Regional bank achieves national growth by diligently championing change

A regional bank envisioned growing into a national financial institution – and put customer satisfaction at the heart of their growth strategy. Their customer-centric philosophy would demand deep transformation in all aspects of operations. Optimising processes and investing in new technology would enable scalable, high-touch services and result in increased operational efficiency and winning customer experiences. But how could they effectively enlist change-weary employees’ support for their bold transformation? Careful attention to communications – and enlisting change champions throughout the organisation – made all the difference.

A bold plan for exponential growth

The bank’s vision was bold and sweeping. Hoping to grow through a customer-centric strategy and a new target operating model, leaders articulated five strategic goals to inform their approach:

  • Become the best bank in their region
  • Be the employer of choice in their industry and locations
  • Strengthen their execution of services and deliver higher-touch services
  • Enhance operational resilience
  • Earn the trust of customers and employees alike

The organisation engaged Protiviti to redesign operational processes and leverage digital transformation to achieve new levels of efficiency, agility and precision. Loan and treasury operations, deposits and payments, financial crimes management, business controls and every other function through which the bank served its customers were to be completely rethought and reengineered from its foundations.

The bank sought first to ensure operations could scale to a national scope. Next, they wanted to transform customer and employee experiences, implementing new technologies to speed operations and reduce costs. Finally, they would leverage their newfound process efficiency, consistency and agility to improve planning and foresight. They wanted to set themselves up to adapt and thrive in the face of change.

Managing organisational change

Leaders recognised that such an extensive transformation couldn’t succeed without the organisation providing ample support to employees as they learned about and participated in these changes. In its recent history, the bank had experienced numerous leadership changes and other shifts. As veterans of previous large-scale changes, employees’ feedback reflected past baggage: “We had no idea what was going on.”

Employees were suffering from change fatigue, which leaders knew could manifest as skepticism and even resistance to their growth initiative. Given that a component of the new target operating model involved shifting select processing to a managed services model, without timely and accurate information, employees might assume their jobs were at risk; highly valued employees might start looking for other employment.

The bank’s new operating model would affect jobs throughout the operations organisation. Careful attention to organisational change management (OCM) became essential to measuring the impacts of changes at the bank and to overseeing a sensitive, responsive programme of communications and involvement.

For team members focused on implementing new processes and systems, overlooking matters of employee engagement is a natural hazard. Nonetheless, it’s the employees who carry out the envisioned changes and ensure success. OCM focuses on behind-the-scenes enablement of profound change by enlisting the support of stakeholders, giving them a voice and sharing information consistently.

OCM typically begins when new initiatives are first envisioned, with an assessment of change readiness as the usual starting point. Because the bank already had a fast-paced change initiative underway, it jumped forward to assessing the impact of change as the first step. Through discovery, interviews and analysis, the change impact assessment helped leaders understand how stakeholders would be affected by the initiative and suggested ways to anticipate and address concerns.

Using results of the assessment, the OCM team formulated a messaging grid to ensure consistent communications throughout the transformation and beyond. This technique provided a common vocabulary for sharing information about coming changes to processes, jobs and systems. A communications plan mapped out key messages and timing.

The OCM team established a change-adoption dashboard to monitor and measure the uptake of change messages. Measuring progress toward adoption helped the team track and accelerate transition to the new target state of “business as usual” and helped sustain change over time.

For every change, a champion

An essential team of change champions operated at the forefront of the OCM efforts. Champions, enlisted from all levels of the organisation, contributed to the OCM efforts in three ways:

  • They were a credible source of information about the change initiative for their fellow employees and communicated with employee stakeholders in an honest, peer-to-peer exchange.
  • They provided feedback about how the change initiative was perceived throughout the organisation. Transparent communications back to leaders – even to share negative responses to the programme – were highly valued.
  • They functioned as a focus group for the transformation; as the first to hear sensitive messages, they gave honest opinions about how stakeholders would respond. As such, change champions became trusted advisers to change leaders.

It’s no simple matter to draft a volunteer crew of change champions. From a pool of applicants, champions were selected for their capacity to influence peers. Then they were trained to field stakeholder questions about the initiative in a consistent way and were equipped with tools and information to foster trust. Change champions knew it was an honor to support the transformation that would ultimately take their organisation from a successful regional bank to an agile, resilient national financial institution.

OCM efforts paid dividends throughout the initiative by shaping communications, but OCM also continues to contribute to sustaining change solutions once they’re operational. Organisations often focus on OCM as they plan and implement transformations. As an ongoing discipline however, OCM sets transformed organisations on a path of continued success. Through their change initiative, this bank’s leaders realised the value of establishing a permanent change management group.

OCM is now part of the bank’s routine operations. It has become an essential component of the bank’s commitment to the agile, scalable and resilient operations that deliver high-touch financial services, to the delight of customers. Moreover, OCM will remain a presence to keep sweeping changes on track.

Change management is the process of planning, implementing, and monitoring changes within an organization.

Clear roles and responsibilities provide transparency and accountability throughout the Change Management process