting learning and development goals as the company completed the largest acquisition in its history.
By Margery Weinstein
While training and development have always been a priority for PNC, in 2010 the company climbed one step higher. The acquisition of National City Corporation—one of the largest in banking history—brought with it the added challenge of converting 6 million customers and 1,400 branches within 18 months. To successfully create one unified company, PNC worked to enhance the skills and knowledge of employees in both legacy organizations, acknowledging the key role training plays in its ability to deliver the service its customers need and the results its investors expect. Business leaders from both legacy organizations were critical training participation advocates and content collaborators to ensure training was effective, practical, and customer focused. Thorough programming that accounts for a variety of learning styles, and the ability to adapt that programming to meet the business challenges the company faced as a result of the National City acquisition, made PNC a training standout in 2010.
As part of the National City integration, training worked closely with PNC’s Corporate & Institutional Business (C&IB) segment leaders to develop and deliver an innovative way to illustrate how integration activities produce real-life outcomes for employees. The C&IB segment provided subject-matter
expertise to create several “Day in the Life” (DITL) sessions to demonstrate what a relationship manager’s (RM) typical day would be like in the weeks and months following the first wave of customer conversions. Through role-playing and videos, the sessions used everyday situations and humor to depict life in the new combined PNC organization and what legacy National City employees needed to do to prepare for their new jobs.
The DITL sessions directed participants to training programs and provided them with a “Personal Conversion Checklist” that outlined key steps to take prior to the integration from a business, client, and training perspective. Participants also were given a “Success Guide” containing job aids and resources on key business topics and materials.
DITL sessions initially were presented in 14 different markets and supported more than 1,500 integrating employees, from
administrative staff to senior executives. Following the success of the DITL sessions, the company launched “Conversion Readiness Forums” to incorporate feedback from the first integration wave. The agenda reinforced what employees had learned about new systems, processes, and policies, as well as challenges colleagues in other waves had experienced. These efforts paid off, as C&IB experienced its most successful integration to date.
Retaining and Growing Customers
With the National City integration affecting thousands of customers, PNC focused on preparing its employees to effectively address customers’ concerns. To ensure the quality customers expect at each of its retail branches, the company leveraged its Partners Program, which PNC University created in 1995, and now is considered a company best practice. Initially used with tellers and customer service employees at retail branches, it now is used by all lines of business.
Months before integration, businesses match newly acquired employees (mentees) with a legacy PNC mentor (partner) based on position, experience, and strengths. Partners receive extensive training from PNC University and are equipped with a handbook that details everything from how to make travel arrangements to lists of key business contacts. The partners contact their mentees frequently, and are onsite a few days prior to, and up to three weeks after, operational integration.
During this time, PNC University hosts daily check-in calls with partners and mentees to monitor program effectiveness and provide support. After integration, each business assumes ongoing management, measurement, and success of the program.
Through the previous six acquisitions, PNC deployed 2,200 partners. With the acquisition of National City, an additional 1,400 partners were deployed. The results proved the program was a success: PNC’s integration of National City was completed in four geographic waves. Teller partners were not used in Wave 1, and the day one average error rate was 12.39. The partners’ program was initiated for Wave 2, and the day one average error rate dropped to 9.84. Further refinements for Wave 3 resulted in a day one average error rate of 5.71. The largest number of branches was converted in Wave 4, and the day one average error rate was 7.07. Feedback from market executives and branch-level management indicated conversion could not have been successful without the partners’ help. Customer feedback confirmed appreciation of the on-site presence, and calls to the Integration Project Command Center were almost nonexistent over the integration weekends.
Additionally, PNC launched Retirement and Investment Training, a corporate-wide initiative to grow PNC’s retirement and investing business. The purpose is to equip participants with consumer retirement strategies and apply them to customer situations.
