Workday Podcast: Navigating Change Management in Banking

Your organization can’t transform without change management, but rolling out such an initiative can be overwhelming. Two senior leaders from Huntington National Bank share best practices on how financial organizations can build a business case and framework for change management.

This podcast was recorded before the global pandemic. While the world looks a lot different today, we believe this content remains valuable for helping organizations move forward.

Audio is also available on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

Digitization has disrupted businesses across every industry, and banking is no different. In a world where speed and convenience rule, the banking industry is under pressure to enable more digital processes and systems to remain competitive. But how do you make that shift in an industry that's steeped in regulations and traditional modes of operation?

In this episode of the Workday Podcast, I discuss how to navigate change management in banking with Heather Effron, senior vice president, leadership development director at Huntington National Bank, and Andy Secrest, senior vice president, colleague service delivery director at Huntington National Bank.

The transcript of our conversation is below, edited for clarity. You can also find our other Workday Podcasts here.

Greg Thomas: Heather and Andy, thank you so much for being here. Can you both tell me about your backgrounds?

Heather Effron: I started with Huntington Bank about five years ago, leading a team of HR business partners. When we signed the Workday contract, my organization looked around and said, "We need somebody with change management experience to lead this major initiative." So, Andy tapped me and I joined his team to roll out the change management piece. Now, I'm in a new role in a leadership development director position.

Andy Secrest: I've got a long IT background. I came over to HR three or four years ago. Interestingly, the reason I got the job is because our recruiting system was so bad, I had applied for a job and thought, “We've got to find a better way to do this.” So, before I even started in HR, I knew we had to find a better system. Since we’ve had the Workday project approved, I've done a lot of different deployments and learned valuable lessons from not doing it correctly.

Thomas: That's an inadvertent happiness that you applied for the wrong job.

Secrest: Yeah, I've got a lot of scars.

Thomas: We'll talk about some of those as we go along. So, let's wind the clock back. What were some of the factors that brought Huntington National Bank to look at its HR systems?

Secrest: When I came over from HR, we had a lot of paper processes, spreadsheets, and disjointed efforts—everyone had their own little silo. The reports never matched. I was chatting with the chief human resources officer and just talked about how we're not going to be able to get where we wanted to be by using a bunch of different, older systems. There had to be a better way to integrate everything. 

Effron: I remember starting as a new leader in the HR space and having multiple HR systems. I  had to learn all of these systems as an HR leader, as well as support others who weren’t really interested in my onboarding because they had needs to deliver for their teams. I had to quickly ramp up, and trying to navigate the complexity that we had was challenging for an HR person who's supposed to be an expert in these systems. I really felt for managers that were trying to use this technology because they don't touch it  as frequently as someone in HR would.

Thomas: What were some of the challenges that you were looking for a new system to solve?

Effron: The biggest one that I experienced as a new hire, that I'm sure all of our managers and colleagues experienced, was that I didn't even know where to start. Do I click here for recruiting? Do I go there for performance reviews? There was a different system for all of the different transactions. 

Thomas: It's a little daunting if you don't even know where to start.                 

Secrest: Exactly. When we would do things like compensation, in one system you would say, "Here's what I'm going to rate this person,” and you'd rate them on a scale of 1 to 5 to give them a better raise. But all the performance development was done in another system. So, about four months after you got your raise or your bonus, we would marry them together and say, "Wait, somebody gave them a ‘highly exceeds’ to give them a better raise, but they gave them a 3 on their performance review." And this was all done after the fact so, as a manager, you felt like you're always looking in a rearview mirror.

We had all types of issues where people would take a bunch of spreadsheets, put them in an access database, and get a number that they would feed directly into our payroll system. It is not the best way to run. We had a bunch of process issues and it was hard to manage. And if something was to break or somebody wouldn't do something right, you would spend days trying to redo what they had done.

Thomas: Yeah, those tape-and-bailing wire systems work until they don't.

Effron: I remember teaching my team how to do crazy things in Excel to match the data from two different systems and make sure that we could pull a report together to deliver to the executive. We were doing V look ups and creating formulas that typically only a sophisticated Excel user would know. And sometimes that would create accidental errors from things like not sorting the row correctly or transposing numbers and incorrect data would get sent out.

Thomas: When you think about the selection process, you had these challenges and you're thinking, “All right, we need to make some changes here.” How did the management team work through those challenges to make the change management case to bring something new in?

Secrest: I looked at it from a bottoms-up approach of what's our architectural footprint? What's our data? How does our data flow? I did a lot of architectural diagrams, data flow diagrams, and system-of-record diagrams that I don't think a lot of the business groups were looking at as an HR deliverable. So, we looked at it and used those to define the problem, and understand why we can't fix it by throwing more IT labor at it.  That started to articulate that it needs to be solved.

Once we identified that,  we decided we wanted to go to a single vendor for the core functions—a vendor that we could grow with. There were a couple of vendors that we could look at, and when we started looking more at Workday, the Workday community, and other Workday customers, it all pretty much articulated what we wanted. 

