Cultural change can come in many forms and be prompted by a variety of factors, whether internal or external to the organisation. More often than not, change is necessary to keep a business afloat and competitive in a difficult market. But this doesn’t mean everyone on board is excited at the prospect of cultural change. Many actively resist change, preferring the comfortable status quo. While this is understandable — after all, human beings generally find solace in the predictable — it’s not ideal. What every organisation wants is a team of employees who are motivated to support the change. 

One industry that has necessitated a transformational change in recent years is the financial sector. Since the financial crisis of 2008, financial organisations have had to work hard to change the way they operate and to win back customer loyalty and trust. This required fundamental shifts regarding internal processes and company culture — for companies large and small. 

As experts in company culture, we at People Insight were fascinated about how leading financial companies navigated transformational change over the past ten years. To get to grips with how they successfully achieved this, we collaborated with industry leaders and recently published a report revealing five key lessons uniting all companies that tackled and succeeded with transformational change.

1. Authentic Leadership Is Required to Support Successful Transformational Change 

“The right leadership, role models, and clear expectations around beliefs and behaviours help create a far more positive culture where people feel confident enough to bring their whole selves to work and produce their very best work.”

— Cheryl Bosi, HR Director at Lloyds Banking Group

You’ll find it hard to get employees excited or motivated to make change succeed if their leaders seem apathetic about it. At times of unpredictability, employees look to their leaders. They take in their attitudes, their vision for change, their rationale and their confidence. They need to believe their leaders have complete control over the situation and the change energises them.  If employees sense reluctance or trepidation in this area, it is unlikely they will get on board fully.

Leaders need to communicate regularly and consistently. They need to set clear expectations  about what will be done by management and what needs to be done by employees for the change to be a success. Furthermore, employees should be let in on why the change is required in the first place and how it will ultimately benefit the company as a whole.

2. Make Sure Line Managers Are Well Briefed

“Invest time in coaching your managers to play a part in your communications strategy and reinforce key messages confidently.  This means that colleagues hear the message in a way which they can connect with, helps them to visualise what the future might look like for them.”

— Fiona Wallace, Brewin Dolphin

It is common practice these days for employees to hold regular performance discussions or one-on-ones with their line managers. Discussion allows everyone involved to catch up on performance and progress. But such discussions are also a great opportunity for line manager and employee to develop relationships conducive to meaningful conversations. 

With increased contact and communication, employees are going to feel comfortable with their line managers, and approach them for information. With this in mind, line managers should be well briefed. They should have all the information and training they need to support their team through this change to keep communication flowing — in both directions. 

3. During Times of Change, View “Failures” as Valuable Lessons

“There are three crucial steps to take in order to successfully lead change: Reduce bureaucracy, reduce long decision-making cycles, and celebrate success.”

— Susanne Chishti,  CEO of FINTECH Circle

Transformational change is never easy. To successfully navigate it, you need your team to bring all their skills and strengths to the table. High levels of creativity and innovation will help you and your people come up with out-of-the-box solutions to unique, pressing problems. Your employees need to know they are encouraged to speak up. They need the psychological safety to do so. What’s more, when they do speak up, their successes need to be celebrated. This can make all the difference between transformational change feeling like a slog, or a rewarding experience.

What’s more, companies should be cautious of a blame culture. If employees come up with new ideas, projects or experiments, but they are not successful, don’t let them feel like failures. Instead, allow for a fail fast mentality. Leaders should explain the test was worth it, as lessons have been learned and the company is stronger as a result.

4. During Transformational Change, Maintain Excellent Levels of Communication at All Times

“Get into the habit of listening. Giving people the opportunity to have their say can make all the difference to whether you make change with your people or despite them.”

— Sarah McPake, Senior Manager at TSB

Unsurprisingly, one of the most important secrets to a successful cultural change is effective, meaningful and continual communication. Managers need to actively listen to their employees while taking in feedback, concerns and suggestions. Managers should be clear about why the change was necessary. If you believe it will make for a better employee experience, share this with your employees.

Constant communication will show your employees you care about their input and opinions while making it clear they are vital and valuable to your company. Conversations will also go a long way to alleviate any pressing concerns employees have with regards to the change. 

5. Throughout Transformational Change, Give Your Employees a Constant

“Culture change is not achieved through a single action or project – it is the culmination of all the different actions you take in an organisation and in my experience, positive culture change is something which happens over time.”

— Fiona Wallace, Brewin Dolphin

Change is forever taking place within an organisation on some level. Odds are, the face of your company will be radically different in ten years time compared to today. This is something we all understand. After all, successful companies need to evolve and adapt in many different ways. But throughout this change, to give your employees a sense of belonging, stability and comfort — remember what you want to preserve.

Determine what’s important to your organisation. Start with your company values and question what should underpin all decisions and change in your company. If you are a business who prioritises flexibility, make sure you maintain this value. Make it clear to your employees that some things — the essential things — will never change. This will help your employees to get enthusiastic about smaller changes to their roles and the company structure.

About the Author: Carolyn Nevitte is HR Director at People Insight, a company that helps organisations measure and improve the employee experience through employee surveys, 360-degree feedback and expert consulting.