An Inside Look At Organizational Change

Methodologies to manage change abound, but these two credit unions have best practices and lessons learned that can apply to everyone.

 
 

Top-Level Takeaways

  • Together Credit Union focuses on collaboratively managing change and communicating throughout the organization.
  • TDECU has a team that supports its core value to “Embrace Change” by collaborating with project management, marketing, and other areas.

Rapidly evolving technology. Cryptocurrency. COVID-19. The explosion of work-from-home staffing. Inflation. Recession. The Great Resignation.

The past couple of years have provided multiple sources of external pressures to which credit unions — and businesses in general —  have had to adapt. From transforming cultures to revolutionizing technology strategies or internal processes, change management has become a major area of focus for cooperative leaders.

Methodologies to manage organizational change abound, but whether a credit union adopts 5 key elements, 3 Cs, 4 principles, or some other framework, one factor to success remains the same: Leaders must be proactive in addressing the emotional side of change.

Here, Together Credit Union and TDECU share their experiences, lessons learned, and advice for how to prepare for, implement, and support major organizational change.  

A Collaborative Approach

Claire Trunko, chief people and strategy officer at Together Credit Union ($2.4B, St. Louis, MO) joined the industry two-and-a-half years ago. Fresh off the heels of a headquarters building move and a core conversion, many long-tenured Together employees at the time looked forward to going back to business as usual — but that was not to be.

Claire Trunko, Chief People & Strategy Officer, Together Credit Union

“The reality is, change is inevitable," Trunko says. “We needed to increase our agility as we moved into a new way of operating."

So, the cooperative seized a mindset focused on forward-thinking, proactive, intentional changes.

If balancing multiple priorities and projects was to become the new normal, leaders at Together knew the cooperative must communicate and educate team members in a new way, so the credit union took steps to focus across teams and functions to begin to intentionally manage change.

Trunko found inspiration in the book Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard, which discusses why it’s important to connect both logic and feelings, and then, to make that change as frictionless as possible.

CU QUICK FACTS

Together Credit Union
Data as of 06.30.22

HQ: St. Louis, MO
ASSETS: $2.4B
MEMBERS: 138,399
BRANCHES: 27
12-MO SHARE GROWTH: 7.0%
12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 16.7%
ROA: 0.04%

“Change usually fails because you only focused on the logic or business needs,” Trunko says. “The critical component is to ensure each person fully understands what’s in it for them..”

Instead of pushing down decisions made at the executive level and expecting team members to embrace changes, at Together, cross-functional, cross-level groups now meet on a regular basis to provide input and bolster the change process.

“It’s a more collaborative and transparent way of approaching change,” Trunko says.

From a communications standpoint, Together has adopted an intentional cadence.

First, leaders learn about proposed changes, decisions, and actions before they happen. Cross-functional groups then have time with leaders for Q&A and discussions. Finally, the entire organization learns why the credit union is moving forward in a certain way.

This process was on full display recently when Together updated its benefits offerings. A full 35% of the credit union’s workforce had served Together for 10 years or more. To understand how employees might react to potential benefits changes, Together solicited early feedback through surveys and focus groups. Then, it established a cross-level, cross-functional group to help leaders make the best decisions for the entire cooperative.

“You can never make everyone happy, but candidly communicating about pain points can reduce anxiety,” Trunko says.

In addition to candid communication, the credit union also ensured managers were informed and could support the message. Emphasizing that leaders considered employees’ feelings and opinions before making decisions was important as well.

Trunko applauds the spirit of collaboration that exists within cooperatives but also encourages credit unions to broaden their view of the competition and benchmark against other industries.

“We must stay relevant, and that means changing and becoming agile,” Trunko says. “By setting that expectation with people up-front, we can help our team members understand that change is the norm and help them navigate it.”

A Team Approach

Danny Hurt, vice president of learning and development at TDECU ($4.7B, Lake Jackson, TX) has a team within his department that heads up the cooperative’s Change Enablement Strategy. Although the team works closely with the credit union’s project management office, marketing team, and managers and employees experiencing change, the placement of the team under learning and development is no accident.

Danny Hurt, VP of Learning & Development, TDECU

“Change happens one person at a time,” Hurt says. “We help individuals get through the change curve through training, project work, and individual consulting, as needed.”

The Change Enablement Strategy team includes four positions: a director, a manager, an analyst, and a specialist. TDECU uses Prosci methodology, which includes knowledge and ability components as part of its ADKAR (Awareness, Desire, Knowledge, Ability and Reinforcement) model.

TDECU’s team focuses on individual adoption to move people through the change and make the process easier. For small changes, simple communications might suffice for awareness, but major events such as opening a new location or changing the organizational structure require an elongated approach to increase buy-in.

Cascading awareness begins at the executive level, then progresses to the vice president and director level before moving to the manager level and finally to the individual level. According to Hurt, if a manager hasn’t bought in, then neither will their subordinates.

CU QUICK FACTS

TDECU
Data as of 06.30.22

HQ: Lake Jackson, TX
ASSETS: $4.7B
MEMBERS: 366,960
BRANCHES: 37
12-MO SHARE GROWTH: 6.9%
12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 7.0%
ROA: 0.57%

TDECU had the opportunity to put its new change management structure into play when it recently, successfully, converted from ADP to Workday. Adoption rates were so high, the credit union didn’t have to run parallel systems for much more than a quarter. In fact, it secured universal adoption across all the new system’s modules within five months.

“Instead of trying to train people on every individual task or provide a manual, we put 15-to-20-second demo videos of the most common tasks on our intranet,” Hurt says.

Focusing on awareness up front and simplifying training paid off with a major conversion that caused very little business disruption.

Employees understand that change happens for a reason, but to drive the desired results, Hurt says institutions need to convert those reasons into a clear “what’s in it for me” message tailored for different audiences. Hurt’s team focuses on the positive impacts or how a particular change will help a specific audience or improve processes.

“That message must be stressed over and over again, and you have to go through the model consecutively without jumping around,” Hurt says.

TDECU’s internal communications team, which is housed within marketing, works closely with the change team to tighten messaging and ensure it fits with the overall brand. The team also publicizes important changes through the intranet.

In terms of advice for other credit unions, Hurt recognizes there are a number of change management methodologies, and he advises others to study options, pick one, and commit to it by having someone on staff specialize in it.

Hurt also says it is important to have an executive sponsor on the leadership team for big projects to drive adoption. Finally, he stresses the importance of regular communications to update leaders and inform them of barriers, doing so allows the organization to do the right things at the right time.

“Another big enabler for us is one of our core values is to ‘Embrace Change,’” Hurt says. “That is great alignment when we can use our methodology to support an existing organizational value.”

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