Tuesday, June 01, 2010
Those were the early days of computerization in banks. The Reserve Bank of India had drawn up an ambitious scheme of computerization that would ultimately result in networking of branches, ATMs, real time transactions and settlements etc. They were breathing down the necks of Chairmen and Managing Directors of banks who were breathing down the necks of Executive Directors who were breathing down the necks of …
There was a direction from the Reserve Bank of India that the Board of Directors of banks should oversee the implementation of computerization. Towards this end, banks were asked to submit a monthly progress report containing details like the number of computers installed, branches computerized, ATMs installed, the extent of computerization in percentage terms and the like.
One of the directors of the bank I was working for in those days was a youngish management expert. He had had exposure abroad and knew a thing or two about computerization. Having worked for a couple of years in another bank before going abroad for higher studies, he understood banking as well. Naturally, he used to take keen interest when the item on computerization came up for discussion in the Board.
The initial resistance of employees to computers had not yet been overcome. Even those who were interested in learning how to use a PC were afraid of using them for fear of damaging them. Lectures on computerization had not made the desired impact. In short, the progress was rather slow.
It was not just the employees, most of those at the top echelons too were luddites and totally ignorant of how technology worked, how it could be harnessed and how it could make the office a better place to come to and work in, with more time for quality and reactivity, as it would throw drudgery out of the seventh floor window.
The Board, charged with the task of monitoring the progress, was patently exercised over the tardy pace. In one of the meetings of the Board of Directors, a director suggested that there should be a brainstorming session on the steps that could be taken to remove the fear factor. Several ideas were mooted.
I was an invitee to the meeting in my capacity as a General Manager of the bank. Though not in charge of computerization, I shared the experience in one of the departments under my control. It was headed by an enterprising Chief Manager who too was troubled over the lack of enthusiasm on the part of his staff in embracing technology.
He loaded a few simple games like hangman, bricks and word fun in the computer which everybody had access to but few were handling. During lunch hour, he played computer games, sitting alone. Some who passed by stopped to watch. Soon, there were more viewers and interest spread. Many of the spectators turned players.
Employees were allowed to play computer games before and after office hours and during lunch hour. Initially, there were more viewers than players but soon enough, it caught on. They found that the PC was, after all, not a dangerous animal! Then they started using it for office work. In due course, they discovered how PCs helped eradicate the drudgery of routine work. In no time, most of them acquired basic skills like word processing, spreadsheet etc. and had learnt how to surf the net and dig out information.
This appealed to the young director. Making PCs freely available to the employees would encourage them to use it. This, he hoped, would familiarize employees with the machine as it happened in the case described by me. He suggested that in any unit like the Head Office or the Zonal Offices with a large number of employees, the bank could set up an internet café with free access to the employees.
Upon which the CEO said, ‘We have well- appointed and hygienic canteens at the Head Office and the Zonal Offices which serve excellent coffee and tea to the employees both in the forenoon and the afternoon, that too at subsidized rates, using the Staff Welfare Fund.’