I think those things resonated well with the executives. We had a small group that drove identifying the problem and the solution, and then we presented that to the executives. The more that they heard about the system and the consolidated vision, the more it got roots and took off.  

Thomas: You mentioned a small group, do you know how many folks roughly?

Secrest: I worked with my counterpart in IT. There was a project we had to do that was going to take about 24,000 person hours to complete, and that's when the light bulb went off and she said, "Why would we do this? We're going to spend 12 people years and it's going to be over budget and it's not going to meet what people need. It's just not going to work, because what are the odds that those projects actually come off on time? This is crazy for the amount of money we're going to invest in this. We could invest all the IT hours and implement a new system instead.”

We were the primary two and we also had a small group from HR systems that worked with us and then from payroll and finance. 

Thomas: Implementing any system is a big deal. It's an expensive and lengthy proposition with a lot of important payoff at the end. How did you approach change management and really getting this thing done?

Effron: When I talked to our chief HR officer, one of the things that he said that really resonated with me was, "This is the largest initiative that HR has taken on in the Huntington history." Having a dedicated change management resource to lead this large initiative was very eye-opening for us as an organization that doesn't have a change management function. Having that dedicated resource to drive change and  engage stakeholders in the communication of rolling it out was so critical. That support was huge.

Thomas: When that change management initiative took off, something like that seems obvious in hindsight. So, how'd you come to that realization early on and what did you learn about how to do it well?

Effron: I think the key for the success was that we had stakeholder engagement throughout the entire process. If you start change management when you're already halfway through the project, you've started too late. You have to start at the very beginning. That's why I was so thankful to be brought into the project early on and engage in the design process. My HR background allowed me to look at what we’re doing today and then where we’re going to in the future. I was then able to say, "All right, what kind of change is this? Is this just an address change where people have to know where to log in and do a simple address change on a new system, or is this a complete behavior change that we need to do a significant change management effort to make sure that people know what kind of behaviors we're expecting them to do in the future?”

We went through a process in the design phase where I sat through all the design sessions and assessed the overall impact. We rated it using a numeric scorecard so I could take it back to the executive leadership team, with Andy's support, to say, "Here's the major changes that we're having, and here’s the minor changes.” Being able to put data behind it and show the executives why these are the major changes, why we need to make sure they know what the change is, why it's important, and how it's going to impact their people, helped us get buy-in from the leadership team early on so that when we hit the “go button” there were no surprises.

Thomas: Andy, from your perspective, that sounds like a very quantified approach. Did that help you make the case and help people see where the change management minds were essentially in a landscape?

Secrest: Yes, it wasn't an afterthought. We baked it into the budget and it was part of the success criteria. Before the project started, the two of us and the project manager sat down individually with each executive to understand what they wanted to see happen. From those conversations, we came up with five key themes from the executives’ perspectives:

  • Don't do anything different for me or my business segment that I haven't reviewed.
  • I want everybody to do the same thing. 
  • Don't overcomplicate it.
  • Don't customize it.
  • Make sure the colleagues are involved.

These became the tenants and marching orders for the project. We didn't get into these lower level discussions of needing something customized because we're going up to the executives before we do it. That squelched a lot of the discussion because they started to understand why. We also asked for them to provide us two or three people that would be their eyes and ears on the project. We had 30 senior leaders that we were heavily engaged with even before we started the project. That was all baked in based on lessons learned from other projects.

We also made sure that they were engaged in all the key decisions. Based on Heather’s scoring, it would either go to the HR manager that owned the process, our CHRO, or the executives. A friend of mine that did change management in a previous life had said, "Sometimes you have to tell people 49 times before it sinks in.” We were purposely repetitive on our communications and started having steering committee meetings every two weeks before deployment. So about 10 weeks before deployment, every two weeks we met to go through cut-over plans, where we were on our testing, and we took the key decisions back to executives to say, "Hey, remember this is what we're doing." Strangely enough, they changed. Even as part of our 49 steps, as they got closer to it, they started changing some of the decisions. The nice thing about the Workday framework is that we were able to do those before we went live. But, if we hadn't gone back to them and included the change management approach, we would have been poorly misaligned at the deployment.

Thomas: It sounds like y'all were incredibly thoughtful about this.

Secrest: And lucky.

Thomas: Never underestimate the value of luck. Looking back, what was the impact to the overall organization of the approach and, ultimately, the deployment?     

Secrest: In some meetings, an executive would say, "Unless something happens, I don't need to hear about it.” This was nice because it let us focus on where we did have problems. About halfway through the project, I had to go to regional presidents’ meetings, which included 13 of the regional presidents and probably 13 other high-level executives. I didn't realize it at the time, but our CEO and our chairman of the board were also there.

