Financial Services Ireland

Valuing your people to drive business performance: 6 human centred drivers that lead to successful transformations

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Taking into account your employees’ emotional journey can improve any business transformation outcomes by up to 2.5x.

In 2021, EY and the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School formed a research collaboration to look at what it takes to get transformations right and how human morale can be a critical factor in this process.

This research suggests that…..

of senior leaders have been involved in two or more major transformations in the last five years alone
of those senior leaders experiencing at least one underperforming transformation during this time

The overall impact of such dramatic levels of change were also evaluated in terms of the employee experience – the research found that 79% of employees reported positive emotions after a successful transformation, however underperforming transformations adversely impacted employees’ stress levels (66% of them reported negative emotions such as sadness or depression).

This tallies with our experience here on the Irish market, particularly with regards to the ever-changing landscape of the financial services sector. Clients are grappling with the multiple challenges of such disruptive market change, the impact of post-covid ways of working, varying employee expectations -particularly for Gen Z – and the need for senior management teams to bring greater levels of Emotional Intelligence (EQ) into leadership styles.

How can organisations build a positive culture for employees? What are the mindset and cultural shifts required to support a business model that truly sustains, supports, and motivates all those who work there?

We know that employee expectations have shifted over the course of the last few years and so too have the ways people want to feel valued. It’s more than just professional support – they’re looking to be understood and supported on a personal level. With this in mind, the EY/Oxford research identified 6 key levers as crucial for the development of a happy, more invested and ultimately valued workforce.

1. Lead

Self-awareness and an appetite for personal growth is key to successful leadership. Leaders must constantly look within themselves to ensure that their beliefs, attitudes, and values are in sync with employee expectations and values. This is key to sustaining performance as an organisation evolves. Ensuring adequate investment in this kind of self-transformation and emphasising more of a ‘we’ approach through collaboration and communication. We are seeing some leaders of successful transformations reaching out to workers directly to understand their concerns with others investing in technology platforms to bring together disparate voices so that there is truly a two-way dialogue.

Our EY behaviour influencer platform helps clients to identify their entire network of influencers within the business so they can look beyond any silos, current ways of working, leadership styles, flight risks and more. It makes for more meaningful discussions about the issues that really matter within teams. One of our clients adapted this approach and were able to successfully beat their three-year retention target in just 18 months, hitting 95.2%, rising to 96% the following year. Two years after launching this platform, the client measured +£34M in savings from retaining clients by using this platform.

We have also worked with a local financial services institution who has committed to leading with purpose. They’ve put purpose at the heart of everything that they do: their strategy, their culture, and their leadership approach. The CEO is completely invested – and clearly owns the mandate – so it has been brought to life through a comprehensive internal communications programme, which includes a role for storytelling and the development of a network of change agents throughout the business.

2. Inspire

It’s about trust and belief. Leaders who create a vision that everyone can believe in will inspire their teams to deliver. But this is often easier said than done. It involves applying “future-first” thinking; defining a firm vision that can be clearly understood and that resonates with all. Often these can become too lofty or intangible so the emphasis here is on creating something that makes sense from leadership teams to recent hires to those working with the company for a number of years. It has to be universal and relatable.

For example, if this vision is around creating a ‘zero-operations’ mindset, this signals a change in approach and perspective and COOs will need to tap into the psychology of uncertainty, bringing fresh and diverse perspectives to help shape the vision and to ensure teams are agile and iterative as targets shift.


3. Care

Understanding the emotional state of your teams is central to gaining their buy-in for any new change or process. It can also help to identify early warning signals should something not be sitting right with employees. A lot of time and effort is spent on researching, analysing, and listening to the voice of the customer but perhaps less so when it comes to tapping into those internal voices.

Setting up a structured feedback mechanism process within the business – and really listening to what your people have to say -helps to quickly identify the source of any concerns and seek to address these issues in an emotionally supportive and constructive way.

All leaders will of course need to draw the line somewhere, balancing consultation with driving through the change needed but this internal feedback loop will allow them to be more aware of their decision-making style, utilising a “ruthless-caring” mindset, where tough decisions are still undertaken but with empathy, consideration and support given to those impacted.

4. Empower

Empowerment. This word can lose its meaning in the stream of media and corporate messaging where it’s used but at its core it’s about fostering a culture of experimentation and creating ‘a go for it’ mindset.

It’s important to create autonomy for the organisation to execute; shifting from a “don’t fail” to a “fail fast” way of thinking. In Ireland, we’re seeing certain insurers and payments providers are leading the charge in developing innovation hubs to encourage out of the box thinking with regards to product and process design, Mastercard being one such example. Equally one of the larger insurance companies actively encourages agile organisation design and avails of the full capabilities and natural leanings of their workforce to really effect change.


5. Build

Using technology and capabilities in the right way, where people are truly playing to their strengths and aided in learning how to harness technology, will help to build a resilient, adaptable, and prepared workforce.

It’s about recognising the emotional impact technology can have on the organisation and ensuring the right tools and emotional support is available to foster a culture of continued learning and upskilling. Communicating the benefits of new technology – and giving access to all to learn more about how it can enhance their working life-is what’s required here. Removing any fear, or any barriers whether that be through hiring, upskilling or reskilling, partnering or outsourcing, will help the organisation and its people to harness the true value of technology.

6. Collaborate

Collaboration is more than just working together on projects. It’s about building connection and encouraging co-creation amongst team members and different teams across the business.

With this approach, teams can co-create new ways of working and people feel empowered to redesign and redefine their own work, both in terms of shifting behaviours and re-defining how work gets done. This builds a healthy interdependency across teams to manage both the emotional and rational elements of change. Providing a safe space where new ways of working — both digital and agile — can emerge to nurture innovation, engagement and fulfilling work. Leaders know that their organisations need to transform, but change is hard. How can you harness the power of your people to drive transformation success in your organisation?

Read more on the EY and the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School research here.

To download the report in full in click here.




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