Business – Banking – Management – Marketing & Sales

Historical pitfalls concerning career management within European banks



Category: Staff’s Motivation

Presentation of the European banks’ traditional practices

In many of the retail banks from western European countries, career management was characterised by:

- the initial entry of staff tended to be early in the career and at a low level. Even, in some banks, only positions at the lower end of hierarchy were filled with people from outside.

- banks offered long careers within one establishment (lifetime career paths). Employees tended to remain in the same bank for a long time.

So, there was a clear tendency to give priority to internal promotion vs external selection. Promotion to managerial positions was a selection process almost exclusively focussed on internal staff, job vacancies being covered by internal candidates (in-house promotion “coming from the ranks”).  Even if this has changed a lot, due to the recruitment of young graduates, there is still a will to preserve progression possibilities for managers who come from the ranks, to avoid discouragement.

- official progression channels were designed according to precise rules and procedures, along exact structures, systems that were predefined and, most of the time, uniform for every individual and cleared at comparable speeds.

Thus, career progressions were slow.

- criteria used for promotion were traditionally based more on seniority, passing through linear advancement, than on individual contribution or actual performance. Nowadays, seniority often goes on playing a preponderant role, even if it is hotly debated.

- most decisions were taken in a rather short-term perspective: for instance, there was almost no succession planning.

- there was little tradition of (internal) job mobility, which appears to be an obstacle to promotions (little progression towards taking responsibility):

- either geographically, the staff having a strong regional attachment, leading to great sedentariness,

- or cross-functionally: career development is very hierarchically formed. Often, careers used to take place “in the chimney” (within the same functions).

To day this situation is changing quickly, as young graduates perturb internal rules of stability and automatic and egalitarian progressions, sometimes inducing tensions.

Discussion of the impacts of such practices… and research of other ways to manage careers


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