KeyBank retrains tech workers whose jobs are going away

KeyCorp executives are pulling no punches: They’ve told employees that some technology jobs will disappear or change form in the next few years.

But the Cleveland bank is helping them pivot.

Amy Brady, chief information officer, launched a program called Future Ready at the $181 billion-asset KeyBank in 2018. To encourage continuing education, it grants employees in technology, operations and services 10 hours per quarter that they can use to take online courses, shadow colleagues in other roles or undertake other forms of training. Brady was inspired to start Future Ready after observing shifts in various capabilities needed for new technologies, such as a transition from the mainframe to the cloud.

“We felt like it was a win-win,” she said. “We had a responsibility to invest in our teammates but it was also important for us to prepare our teammates for the skills we needed them to have.”

“We’ve tried to be very transparent about where we are shifting,” said Amy Brady, chief information officer at KeyCorp. “Roles have been eliminated, but we have also created new roles.”

Upskilling and reskilling programs are one way that banks and fintechs are competing for technology talent, retaining employees and adapting their businesses. Bank of America, for example, has an internal program called Global Technology and Operations University. JPMorgan Chase runs its own reskilling programs for employees to learn software engineering, data analytics and cybersecurity.

Brady borrowed practices from digital upskilling programs run by AT&T and other companies when she started Future Ready because she didn’t see many programs in financial services she could emulate at the time. One value that is central to her program is honesty about how roles will change at Key and what employees must do to keep up.

In an interview, Brady shared the impetus behind Future Ready, how employees have reacted to Key’s transparency and her ongoing efforts to diversify her team. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

What are the ideas behind Future Ready?

AMY BRADY: We grounded Future Ready in the idea that each employee is the CEO of their own career. They own the journey of choosing how to explore career opportunities. We also wanted to be very upfront with our employees that in the future, there are jobs at Key that may change. For example, we may need fewer mainframe engineers or fewer people doing certain tasks in operations because those tasks may get automated. We were committed to telling people in advance which jobs we would need less of but where we might create new jobs.

The skills that I needed five years ago to be successful today are not necessarily the skills I will need to be successful five years from now. We all need to be constantly learning new skills.

How are you transparent with employees about the jobs that are going away? Have you encouraged employees to take these courses through one-on-one conversations?

We’ve done it one-on-one but also quite publicly in our town halls. We’ve tried to be very transparent about where we are shifting. Roles have been eliminated, but we have also created new roles. For example, we have reduced our dependency on our mainframe. But we have introduced Google Cloud, so now we have engineers learning Google Cloud architecture and security.

How does Future Ready help employees learn these skills?

We give employees 10 hours per quarter to take training. These could be online courses through Udemy or curated through Key, job shadowing or mentoring. We also have a tool that we launched late last year called Grow at Key. It’s a career development portal with an online assessment where employees determine what they are good at and what they would like to do. For example, for a contact center agent who wants to become a cybersecurity analyst, it will list all of the skills they have to develop to go from point A to point B and the courses we recommend.

Are you taking people who already worked in technology and training them to take on different roles, or are you teaching employees who did something completely different how to work in technology from the ground up?

Both. In some cases we were taking people who we knew their technologies were becoming obsolete and giving them the opportunity to switch. Some of our teammates have said, “I don’t want to learn the new technologies, but thank you for letting me know my job might be going away in three to five years; I’m okay with that and will ride it out because I plan to retire.” For the ones that didn’t want to retire in three to five years, we gave them the runway to learn new skills.

For the folks in an operations job who joined us in our lockbox [the part of Key’s operations area that processes checks or ACH payments or performs other back office operations] and decided they wanted to move into technology, they have an opportunity to learn how to become a developer or move into our cybersecurity team and become an analyst.

We are also focusing on populations that are underserved in technology. I had a group of our Black colleagues advising me during the pandemic. One of the things we talked about was how to grow our population of Black engineers. We knew that the national average for Black engineers was about 8% and in our technology areas at Key we were at 5.8% [out of 7,000 employees and contractors]. We want to get to the national average, so we launched the Tech Ready program as part of Future Ready to train team members looking to transition from roles in operations to technology. We graduated five folks earlier this year and we are now in our second program with 15 people. Eleven of those 15 are diverse candidates, five of whom are Black. They have all come out of operations, applied for this program, and are going through a 14 week-coding boot camp through Tech Elevator. They will be placed in our technology organization.

All of this was designed in concert with our Black engineers who said, let’s recruit within our own teammates and encourage those who already have the competencies but maybe don’t have the confidence.

What other results have you seen so far?

When we started Future Ready, 25% of our full-time employees would participate in non-compliance-related training. They wouldn’t do anything but the required training. Now we see 80% of our full-time employees participating in some type of non-compliance-related training. That is one indicator of engagement to me. We know from surveys across most industries that one lever of engagement for employees is the ability to continuously learn, and the feeling that they can grow in their careers is important when choosing and staying at an employer.

Also, for us to maintain relevance with employees and technologies we have to have them engaged in this training. More than 50% of my population has used the Grow at Key portal since we introduced it in October, even though we have not made it mandatory. Of the 50%, 67% have visited the tool more than once. Other parts of the company are adding their roles and competencies to Grow at Key, including our finance team, our analytics team and human resources. As more lines of businesses add their roles to the tool, then there will be more roles for employees to explore.

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