Managing Change: How Companies Can Help Employees Embrace New Ideas
by Ben DiPietro wsj.com
When ConnectOne Bancorp was looking to upgrade its customer interaction systems, its chiefexecutive faced an issue that can permeate any company: resistance to change amongemployees.Frank Sorrentino III, CEO of the operator of community banks in New York and New Jersey,examined upgrade options and decided the right choice was nCino, a software company thatprovides cloud-based operating systems and services to financial institutions.But a group of bank employees convened to consider what platform to go with chose anothervendor, which Mr. Sorrentino attributed to the behavioral trait of people looking for theircomfort zone–in this case, a company the group had heard of and that had a track record.The bank eventually settled on nCino because, after Mr. Sorrentino questioned the employeesabout how the choice would affect the client experience he said it became “incredibly apparent”nCino was the right choice.The exercise highlights the difficulties organizations have when trying to get employees toembrace change. Good change management can help employees embrace new technologies anddirections, and keep companies relevant.”There is always this collision course with where we think the future is going and what it is weare going to implement to get there,” said Mr. Sorrentino. It is important to ask the rightquestions, he said, such as how can this change the way we do things for the better?”Our clients are experiencing all this change around them,” he said. “If we’re not going to bepart of that change, they are going to make decisions to go elsewhere.”Why are we doing this?Education and communication are key drivers of culture change at Santander Bank N.A., saidAmir Madjlessi, head of business banking.Education should focus on explaining why change is being undertaken, and that involves directand transparent communication, he said. To be effective, any change must correlate to thebank’s overall strategy and what it wants to accomplish, said Mr. Madjlessi.”The ultimate goal is to tie it to what we stand for and…communication is critical,” he said. “Ifwe give people the why behind the what and the how, typically we have the support of theenlisted troops.”Santander’s approach is similar to the one taken at SunTrust Banks, where Scott Case, the chiefinformation officer, said good change management makes sure client expectations are alignedwith the bank’s overall goals. “A lot of what we do when we drive change, it always goes backto our purpose,” said Mr. Case.Aligning the bank’s systems with its values and its risk framework helps the bank betterevaluate what risks it is willing to take related to technology, said Mr. Case. “There is a cadencearound change management here; we talk about that a lot,” he said. “It permeates the day-today.”Though it sells products and services, Sean Desmond, an executive vice president at NorthCarolina-based nCino, said the first thing the company tries to impress upon customers that itisn’t showing up to deliver an IT project.”We are very much a cultural-change business,” said Mr. Desmond. “Technology is the easypart. If we can set the tone around change management, around attitude, around openness andacceptance to change…if we can get that cultural component part early, that can be thedifferentiator.”That means working with clients to identify the “change champions” at all levels of theirorganization, though it all must flow from support demonstrated by top leadership, said Mr.Desmond.In one instance, Mr. Desmond said his team worked with a bank to heat-map every singlestakeholder in the organization and the role that person would play from a culturaltransformation standpoint, allowing it to ensure change was being drilled into all levels of thecompany. The company also has change-management training that is tailored to the employeeand his or her role in the business.Importance of empowermentThe key to empowering employees on behalf of the business is having the willingness to letthem make decisions, he said.”They are not always going to be right 100% of the time, but you can course-correct that; that’swhat an agile environment is all about,” said Mr. Desmond. Once they realize they won’t get introuble for making mistakes they feel part of the process to drive change, and that leads to greatresults.There will be resistance to change, but Mr. Desmond said it isnt something he worries about,saying nCino doesn’t look “to solve for the edge case.”The company prefers to focus on identifying motivated leaders, holding them accountable andhaving them communicate the reasons for wanting to solve a problem this way. “Let them bepart of the solution,” he said. “The rest takes care of itself.”Another potential roadblock to embracing technology change is the cost a company must incurto stay current with the latest platforms and services; that’s an area where Mr. Sorrentino thinksorganizations drop the ball.Part of change management means impressing upon employees why it is a bad idea to try toidentify what a client needs based on the technology now being used, said Mr. Sorrentino.”If there is something today that makes sense, I will throw away what we had yesterday,” hesaid. “If we can provide a better client experience, we’re going to spend those dollars to do that.It’s about constantly making change and then changing the change we make.”**********************
QUESTIONS:1. What do you think is meant by the statement good change management can help .keep companies relevant?
2. Why do you think it is so important that change involves direct and transparentcommunication? Be specific in your answer.3. Why is employee empowerment so important to change?
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