Five Questions for Michael Schlein

By Staff Report

Dec. 14, 2005

Michael Schlein
Senior vice president of global corporate affairs, HR and business practices at Citigroup

After Citigroup was hit with scandals around the globe, CEO Chuck Prince implemented a five-point plan to get the company’s 300,000 employees focused on long-term goals rather than short-term pressures. The program, which Schlein helped develop, entails training, communications, talent development, performance appraisals and controls. Schlein recently talked to Workforce Management staff writer Jessica Marquez.

Workforce Management: How did you come up with the plan?

Michael Schlein: Chuck Prince and I met with chief executive officers at different corporations, such as General Electric, Dell, Xerox and Johnson & Johnson, and asked them what were their best practices, and then we worked from there.

WM: Why is the focus on long-term goals and how do you change employees’ mindset?

Schlein: One thing that the recent events showed us was that there was too much focus on short-term business pressures and not enough on the long-term franchise. The first thing we did was make all of our employees across the globe watch a film about the history of Citigroup. We wanted employees to recognize they play a part in the entire organization to balance the short-term pressures of their daily lives. Until recently, all that we had to tie people together was stock price, so we needed something more. We also created a common performance appraisal system for all managers that requires them to write down their goals for the year. At the end of the year, each manager will have conversations with their supervisors about their goals. The hope is that every year those conversations will get better.

WM: How have you changed employee training and orientation?

Schlein: Our training has been different in different places. Starting next year there will be one orientation focusing on the company history to welcome everyone to that common language. We have a whole series of leadership development programs that can range from an off-site with Chuck Prince to online training for 30,000 managers. Next year every new manager will go through consistent training so that it means one thing to be a Citigroup manager.

WM: How do you measure the success of the program?

Schlein: Every month we report to our management committee, CEO and regulators on the execution of our program. We also look at employee surveys and surveys outside of the company as well as public perception. There is no single answer.

WM: How do you encourage more open communications within the company?

Schlein: Our senior executives are spending a lot of time traveling the world to speak to employees and get their feedback. Also, every two months, we have a call with senior managers where employees can talk to Prince directly. And whenever a significant event occurs, we have a call. We also do surveys every September where we ask every employee a whole list of questions about their perceptions of how we are doing. We do smaller polls to survey how our five-point plan is doing.

Workforce Management, November 21, 2005, p. 9Subscribe Now!

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