Digital Transformation Will Flop if You Don’t Also Transform Staff

Financial institutions that are committed to becoming digital-first make significant investments in technology. But if they don't also overhaul their ideas about staff training, the investment won't pay off. The key is to stop thinking of training in terms of understanding 'Package A' or 'Solution B.' Instead, focus on developing a culture of learning.

When bank and credit union leaders think of the challenges around implementing the kind of digital technologies that will move them beyond being a “legacy” institution, they most likely think about service level agreements, data migration, security and compliance concerns and cost. Training gets much less attentions. Everyone knows training will be an expensive hassle, but it’s just training — click here, do this, and call the help desk if it doesn’t work.

That mindset has never been optimal, but it used to be at least functional. Things have changed. New technologies are entering the market at a faster pace than ever, and credit unions and community banks that previously would roll out new software upgrades every few years at the most will soon find themselves implementing new applications far more frequently. To keep their staffs performing productively — and happily — financial institutions need to think about training in a new light.

Training is out. Learning is in

It’s all well and good talking about “agile development,” and the need for that is real, but many employees are not conditioned to embrace new technologies. That’s not their fault. In an industry where many institutions still rely on systems that are 20 or 30 years old or more, the people using those systems haven’t had to negotiate new ways of doing their work very often.

Increasingly that’s no longer the case.

“Leaders should develop a ‘learning culture,’ so learning can be spun up on demand each time a new product is launched.”

More and more financial institutions are replacing their primary systems with better performing and more nimble solutions; they are adding automation capabilities, and they’re expanding digital channels. Their new technology stack is fluid and adaptable, enabling banks and credit unions to quickly roll out new products and services. That means staff members need to be just as quick to learn the new systems and processes.

With new technology emerging so rapidly, leaders should not think in terms of training the workforce on specific new products, but instead develop a “learning culture” within the institution so that learning can be spun up on demand each time a new product is launched or a new solution is added to the digital banking platform.

Ways to Create a Culture of Learning

Start by sending the message that learning is strategic. Leaders should regularly talk about why learning is important to the future of the financial institution so employees understand that a willingness to learn is expected of them. To really drive the point home, consider adding learning indicators to performance reviews.

Think about obstacles to learning and develop processes to overcome them. All workforces include some people who are resistant to learning, and that can be frustrating — but they always have reasons.

Some people feel they’re too busy to take time away from their regular work to participate in learning. Other employees are afraid to fail. Allow people time to play around with new systems on their own, with no consequences if they don’t do well.
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Tap Into People’s Love of Gaming

As gaming has infiltrated into the lives of every generation, we’ve all become accustomed to striving for the next level. Think about ways to gamify learning by setting up team competitions or individual challenges. “Gamification” in this context is the integration of gaming elements into learning, creating an effective and engaging learning experience.

According to eLearning Industry, “When used adequately, gamification can encourage learners to apply their learning on the job, by challenging them with real-life situations in a controlled environment.” How? By promoting friendly competition, instilling a sense of achievement, and motivating learners with rewards as they move through the learning chain. Positive reinforcements encourage desired behavior.

Depending on the financial institution’s resources, gamifying can go big and complex, or be very simple and frugal. The most important elements for either approach are scores, badges, and leaderboards.

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Supplement Tech Support with ‘Power Users’

A vendor’s tech support team should be prepared to help bank and credit union users when new software is launched, but the help desk shouldn’t be the only lifeline. Staff should be able to seek additional help from within the institution.

“People are often hesitant to ask their managers for help for fear of looking incompetent. It’s less intimidating to reach out to a co-worker.”

Department managers should be on the lookout for “power users” who can be asked to become mentors. People are often hesitant to ask their managers for help for fear of looking incompetent, but it’s much less intimidating to reach out to a co-worker.

These power-user mentors should also be encouraged to meet with other power users in order to identify common obstacles to learning, brainstorm ideas, and learn to become better in their mentoring role. For this to work, mentors will need to be granted the time to perform the role and should also be rewarded in other ways, such as bonuses or recognition.

Ideally, mentors will work across departments, and that makes them particularly valuable to the institution as they gain insight into a multitude of positions.

Other informal training methods should be employed as well, such as lunch-and-learn sessions. Set up a program to reward employees for leading lunch-and-learns and recognize their contributions with public accolades.

By incorporating learning into organizational processes, the workforce will be more agile and adaptable, no matter what solutions are implemented as the credit union or community bank matures into its digital incarnation.

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