As banks embrace digital transformation, there is a high level of discomfort amongst bank staff around the change.
First, they hear almost every day that artificial intelligence and machine learning will automate their jobs. They fear the future. They fear losing their job. How can you reassure them that they can participate in the change without being a turkey voting for Christmas?
Second, they can see the bank turning into something different. The people walking around no longer wear suits and ties. Beards and jeans are being allowed in the office on weekdays, not just Fridays. A spirit of openness and communication is being evoked that means the snotty little graduate trainee is now allowed to talk back to his manager. Who allowed that? They need reassurance that this is a good thing that they can be a part of, not some alien world forced upon them.
Third, they joined the bank to have a job for life and felt comforted to be told what to do. The bank was all about command and control, hierarchy and order. You knew your place. Suddenly, that’s all being removed. There is no job for life. Automation is taking that away. There is no command and control. It’s all about coach and counsel. These days the janitor is just as important as the Chief Executive … or so you’re told. They need reassurance that the change in attitude is supportive and directed, not something that is weird and tortuous.
Fourth, the company is changing beyond recognition. Restructuring after restructuring is being implemented as the bank tries to move away from product focus to customer focus. The only constant is change. Objectives, focus, bonuses and work groups change by the month almost, and for many it is difficult to keep up with where they are meant to be going. They need strong communication and direction from the transformation team to bring everyone along without losing the many.
There are many other things happening in this process but, as you can see, a lot of fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD) is created as digital transformation happens. How can you overcome the natural FUD that grows with change?
In my own simple world, I always return to the simplicity of who moved my cheese. A bank has typically grown a culture of mice that expect to find the cheese outside their front door every morning. There was little change, and everything was predictable. Now, the culture has to be to find the cheese – it moves every day – and create an organisation that is agile, nimble, flexible and constantly on the move. Change is the only constant, and nothing is completely predictable.
As can be seen, this is not an easy process, but it is one that banks have to live with if they are to maintain relevance in a digital world.