The implementation deadline of the new collective bargaining agreement, 1 January 2020, may seem far away. However, having worked directly with the ABBL on this agreement, I can say that it's much closer than you may think. HR managers will have to spend significant time and effort applying the new model within their institutions, and banks should therefore start now with tackling this exercise.

What is this agreement, exactly?

The collective bargaining agreement (CBA) introduces a job-grading principle that every bank will have to apply to the functions within the agreement's field of application. Essentially, jobs must be graded into four groups as defined in the CBA. HR teams must therefore understand how the methodology operates, the associated criteria, and how to execute this exercise appropriately.

In order to help HR managers with all that, the ABBL has set up, through the House of Training, training sessions. Attending the sessions is probably a good idea: even though the CBA's criteria are meant to be simple and therefore easily applicable, there may be hidden challenges. For example, in applying the new principle, HR staff will discover that it groups functions differently which may affect remuneration dynamics. The exercise should certainly not be taken lightly!

The best way to prepare

The exercise will have to be carried out on the basis of job descriptions. Thus, a few questions to start with might be:

  • Are there already job descriptions within the bank?
  • If so, are they up to date?
  • And do they contain all the elements needed to map them into groups using the given weighting criteria?

HR managers will naturally have to assess which functions are covered by the CBA's framework. In this context, the exercise may also be an opportunity to reassess the positioning of certain jobs whose scopes have changed—whether being under the old CBA but not the new one, or vice versa. It's fairly common to see job titles being specifically created to please the job holder, and implementing the new CBA may be a chance to revisit and rationalise such actions.

Orchestrating a complex exercise

Once the job descriptions are updated, grading workshops must be held. Organisers must think about how long these workshops should last, when they'll take place, and who to involve in them. These items may seem simple, but they are important in the context of the bank's overall goals as well as its corporate culture.

Indeed, some banks have very fast decision-making processes: for them, a good approach may be to have function holders create their own job description, subject to validation by an N+1, which HR could then grade. Other banks may prefer a more extensive validation process (N+1, N+2, staff representatives) before HR begins its grading task. The idea is of course to avoid pushback or non-acceptance of the job-grading results. By no means does one size fit all for banks—cultures differ widely and one bank's modus operandi may be chaotic for another.

The importance of communication

As for any project that has a direct impact on employees, change management is crucial. Communication on the project—not just on the final results, but on the entire process—deserves a specific focus. For example, creating job descriptions may appear tedious: stakeholders ought to be made aware of (and, where necessary, trained in) the methodology used, as well as the project's importance in a larger context.

Some sensitive situations may also arise that need attention, for example if an employee perceives his or her new job positioning as a demotion. Overall, the emotional burden on personnel shouldn't be underestimated during this exercise, and the best way to avoid issues is to communicate early and openly. Finally, perhaps part of the strategic planning should address when the process should kick off, as it may make a difference in connection to the promotion cycle and the implementation date of the CBA.

The KPMG People & Change team supported the ABBL during the creation of the new banking CBA, and we therefore understand the new model and the aims behind it thoroughly. Find out more about our fully adaptable support service here.

Next up on the KPMG Blog:

The new user-friendliness

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.