For financial services (FS) firms, change is not new. But the kind of change they face today is more rapid and demanding. We see the real challenge and opportunity at the meeting point between technology and people in the industry.

Our FS Change Survey 2017 shows how critical the human factor can be to the success of change programs.

According to our survey, employees that work for change leaders (those getting the best results from their change investments) in FS are optimistic and engaged about change. Our survey revealed that 83 per cent of change leaders in FS agree that their employees thrive on fast-paced change, as opposed to only half (51 per cent) of their peers in the rest of the industry.

Even more interestingly, findings from both the Change Survey and our long-term Change Tracking analysis show that change fatigue is almost non-existent for high performance teams. In the survey, only 13 per cent of change leaders reported their employees “were tired of change,” as opposed to a quarter (25 per cent) of the rest of the industry. The more they experience change, the more their performance goes up.

Much of this is about creating trust and a safe, secure and encouraging environment for individuals and teams to change. The Change Tracking findings, collected from more than one million employees over 15 years, confirm why the human factor is critical: five of the top seven barriers to transforming and advancing the organisation are people-related. Among the FS firms showing the best progress, Change Tracking found low levels of fear and frustration. Conversely, when there is fear it is very difficult to change behaviour. Our Change Tracking data shows that 85 per cent of transformations that fail do so because of dysfunctional organisation dynamics that were there before the transformation even began.

Simply put, fear and mistrust inhibit change, whereas creating the right space, support and trust enables it.

A lot of this is down to leadership at all levels of the organisation. Our FS Change Survey shows change leaders have significantly stronger change leadership at all levels. Their programs are more likely to enjoy sponsorship of senior executives (92 per cent vs. 65 per cent), and the support and commitment of team leaders (75 per cent vs. 62 per cent). Year after year, Change Tracking findings consistently show that leadership at all levels has the highest correlation to business performance during periods of transformation.

And while many FS firms point to outdated legacy systems and data as barriers to change, legacy mind sets and skills can turn out to be just as much of a drag on the pace of change. When there is a lack of emotional agreement or commitment within the organisation, employees will revert to old attitudes. On the positive side, the right people can be a massive source of innovation, creativity and drive for change. We are doing a lot of work across the industry around reskilling, including the recent launch of our new learning platform for technology and digital skills.

Accomplishing all this will not be a cakewalk for middle managers and team leaders in FS at a time when spans of control are broader, work has become more routine for many, and compliance demands have increased. Nevertheless, it can be done, even in the most challenging workforces.

For instance, we have worked with multiple retail banks to introduce new digital behaviours into frontline branch and call centre workforces to help improve customer experience and adoption of digital channels. This has worked so well that older cashiers and tellers have been coaching younger employees on the mobile banking app!

Another example is where we have brought collaboration tools and new agile ways of working into very traditional banking and insurance workforces by using human-centred design. The key here is understanding the ‘killer use case’ for each area or persona and then using this to spark adoption and new working practices.

These human-centred approaches focus on building trust, leadership and a supportive environment for change. They use ethnographic, participative and design-thinking techniques to understand the customer and colleague journey, then take that thinking through into managing adoption. They understand how to motivate the rational, emotional and group drivers of behavioural change and remove the organisational barriers and other factors that might get in the way.

Fear and fixed mindsets can kill change stone dead. If you use a human-centred approach that builds trust and growth you will see change flourish.

I’ll delve further into the role of leadership and the importance of culture in my next post.

To find out more about the Financial Services Change Survey or to join our FS Change Directors Forum, please contact me here, or @AndyYoungACN. Our next session on Dec. 6 will focus on human-centred change.

You can read more survey results here.

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