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Wednesday, 21 September 2011 16:00

Commbank goes after Google grads


Commonwealth Bank took the wraps off its swanky new facilities in Sydney today, where all 6,200 staff are being provided with MacBook Airs (albeit running Windows), DECT VoIP headsets, and a licence to roam at will through the two wirelessly networked towers located at the Eastern edge of Darling Harbour. CIO Michael Harte hopes the funky new offices will allow Commbank to give Google a run for its money in terms of acting as a talent magnet.

According to Mr Harte, who heads a team of 3,800 IT staff, the bank currently has a 12 per cent attrition rate and he acknowledged 'We find it difficult in IT to attract a young and vibrant workforce out of university,' despite the range of cutting edge projects underway at the bank. He said that the new facilities which have been modelled to support activity based working, coupled with the new technology and a policy of 'increasingly allowing people to bring their own devices' should send a signal to IT professionals not to 'assume the best opportunity is at Google.'

Commbank may still find it a hard sell. In the Dream Employers Uncovered 2011 survey which was released earlier this week Google ranked number one when it came to the company most people wanted to work for, while CBA - although it was the only one of the four big banks to make the top 20 - languished at 17th on the list.

The CBA's new offices are however extremely innovative. The building itself has achieved a six star green rating and the bank is making sustainability a key feature of its plans.

The offices are open plan (although there are some private meeting rooms) and designed to support a completely mobile workforce. Employees are designated a 'home zone' where they have a locker - but they are then free to work wherever they want and with whoever they wish.

To promote collaboration, and attempt to reduce printouts, CBA has implemented Microsoft Lync to promote collaboration and connections to share electronic documents between its employees.

Mr Harte, who has already moved to the new building, has his home zone on level 6 of the north tower, and like everyone else doesn't have his own office but instead works wherever he wants.

Speaking ahead of a media tour of the facility Commbank's CFO David Craig said that prior to developing the new office the bank had conducted an internal survey which found that the average desk occupancy rate was running at 45 per cent in the conventionally organised offices.

He said that by moving to activity based working people were free to locate themselves wherever it made sense - either at the perimeter of the building where there were booths available for individual work, or more toward the centre of the building where furniture and technology such as interactive white boards have been set up to promote collaboration. In fact there are only conventional desk spaces for 80 per cent of the workers, with CBA expecting that people will spend a lot more time in the collaboration zones of the building where they can work as teams.

Mr Craig said that the redesign meant work was 'No longer about controlling people. It's about trust. You can only evaluate people by their output.'

The CBA is still bringing people into the new facility at the rate of 200-300 a week. It plans to have completed the transition for all 6,200 staff by the end of the year.



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