The Australian Financial Review (AFR) Workforce Summit, held in Sydney on 22 February, brought together the nation’s most influential business leaders, policy makers and stakeholder groups to dissect emerging trends shaping the new world of work.

CBA’s Group Executive Human Resources, Sian Lewis, was invited to speak on a panel to discuss what organisations need to be doing to ensure they have the people and skills they need for the future. Moderated by the editor of AFR’S BOSS magazine, Sally Patten, Ms Lewis was joined on the panel by her counterparts BHP, Stockland and Wesfarmers. 

Ms Lewis spoke about how CBA is working to address a large component of the skill demand through:

  • building the capability of its [over 48,000] workforce;
  • providing career upskilling;
  • reskilling; and
  • skilling Australia

“We’re in a short-term crunch that has exacerbated a long-term structural issue,” said Ms Lewis.

“We can see a slight easing in the skills shortage but we're certainly experiencing shortages in key areas. So we’re needing to build those skills.”

Speaking on the panel, Ms Lewis discussed the importance of upskilling and training employees to help them advance in their current position or move to a completely different field within the organisation.

AFR WorkForce Summit, Sally Patten, BOSS Editor, The Australian Financial Review
		Sian Lewis, Group Executive, Human Resources, Commonwealth Bank of Australia
		Jad Vodopija, Chief People Officer, BHP

 22nd February 2023 Photo: Natalie Boog

CBA’s focus is to maximise the development of capability across the organisation through a culture where people want to continually learn and develop.

“We have to use our internal job market because they are a huge resource of future skills. For example, to address data and analytics skills, we've deployed just under 100 people from our branch networks to become data analysts,” Ms Lewis told attendees.

“In data and analytics, we fill 47 per cent of our vacancies internally,” she added. “We make sure we've got proper career mobility, and that we're giving people training internally, it is crucial.

“We have a team dedicated to taking a strategic approach to reskilling and co-coordinating programs end to end.

“That is what is so great — you have the opportunity to evolve and learn,” she said. “We are able to offer career-growth opportunities in an organisation of our scale. We’re operating in different sectors requiring a wide variety of skills and abilities and therefore are able to offer different careers which you would not normally associate with a bank.”

CBA’s initiatives to invest in skilling Australia, developing a talent pipeline and addressing the rescaling agenda are also important to closing the skills gap.

Ms Lewis reinforced the role of business and universities working together in response to changing needs of industry and the community.

“We’re sponsoring people through university degrees,” she said. “For example we've set up a security diploma with the University of New South Wales. We're also working closely with the University of Wollongong, UTS and Griffith University to look at how we can build the kind of courses and curriculum that fill some of these gaps. We’ve set up tech hubs in every capital city to work with the universities there and link closely to them.

“And so how do we maximise the supply into the areas that we want at universities and how do we work with all of the further and higher education segment on flexibility, rescaling and retraining, whether you're employed or unemployed?

“We need to make sure that courses being delivered, right back to the high school curriculum, prepare our young people to come out and do jobs that will exist in the next 20 years.

“I think it's going to be a really long term partnership between government, organisations and the education system to make sure we get people learning skills, not just as undergraduates, but going back into the formal education sector as they move through their careers.”

Ms Lewis said companies need to think of their employees as a long-term partnership.

“Employees are an investment; organisations need to get the balance and flexibility right,” she said.

 “It is about being fit for the new world of work.”

Image credit: Natalie Boog, Australian Financial Review. 

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