Continuing my conversation about implementing digital transformation, one of the biggest issues all companies face with transformation – digital or otherwise – is bringing the people with you. Some would say that anyone who does not join the journey can leave, but that’s quite a tough stance. If you don’t get with the program, you’re out, is not a great way to manage. Specifically, being hard-nosed and letting good people go, leaves a bad taste in the mouth of the people who are left. I actually worked for a company once that was in crisis mode and heading towards bankruptcy. Their way of dealing with it was to lay off groups of people every six months and the day I remember well where my colleagues got fired, but not me, was the day when we were all called into the head office and one-by-one called in and given an envelope. The issue was that if you got the fat envelope, you were out; if you got the thin envelope, you were still in. It left everyone feeling that it was a horrible way to deal with humans.
Interestingly, most of the banks engaged in digital transformation that I’ve met are trying to bring everyone with them, with no conscious fire and move on focus. Instead, they focus upon reskilling people and giving them the opportunity to get a new career within the bank. An example of this approach was one of the managers recounted a story with me that illustrates the approach well. He said: “My son is fifteen years old and I’ve talked to him about a career. In my life, I’ve had three major moments where my career changed course, happening about once every decade. However, I believe that his career and work life will change every two or three years. You constantly have to reskill where change is the only constant.”
The thing is that it’s hard to reskill if you’re made redundant and have no access. If the bank gives you the life skills to change path however, that’s a different story. And that’s what most digitally transforming banks are doing. They’re teaching middle managers to code; they’re taking branch tellers and giving them coaching in dealing with customer services through digital media; they’re taking their over 50 staff members and offering them a chance to learn design. It’s inspirational and exhilarating.
The other issue for example is the frozen middle. I’ve talked about this before, where the middle management of the bank fear change the most and resist it the hardest. Many middle managers will believe that digital will make their jobs redundant; that it will remove their power base which took years to gain; that they will be forced to change role and do something they are not comfortable doing; that the future of their department is going to be defunct; and so on and so forth.
How do you deal with these people? How do you bring them along?
Well, in asking that question I discovered the interesting answer is that you engage with them and let them determine the future. You get them to participate. There is nothing more fearsome than someone dictating your future and telling you what to do. However, if you have them engage, open doors and let them tell you what they think, then that is totally different.
It goes back to the old message that the people who work in banks, or in any other businesses for that matter, are humans. They have brains. They can think. They just need to be engaged. However, if you determine that Joe will be moved to account management from branch management; that Mary will be asked to shed twenty of her team for the good of the bank; and that Chris can be given a fat envelope … well, you know what happens.
In summary, all the banks that are doing digital transformation well are bringing all of their people with them through reskilling and open-door participation. They are banks that are good with their people and, in most cases, have not had any forced redundancies.