Is Banking Going the Way of the Rolodex?

As digital banking use rises and consumer expectations intensify, financial institutions are under immense pressure to evolve across every part of the organization. Change must take place at all levels, and all departments must be aligned and collaborate together to move forward. Those who don’t will certainly be left behind.

Habits are tricky things.

Ever try to force yourself out of a bad habit – say, swapping out your morning routine of eggs and bacon for a flavorless bowl of something healthy because your doctor says you need to cut down on the cholesterol?

For people and organizations alike – banks and credit unions included – change is hard to embrace. Let’s face it, some just simply don’t want to change, so they fall back on the time-old “ain’t broke” mantra. For others, tradition may seem like a powerful differentiator.

While it might work now, what happens when tradition just doesn’t cut it anymore and another person or organization is getting better results? Dust in the wind. That’s what will happen to you or the organization you are part of.

Remember the days of the Rolodex? That prehistoric chunk of metal and plastic that stored important contacts, and is now likely collecting dust somewhere. According to the “Office Endangered Species” survey released by LinkedIn, the Rolodex is the third most endangered office device and believed to go extinct within the next year or so.

Top Ten List of Endangered Office Supplies

Why? Online services and social networking sites like LinkedIn – which constantly change to meet professionals’ needs – allow people to connect more quickly and easily.  As a result, the Rolodex is becoming extraneous. It’s becoming dust in the wind.

To avoid Rolodex’s slow but inevitable fate, banks and credit unions of all sizes must be proactive when it comes to change management. You can’t just jot down some items and treat it like a grocery list, striking off each item and hoping you didn’t forget milk after you’ve made it half-way home. Change requires thinking critically about the unique challenges – both operational and people challenges – to your specific change, your organization and your culture.

There Are Operational Challenges and Then There Are People Challenges

As the saying goes, don’t count your chickens before they’ve hatched. Financial institutions must identify the operational challenges that could emerge when goals do not match the methods or metrics used. Case in point – your bank needs to increase account openings, but hasn’t identified specific numbers as goals for frontline staff. Or maybe you want to provide superior service, but when account holders call, they’re on hold for five minutes. That’s far from the optimal consumer experience.

You should also identify potential people challenges. For change to be successful, you’ll need your entire staff on board, especially your leadership team. Consider possible scenarios that may restrict change. Perhaps you’ve tried to implement change before, but it didn’t stick and staff is now cynical about new plans, rolling their eyes at what they assume will be a soon-to-fail plan. Like a baby turning its head to refuse a new vegetable, maybe now they’ve adopted the mentality of “if we don’t do it, it will eventually go away.”

Another scenario might be that leadership superficially supports the proposed change, but no action or follow-up is taken to actually drive change. It’s like feeling victorious after a long and steady series of green lights just to hit a road block half a mile down the road. Simply put, you can’t treat change like a bacon-wrapped pill for your dog to swallow. It takes thoughtful and strategic planning around potential challenges.

One More Time, With Emphasis: Changing the Way You Change

The solution to both operational and people challenges may be changing the way you change. One method we’ve used with great success is ADKAR: Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability and Reinforcement. ADKAR is a goal-oriented change management model that allows change management teams to focus their activities on specific business results. This model aligns traditional change management activities to a specific result or goal. Financial institutions are seeing the needle-moving results from implementing the five pillars of ADKAR model, and here’s how.

In this model, awareness of the business reasons for change is the first goal. Are customers becoming distant? Are you losing them to megabanks? Are your competitors beating you to the punch when it comes to innovation and customer experience?

Desire to engage and participate in the change is the next goal related specifically to resistance management – and it’s an important one. Those who demonstrate a strong passion for change will encourage employees and other executives to join in, which will help drive the success of the change. If you do nothing else, what will you inspire your team to today?

Knowledge about how to change is the third goal. What exactly do you need to change incrementally to achieve change operationally? Remember, you don’t always have to have all the answers, but do be persistent in asking the right questions to learn what changes are needed. Meet one-on-one with your department heads to understand both the real and perceived challenges. Talk to front-line staff to gauge their concerns. Go beyond your community financial institution and talk to outsiders – either institutions that have faced similar transformations (remember, we’re all on the same team here) or even vendors you work with who share the same knowledge of banking operations (many of them were bankers in their past lives).

Next, evaluate your ability. Even if you know exactly what to do to transform your institution, you may lack the resources or experience needed. This doesn’t mean change can’t happen. Instead, you may need to look beyond your institution for help.

Finally, we end with reinforcement. Change is not always a quick process. In fact, it’s the complete opposite and needs constant tending to. Continuously evaluate your change and look for opportunities to improve. The worst thing you can do is to keep trekking with a plan that is clearly not yielding the results you want, and you’ll never know it unless you’re evaluating it.

Change Means Fostering Strong Corporate Culture

Creating the right culture that feeds innovation and organizational change is also crucial, but making financial services inspiring can be especially challenging, compared against the overwhelming and constant stream of new products and companies entering consumer’s field of vision.

Strong culture helps demonstrate your values but it lives beyond a single person or team and represents a unified presence. In fact, enthusiasm, optimism and belonging are feelings that not only consumers want to have about their financial institution, but employees want of their employer, and when employees feel this way, getting them on board to help transform your institution is much easier.

But culture is not just about a person or team making it a great place – institutions need to operationalize culture. One way we see this done is by creating a symbol instead of a list of words to describe values. The more an organization collectively “feels” the values as a team and internalize them as their own, the stronger they are. For example, if you’re a patriotic person, the American flag is likely to resonate with you more so than the words “liberty” and “freedom.”

But it doesn’t stop there. Take a look at transformative companies like Google or Tesla. They focus on defining themselves by the why rather than the what. For example, Google isn’t just a search engine or Internet company, and Tesla isn’t just a car manufacturer. They are known for their mission, which is to make the world a better place through revolutionary technology. They are disruptors. They are game-changers. They are innovators.

Once the why is determined and incorporated into every brand and message, it’s not difficult to get employees on board. Often, it’s simply a matter of tapping into an emotional element to make the mission statement matter to employees.

Don’t Become Dust in the Wind

Driving organizational change to meet consumer expectations – whether it’s mobile and online banking, customer experience, multichannel marketing, payments, etc. – is no small feat and can be downright discouraging. But it is necessary to keep pace with an evolving industry. And you may even feel like throwing in the towel two, three, fifteen times throughout the process. But don’t despair, there is light at the end of the tunnel and the end result will be well worth the pain it took to get there.

Thinking critically about the unique challenges and exploring change management models such as ADKAR will get you across the finish line. Successful change also requires creating the right culture – another colossal challenge, but one that can be achieved through defining your institution’s why like Google and Tesla.

Failing to do these things, and rather, approaching change like a simple check list will turn you into dust. You could even share the same fate as the Rolodex.

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