A wise man adapts himself to circumstances, as water shapes itself to the vessel that contains it. –Chinese Proverb
Organizational change is very rampant in the financial services, and it has a bearing on how people are treated as well as how they respond to the effect of these changes. In some cases, people perceive the change as a blessing and welcome it with open arms, while others see it as a curse and fight tooth and nail to resist it. One known fact that we sometimes refuse to acknowledge is that change is the most permanent feature in the life of any system, whether it is the human being, institution, society or for that matter any modern organization.
An organizational change is both the process in which an organization changes its structure, strategies, operational methods, technologies, or culture to affect change within the organization and the effects of these changes on the organization itself. Organizational change can be continuous or occur for distinct periods. When an organization fails to change, the cost of failure may mean its survival.
The dynamism of banking
Banking is one of the most dynamic professions in the world. No economy can survive without financial intermediation. Although bankers are perceived to be conservative in their outlook, the truth is that without adapting to the changes in the economic, social, legal, political, and all other environmental factors, banks can go extinct. The Ghanaian banking sector is now very vibrant and modern. Banks now employ cutting-edge technologies to roll out their products to their customers.
Mergers and Acquisitions
I am sure some readers will remember the acquisition of National Savings and Credit Bank (NSCB) by Social Security Bank (SSB) in the early nineties. We also witnessed the acquisition of The Trust Bank (TTB) by Ecobank, Standard Trust Bank by United Bank of Africa (UBA), Amalgamated Bank (AMAL) by Bank of Africa (BOA), Intercontinental Bank by Access Bank, and UT Financial Services and Metropolitan and Allied Bank (MAB) became known as UT Bank. Between 2018 and 2019, seven Banks-Royal Bank, uniBank, The Beige Bank, Construction Bank, Heritage Bank, Premium Bank were liquidated by the Bank of Ghana (BoG) and merged into the Consolidated Bank of Ghana (CBG), as a state-owned bank.
The People Factor – Some perceptions
As these hustles go on, financial institutions are undergoing massive restructuring and rightsizing. Structures, policies and procedures are changing drastically. Old staff are being laid off, new staff are being recruited to blend with existing staff. After this jigsaw puzzle has been put into place, what happens to the people? How easily do people change their mindsets and attitudes within this new order? Since the most prized asset in any institution is its people, if the puzzle is not solved with a human touch, the following negative consequences of the teething process emerge:
- Unknowledgeable staff
- Rift between the “old and new staff”
- Lack of Unity and Trust
- PHD-Pull Him Down Syndrome
- Bad Customer Service
- Dissatisfied Customers
- Loss of business
Some global banks across the world have been known to have invested billions of dollars in acquisitions, restructuring and organizational changes. Some faced integration problems, turned the scales ending in losses and reputational damage. The underlying cause was the People Factor.
Why is change so difficult?
The culture of an organization becomes a part of the people who perform the work. In changing old patterns, people must alter not only their behaviour but also their values and perceptions of themselves and others. Sometimes the organization’s structures, procedures, and relationships continue to reflect prior patterns of behaviour and cause resistance to new ones. As a result, organizational changes sometimes result in upheavals and dissatisfaction, as well as resignations, dismissals, or transfers. It is therefore important that, an organization must develop an adaptive orientation and management style that is geared to its new environment.
Managers in different organizations deal with situations that may be dramatically different. Some organizations exist in relatively stable environments, whereas others operate in highly dynamic settings. Each requires different orientation to the environment. The “copy and paste” syndrome does not always work. The “copy” should be modified to suit the new environment to make it work. A process flow in a global institution needs modification to suit the conditions of the local working environment, especially in a high illiterate population.
Resistance to change
Resistance to change has long been the center of attention of managerial research (studies) due to its immense importance in influencing the overall success and failure of an organizational change process. There is a thought that the extent, level and magnitude of resistance that an organizational change persists determine how successful and effective it will be or otherwise fail to achieve its objectives.
The effective management of change is a major challenge facing many organizations. Failure to change results in extinction. To be successful, banks must adopt a managerial style and culture that can adequately handle the challenges and opportunities they face. Sometimes a management style that was adequate under the previous conditions may become progressively less effective under changing circumstances. Without change, management cannot maintain excellence. Resistance, therefore is a necessary evil that change agents have to expect and manage.
One dichotomy is the wide gap created between “Old Staff” and “New Staff”. The old staff are the ones that have been in the system before the introduction of new management, new processes and policies. The entrance of new staff is seen by some existing staff as an invasion and a nuisance.
They are sometimes even perceived as spies for the new management. During such situations, some old staff go to the extent of conducting their own background checks on the new ones, as they wonder why they have come to “replace” their colleagues who have had to be laid off or, “right-sized”. One expected development of this dichotomy is that the new staff also start bonding together, sharing information, ideas and thoughts. As their relationships are cemented, they sometimes form their own negative impressions (mostly false) about the old staff. They eventually generalize that all old staff are bad, useless, ignorant, etc. The gap continues to widen. Can you imagine that in some places, even after ten years of integration, the old and new staff syndrome continues to persist?
New staff need to be advised to be mature about these things and take it as a normal phenomenon in human institutions. A lot depends on their attitude as well. They have to understand and empathize with the old staff, while making sure that they listen, “shine” your eyes, avoid being trapped into taking sides with people and stay focused on your goals as you “justify your inclusion”. After all, no condition is permanent. When the resisters of change realize your neutrality and seriousness, they will come closer to become your friends. No one should create an impression that they have the magic wand. The key is teamwork.
I will pause here. I wish you good experiences on your banking journey. For more insights on this topic, please book a copy of my new book, “THE MODERN BRANCH MANAGER’S COMPANION” which involves the adoption of a multi-disciplinary approach in the practice of today’s branch management. It also shares invaluable insights on the mindset needed to navigate and make a difference in the changing dynamics of the banking industry. Call 0244333051 for your copy.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Alberta Quarcoopome is a Fellow of the Institute of Bankers, and CEO of ALKAN Business Consult Ltd. She is the Author of two books: “The 21st Century Bank Teller: A Strategic Partner” and “My Front Desk Experience: A Young Banker’s Story”. She uses her experience and practical case studies, training young bankers in operational risk management, sales, customer service, banking operations and fraud.