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Banking on Recruitment

“If you have ever felt under pressure to recruit, spare a thought for us when we were faced with this dilemma”, writes Vincent Owen, who contributes this case study.

ImageTasked with the job of the recruitment, induction and training of around 60 staff by a major international bank operating in Uganda, Vincent and his team were able to pull out the stops and deliver – just in time.


A local bank in Uganda found itself in financial difficulties and had, as a result, to close down. Other banks operating in the country were offered the opportunity to acquire branches of the closed bank and the subject international bank agreed to take over four branches, one in Kampala and three in other towns a distance away from the capital. A key condition of taking over the branches was that they would have to open within 90 days, offering full services to customers.

The Challenge

The key challenges faced by the international bank included:

  • Recruiting and training sufficient staff to operate the new branches
  • Refurbishing and fitting out the premises to the acquiring bank’s standards
  • Acquiring and providing appropriate technology within the new premises
  • Addressing the operational issues of acquiring new accounts from the previous bank

The Approach

A number of project teams were established under an overall Steering Committee to address the challenges indicated above. My team was specifically charged with addressing the recruitment and training issues.

The Recruitment

The staffing requirements for the new branches were in the region of 60 people of which four per branch were at the middle management level and the remainder at first line management and clerical levels. A few members of the existing staff were identified to play key roles in the new branches but the remainder needed to be recruited, inducted and trained within the 90 day period to ensure that the branches could open on time.

Following advertising, a significant number of applications were received. These were analysed by the Human Resources team and a number selected for interview.

ImageFollowing interviews, around 80 to 100 applicants were short-listed and invited to attend a testing centre to further establish their suitability. Applicants took verbal and numerical reasoning tests as well as completing a personality questionnaire. This enabled the applicant list to be refined further.  On the basis of interviews and test results, the bank made offers of employment to fill the first line management and clerical positions and the vast majority of offers were accepted.

For the managerial positions, there was a further stage of recruitment by means of Assessment Centres and around 30 candidates were invited to attend these Centres to finally determine their suitability.  The Centre, used by the bank in other African countries, was designed to test applicants’ level of capability against a number of managerial core competencies in use in the bank through a series of activities, observed by assessors.  However, it had never been used in Uganda.

A member of the Human Resources team experienced in the use of this vehicle was given the task of training four senior managers for their roles and responsibilities during the event – one day before the Assessment Centre was scheduled to run. The managers were all heads of the respective functions within the bank and, following the completion of the Centre, it was to be their joint decision as to which candidates would receive a job offer.

The Assessment Centres ran successfully and by late into the evening of the second and final day, the managers had identified suitable candidates to fill all the available positions. On the following day formal offers of employment were sent to the successful candidates, all of whom accepted.

In total, the whole recruitment process was completed within a period of four weeks.

A key condition of taking over the branches was that they would have to open within 90 days, offering full services to customers.

Induction and Training

The selected candidates were able to join the bank very quickly and a one-day induction programme was run at a local hotel to introduce the new employees to the organisation, its background and its approach to doing business.

As a good percentage of the new staff was either starting their first job or had never worked in a bank previously, a comprehensive training programme was put in place.  This needed to get everyone up to the required level of expertise, both in the technical banking aspects of their roles and the use of the bank’s systems and technology in readiness for opening.

Experienced staff from both Uganda and neighbouring countries ran a number of training programmes in their area of expertise and a number of the new recruits were sent to other countries within the bank’s African network both to attend specific training courses and to learn about their new roles by working “on the job” in branches.

The Outcome

In parallel with the Human Resources team’s activities, the other aspects of premises refurbishment, technology installation and testing and the operational activities went on in accordance with their objectives.

The four new branches successfully opened on time.

Vincent Owen is a Senior Consultant with Interims for Development and has extensive experience of recruitment, assessment centre design, training needs analysis, design and delivery in Africa.

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