Implementing significant change in a business is hard work – preserving that change is even tougher. In today's climate of digital disruption and increased regulatory focus (particularly when it comes to conduct in financial services), being able to sustain organisational change is essential. Without it, businesses run the risk of being left behind when they don't adopt new technologies, or falling foul of government regulations.
Who does organisational change well?
You don't have to look far to see examples of businesses that have successfully sustained change. Bank of New Zealand (BNZ) is one such case. The financial services industry has been affected by digital disruption for some time now. Customers have come to expect online banking as a given, and other technologies are also becoming commonplace. In 2016, BNZ was behind the times – it wasn't offering the services that many of its competitors were, and its financials were suffering as a result.
After deciding to invest substantially in digital technology, the bank recorded a 9 per cent lift in first half earnings in 2017, the National Business Review reports. The number of retail branches reduced, while there was a 40,000 increase in internet banking customers compared to 2016.
In the first half of 2018, BNZ's profits rose again according to the New Zealand Herald, showing that not only did it successfully implement organisational change, it was also able to sustain it. So how do you make change long-lasting?
— Bank Of New Zealand (@BNZ) July 2, 2015
1) Focus on people
BNZ was implementing largely a technological and process-driven change. However, the bank didn't forget to think about its people. Instead of firing a lot of employees and creating resentment towards the new technology, the bank simply redeployed staff to other parts of the business.
This highlights the importance of culture in sustaining organisational change. Even with the most process-driven innovations, if you're not educating people regularly about why the change has occurred, how well it's going and how it's directly impacting their lives, you're not going to see long-lasting results.
2) Publish your successes
Linked to this is the need to regularly publish information on how successful the change is. This shouldn't just include how it's impacting profit (although this is important), but also how it's improving work tasks for employees. For example, has the average time it takes to complete a process or task decreased? Let people know so they continue to buy into the new way of doing things.
3) Ask for feedback and constantly look to improve
Change doesn't happen overnight, and the most successful organisations realise that. Transformation is an ongoing process that will require experimentation and alteration to ensure it's the best it can be. So it's essential to constantly monitor KPIs related to the change to ensure its success is continuing.
You should also ask employees for feedback on how they're finding the new process and what could be improved. There's always going to be hiccups or things that don't quite work at first, so showing your employees that you realise this and that the change isn't final but will be improved over time is crucial.
4) Ensure leadership buy-in
A change won't last if employees see their managers and executives slipping back into the old way of doing things. To achieve long-lasting transformation, therefore, you need to ensure those at the top are continuing to set an example. Only then will you see trickle down to employees on the front line.
Looking to transform your New Zealand business? A change of personnel at the top might be what it takes to make it successful. Contact the executive recruitment specialists at JacksonStone & Partners to find out more about our services.