Battered by a sea of change, financial services (FS) workforces are succumbing to fear and anxiety, slowing transformation. FS firms can turn this around. Three key factors.

Banks and insurers that leave fear unchecked will feel a brake on the pace of change and will fail to unlock the full potential of their people and organizations. Accenture’s research provides insight into the strategies that FS ‘change leaders’ are implementing to drive performance.

Change leaders build psychological safety and trust

Accenture’s FS Change Survey identified a group of FS organizations that are achieving significantly better results from their change investments and report better commercial performance. They are more likely to see change delivered on time and within budget, and to see business benefits from change.

Comprising about 10 percent of the firms we surveyed, these change leaders have put their people at the center of change. Some 92 percent are aware of employee engagement and performance as an internal driver of change, compared to 69 percent of their peers.

92 percent of change leaders are aware of employee engagement and performance as an internal driver of change.

– Accenture’s FS Change Survey

Change leaders also understand that success depends on valuing, nurturing, respecting and empowering the workforce.

  • To combat anxiety, they empower people and create a safe environment in which people trust each other, their leaders and the vision driving the business.
  • The ability to move quickly in these organizations is based on trust and accountable freedom, not central planning.
  • Truly agile organizations can sustain fast-paced change because they have healthy cultures, good leaders and an environment of psychological safety.

Trust in vision and leadership are two cornerstones of performance during transformational change.

– Accenture Transformation GPS insights

Our Transformation GPS research further supports these factors—it shows that trust in vision and leadership are two cornerstones of performance during transformational change.

  • Leadership at all levels—from the C-suite down to team leaders—has at least twice the impact on business performance as any other factor.
  • ‘Clear vision and direction’ has three to four times greater impact than any other factor on benefits realization.

And trust translates directly into better financial performance. The 100 Best Companies to Work For uses trust in two thirds of its criteria and the best workplaces beat “the average annualized returns of the S&P 500 by a factor of three.”

Another US study found that compared with people at low-trust companies, people at high-trust companies report:

The way forward?

Every organization is unique, both in its starting point and its transformation, but in general, three areas of action are required:

1. BUILD TRUST IN THE VISION AND LEADERSHIP

  • Find the ‘inner purpose’ in your vision: A clear vision motivates change, but also serves as a guide when the plan is no longer relevant.
  • Set a clear direction and make early progress: The vision needs to be backed up with a well-considered plan and early action, while continuing to execute the daily business. Leaders without a clear plan and direction are trusted less.
  • Communicate early, transparently and often: If there is a void of communications at the start of transformational change, fear and negative rumors can grow rapidly. Communicate impacts early, and continue to communicate frequently as the change journey evolves.
  • Seek diverse views, listen well and be open: Seek out people with different views and encourage them to speak out, especially if they are new to the organization. Create spaces where ideas—even nascent thoughts—can be shared without being squashed. Stay in touch on the issues and concerns of others.
  • Demonstrate judgment and explain why: People trust leaders who make decisions based on good judgment and professional competence. Decision-making conditions are more complex, volatile and uncertain, so use the data available and try to sense changes ahead.
  • Build trust at every layer of leadership: Accenture’s research shows that trust is linked at every level of the organization: corporate, business unit and team. Each layer of leadership interacts with and depends on the other two. It’s important to know where the breaks in trust are and what is causing them, and persisting with the kind of frequent interaction that builds trust.

2. SHIFT BEHAVIORS, MINDSETS AND SKILLS IN A SAFE SPACE

  • Engage people in their journey and reframe threats: Present people with a different future. Help them to see digital transformation as an opportunity to learn new skills and enjoy more meaningful work. If there is a fear of job losses, it is important to name and normalize that fear, not ignore it.
  • Remove barriers to new mindsets, behaviors and skills: Addressing these may include changes to governance, resourcing, risk appetite, processes, key performance indicators and performance management.
  • Give people space to change: Support people with the time and tools they need to adopt new behaviors and ways of working.
  • Create a learning culture: This not only delivers the needed shift in workforce skills, but neutralizes much of the fear caused by change.
  • Build grit and resilience ahead of tough times: Help employees develop good habits such as open communication, getting enough sleep and physical exercise, and following a healthy diet. Identify mental health concerns and provide proactive support and coaching.

3. CREATE SAFE TEAMS AND TRUST ACROSS THE ORGANIZATION

  • Understand your organization dynamics down to a team level: There is no single origin of—or cure for—fear and anxiety, so it’s important to use a data-driven approach to evaluate and respond effectively to your workforce’s unique issues.
  • Address trust deficits before you start: Our Transformation GPS analysis shows that 85 percent of transformation efforts that fail do so because of organizational conditions that existed before the program started. Levels of fear and trust in the organization should be addressed as organizations embark on transformational change, not at the end.
  • Nurture safe team environments: Help managers develop team environments that are characterized by high safety and high standards. Create times when teams can speak up and discuss new ideas openly. Identify teams that lack safety and take corrective action.
  • Redesign work with greater freedom: Show you trust your people and teams. Empower them with more autonomy and freedom, within sensible parameters of responsibility and accountability.

I hope you have found these insights useful. If you are dealing with change at this level, feel free to engage with me—I am keen to understand your challenges and the solutions you are applying.

Meantime, for more on managing change and building trust, click through to:

Fearless. How safety and trust can help FS thrive even during disruption and transformational change.

Enterprise Agility in Financial Services. The new strategic Imperative.

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