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Digital Transformation Means Change: How to Inspire Employee Confidence
Tuesday, October 31, 2017 6:30 AM

Jill DeNiro, Chief People Officer, CO-OP Financial Services

Digital transformation can bring sweeping changes to how employees do their jobs. The challenge for credit unions is to ensure that employees are informed on, involved in and excited about the changes required to advance digitally.

To make the transition as smooth as possible for them, credit unions need to demonstrate great agility and leadership. Transparency within the organization is pivotal as well.

Study Disruptors and Innovators
When I think about best practices in change management, the first company that comes to mind is Amazon. This is a company that started selling books, then music, clothing, sporting goods, electronics; and now they sell everything, including your groceries through Whole Foods. They never stand still. They not only sell other people’s movies today, but they also market their own movies and have people working for them creating these films.

Apple is another innovative company that serves as a model. While it has stayed in the wheelhouse from an electronics perspective, if you Google each of Apple’s CEOs, you will find that they all talk about the value of being around innovators.

Mark Zuckerberg also believes in the power of a creative and forward-thinking workforce. He calls on employees to move fast and break things. Unless you are breaking things, you aren’t moving fast enough.

We in the credit union industry have historically been a little challenged in this way. We are not comfortable with the idea that we can make mistakes until we get it right.

As an industry, we are shifting our mindset, though, to embrace change. If you look at how CO-OP’s THINK conference has evolved over the years and how many credit unions are transforming digitally along with us today, there is a lot of innovation taking place in our industry.

While there are many ways to transform digitally, the most successful initiatives have one thing in common – they revolve around the member experience.

Each year, THINK attendees hear from C-suite leaders at companies like Nike and Harley Davidson. We offer these insights from top brands to help you keep your finger on the pulse of what consumers expect and to promote open-mindedness when it comes to adjusting your operations accordingly.

Getting Employees Comfortable with Change
While change is necessary for credit unions to continue to grow and thrive, at the employee level, it can be difficult. So how can your credit union get employees rallying around your digital transformation initiative?

First, management needs to let employees know change is happening and involve them in committees and activities so they don’t feel sidelined.

Ask employees questions about what your credit union can execute successfully. As a team, determine intended outcomes and potential efficiencies of change.

Credit union employees are very unique in the way they value their relationships with members. This is not just a job for most. So let employees know how they contribute to the company strategy and how they are helping members. Reward their successes and their efforts, and point out that they can move into roles of higher value.

Train employees well on new products, services, and workflows. This will help them approach their jobs with skill and confidence.

Remember also that tellers and many other employees see your members all the time; they know what is going to engage and delight them. This is critical knowledge that should be captured, shared, and integrated into the digital transformation strategy.

Employees in every capacity also experience something great everyday as consumers. They should be encouraged to bring these experiences into your credit union.

Communication is Essential
You can never communicate enough with employees.

Sometimes management gets in a room to plan and forgets to communicate back to the staff. This approach can find employees making up their own stories as to what all the new changes will entail.

Ultimately, digital transformation at its best leaves employees with a deep understanding that this is what your credit union is about moving forward, and they are being brought along with it.

With a constructive environment, buy-in organization-wide, and a culture that rewards both great ideas and the willingness to try them, change management can energize your credit union and transform the member experience you provide.

CO-OP Financial Services is a five-star endorsed business partner of Credit Union Resources, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of the Cornerstone Credit Union League.