Geraldine Casey AIB’s Chief People Officer

15th June 2020

This week Geraldine Casey AIB’s Chief People Officer and WMB Diversity Ambassador talks about the importance of role models and the need to see opportunities, even in the direst of situations.

As a WMB Magazine Diversity Ambassador, how important is it to have role models?

Role modelling is key in all walks of life. I once heard a lovely quote attributed to Marian Wright Edelman, American civil rights activist, where she said ‘if you can’t see it, you can’t be it’. I think for most people they need to see it to believe they can be it, and I am extremely conscious of that, in the context of role modelling, as a leader in AIB.

Do you think the positive ground gained in diversity & inclusion might be eroded during this crisis?

No, I see this period as an opportunity to embed and accelerate changes which I think we need to make. Our objective with the D&I agenda in AIB is to attract and retain the best talent we possibly can. As we emerge from this crisis, I think there will be a renewed focus on staff, and an opportunity to look at work policies, practices and customs to ensure that our organisation has a modern inclusive and diverse workforce.

Do you believe remote working, and in a lot of cases, reduced working hours will allow working mothers more flexibility into the future?

I think anything that we can do to retain talent within our organisation, we must do, we must find a way. I think the pandemic has helped win ‘hearts and minds’ of the potential of remote and flexible working, and I think this will help working mothers and any other staff that require flexibility.

Has upskilling played a part in transitioning your employees to remote working?

Absolutely, remote working on the scale we have had to do has required upskilling on everyone’s behalf. From looking after one’s own wellbeing, to team working in a virtual environment, to leading teams remotely, and these are just some of the soft skills that we all needed to upskill on. Staff have adjusted extraordinarily well. We also have staff that need to come into the offices and branches, who have also had to adjust to new ways of working in order to meet our customers’ needs.

Has it all been challenging or are there ‘silver linings’?

I like to see myself as a ‘can-do’ person, that has the ability to see opportunities in the direst of situations. I think from an organisation perspective, the organisation’s reaction to Covid was extremely impressive. The level of collaboration and focus on customers’ needs was truly magnificent – the level of customer transactions we completed, with a workforce torn from normality, truly demonstrated to me the potential for the organisation and made me and many others immensely proud. We have demonstrated that we have the people, processes and technology to move at an extremely fast pace, with good outcomes. That fills me with huge ambition for the AIB of the future.

What businesses/brands/industries have stood out for you as ‘adapting’ during the crisis?

I think the GAA have been very impressive, and by that I mean the membership of the GAA. I see over 30,000 of their membership helped their community during this crisis and I love that, they have always been exceptional at connecting with their communities; and that is something we are really focused on in AIB.

What role does technology play in your current working day and in communicating with your teams?

Huge. I am a great believer in face to face communication, with technology as a supporting act. However, this pandemic has forced me to embrace technology as it has played a more dominant role due to social distancing. I think our whole organisation had to go on a steep learning curve, to really understand, embrace and utilise the power of the technology we had – and with really good outcomes.  I am still looking forward to having socially distance coffees with my team and colleagues, but when this pandemic passes I think we will all hang onto some of the new communication tools that have served us well, and we will continue to use in our ‘new normal’.

Do you believe that we are ‘all in the same boat’?

Hmm an interesting question. I believe as a society, facing a pandemic and how we reacted to that pandemic, I certainly felt there was a sense of ‘we are all in the same boat’. However, as we emerge, I certainly don’t think so. Some will have lost loved ones, some will have businesses that will suffer, some people’s employment situation will have changed – I think psychologically and economically there will be big differences, but as a society I think we have become more caring of one another, and hopefully that will help as we all journey out of this together.

As a HR Professional, what advice would you offer to those who are unsure of what their futures hold?

Don’t look too far ahead, dwelling on the unknown is probably not a great use of energy.

Look at what you can control – your immediate environment, the effort you put into your work, for those out of work. Look at what you can influence that will impact you, this may include talking to your manager about how things are working.  Accept things you cannot control or influence and try to see opportunities within the new normal. Always try to see the positives, and if you are struggling to do that, call someone who might help you – it’s always good to chat (that’s always my #1 bit of advice!).

Can you share one important lesson/observation you have made in recent months? 

We have no appreciation of how good our people and our organisation can be until we face a crisis. We need to remember that potential as we emerge from this pandemic.