Three training modules were completed in 2010: PNC IRA Fundamentals, Roth IRA Conversions, and Roth IRA. As of September 2010, more than 730 participants had enrolled, posting a 99 percent completion rate. Among participants who completed both assessments, the pre-training score average was 51 percent, while post-training was 92 percent. The business reached 120 percent of its sales goal by August 2010, attributable, in part, PNC says, to the success of this training.
With an eye toward the future, PNC remained focused on continuing to build its next generation of bank leaders through its rotational Retail Bank Development Program, known as ACCEL, a 12-month program geared toward recent college graduates who demonstrate exceptional leadership potential, and, in some
cases, have been employed previously by PNC.
In collaboration with senior leaders, a comprehensive learning plan was designed to guide participants and help managers coach and mentor associates. The plan outlines classroom and Web-based training, experiential learning activities, sales goals, and learning outcomes by month. Curriculum components include four key rotations within the Branch and Business Banking divisions. Once the initial foundation of the program is completed, associates follow a specific learning track based on their future placement as an assistant branch manager, branch manager, or business banker.
“The ACCEL program is the lifeblood of new energy and ideas for the retail bank,” says James Balouris, executive vice president, Retail Bank. “Associates in this program challenge the norm, which pushes all employees to greater achievement.”
In addition to keeping customers satisfied and cultivating leaders, PNC also converted its Human Resources (HR) systems in 2010. Employee and manager training were key components of this conversion. PNC University provided required Web-based training to all 50,000 employees, tailored by role and organization for maximum relevancy. Each module covered key impacts, “just-in-time” learning, and available online help.
The integrated online help feature was built using Oracle’s Universal Productivity Kit (UPK), which allows employees to utilize their preferred method of learning through one of four approaches: See It!, Try It!, Do It!, or Print It! See It! offers a short instruction video demonstrating how a task is completed. Try It! lets employees practice by entering transactions, with coaching, in a simulated version of the system. Do It! lets employees enter transactions in the live system, while the Help coaching tool walks them through the task. Print It! allows printing of the step-by-step procedures.
Following the training, employee survey responses were favorable. The ability to select the preferred method of learning was a major positive, and preferences were distributed equally across the four methods. Employees also cited the ease with which they could quickly review only the task they needed to learn. A high percentage of respondents would like to see this approach applied to other system trainings. “PNC University provided tremendous support for the organization at a time of significant change,” says Joan Gulley, chief human resources officer. “With a focus on equipping employees to achieve business objectives, we saw exceptional results in a short period of time.”
The company’s unique approach to learning extends to utilizing the latest in technology to make training more stimulating and effective. PNC University is leveraging advanced audio and video development resources (e.g., Camtasia and Captivate) to build more interactive and visually appealing learning modules. PNC anticipates incorporating these learning techniques into future mobile learning.
For instance, the PNC training team’s ability to use new technology to improve employee development was seen in PNC Connections. “Connections,” a business knowledge network for online collaboration, was introduced in 2010 as part of PNC’s ongoing intranet enhancements. Employees now have an easily accessible way to locate expertise, share information, collaborate on projects, and take advantage of the organization’s collective knowledge. It offers a multitude of tools that connect employees to a network of co-workers, communities, and shared resources. Key features include profiles, communities, calendars, file sharing, blogs, wikis, and bookmarks.
Several executives have been using the blog as a communications tool. Employee groups with common interests have established communities, allowing members to transcend geographic boundaries and grow relationships across the enterprise. This has increased employee engagement and enhanced professional growth opportunities for individuals who work remotely.
With the completion of the National City conversion a success, the next training innovation always seems to be just around the corner at PNC. Its learning leaders are careful to connect each innovation to long-term business goals. “Hallmarks of PNC’s success include a commitment to teamwork throughout every level of the organization,” says Robin Connolly, chief learning officer. “The challenges of the integration demanded early involvement in business strategy, collaboration with diverse partners, and the continual refinement of our execution model. We achieved our goals and positioned the organization to face what is next with confidence.”