We presented what Workday is going to do for the company and how we’re going to roll it out. They started getting really excited about it, but you could tell by the look on their faces that they thought this project was over-promising. Two of the people that were in this advisory group were in the meeting, so when the executives started asking me questions these people started answering for them. That's the best presentation when you're not answering questions. I got a call from the chairman of the board the next day saying how impressed he was.

Our CEO came, without really knowing that we were like the flagship for how to do change management. We never had to worry about something going above us and coming back down to us—it came to us first to resolve. We had very good transparency and communication and it just worked.

Thomas: That must've felt great not only for you but for the extended teams that were working on this, right?

Secrest: Yeah.

Effron: We created the momentum that we needed within the organization to drive change management to the next level. We're getting ready in our corporate communications group to implement another big technology solution. Andy and I are not really involved in it because it's a different business unit that's implementing this new technology, but they've asked us for support and advice through their process. I'm going to serve on their steering committee and help them as they think about their change management approach and how they're going to roll this out to all colleagues at Huntington Bank.

That's another great compliment and more movement within our organization to put change management on the map and say, “You know, the success of your programs could be even better if you have a change management process that you follow.”

Thomas: We've talked a fair amount about the management layer of this process. Let's shift to individual employees, whether they're line managers, hourly, or individual contributors. What did you do to help bring those folks along?

Effron: We actually had a fun experience. Early in the project, when we were still in the design phase, we sat employees down in the computer lab and only showed them how to log in, that was it. We then gave them a scavenger hunt to see if they could do things like change their address, change their benefits, or give somebody a raise. We told them to try to do these things without any direction. That helped inform us if they were able to do it without any questions or problems. If they were telling us that the process was easy, then we knew that our design was correct and we just needed to spend time in training and communication.

There were a couple places in the system that even us as facilitators couldn't figure out how to do, so we went back to the design group and reconfigured some of the processes. That's the iterative process that you go through when you're building your different tenants, but that feedback from the colleagues in the room allowed us to make the changes that we knew would deliver a better product.

Thomas: I'm curious about some of the cultural components of this. Were there any things that you needed to drive in terms of culture change, such as the way people thought about things or the way they approach the work that they do to make this successful?

Effron: In our overall impact analysis we rated what the change was—behavior,system,  policy, or process change. The behavior change is what really caught our attention and spiked the overall impact when we assessed it. There were a couple of things that were significant behavioral changes, so we made sure our executives were aware of that change. We also made sure that we called it out in our communications that basically said what's changing and why.

We wanted people to understand why that decision was made, so building that into our training and communications so people understood our plan for that kind of shift.

Thomas: As you went through this change management process, how did you gauge whether it was working or if you needed to take a different change management approach?

Effron: Since deployment, we've changed a couple of our processes because of what we’ve learned. We wanted to improve the experience so we did go back and reconfigure some of the processes that we rolled out originally. You have to continually consider your key stakeholders before you push the button and make that change happen in your system. Since I've moved on to another role, that's one of the things that Andy has created within his team of release management processes.   

Secrest: I think one of the things that we missed in the business case was adoption metrics. Because of the way the business case was put together, I had to figure out how much it was going to cost and how much it was going to save. Those were on the general ledger side to know how the savings would flow so I couldn't take cost avoidance or efficiencies, I had to save hard dollars.

We never calculated things like how much time it takes to fill a role, what turnover could look like, or how long onboarding takes. We didn't do baseline metrics, which is probably one of the biggest gaps in the change management approach because I didn't have to. I didn't spend the energy. It would have been nice, in retrospect, to say, "Here's what happened for time to fill. Here's how quickly I can onboard." We don't really have that, but I wish we had that now so we could go back and rate the efficiency of the organization. It's one of the things we're trying to do now and  we're still working on that.    

For the most part, I think almost everything from what we configured from a change management perspective was correct. We've made some tweaks to it, but we are going back into finding the metrics.

Thomas: That's cool, this has been a fantastic conversation. As we wrap, what would you say to others within the banking industry who are looking to drive this kind of big process change of technology? What advice would you give them?

Secrest: Know your audience, understand where you're headed, and be flexible. Be clear with what you’re going to do and why. I'm a big believer in having the right framework and I think we had a really good framework where we could adapt. We weren't so rigid, but we had a good framework and good people assigned that if something came up, we could switch work around. We were able to quickly adapt to things as they changed. And we included change management communication training at the beginning—it wasn't an afterthought.

Thomas: Yeah, get everyone on the same boat and bring them along. Heather, what would you tell our listeners?

Effron: I’d say something similar to what Andy said, but I'll also add the importance of identifying all of your key stakeholders early in the effort. One of the tools that I used was a tracker. It was just an Excel spreadsheet, but I had all of the stakeholders identified and I put on the tracker when I last talked to them and what topics I had covered with them, because I wanted to bring them along on the journey. If it had been a couple months and I look back at the progress of that stakeholder and saw that they only knew the beginning story, I would know that we needed to go back and re-communicate something or host a road show and visit that group. I’d also say to use data. The impact analysis that we did was so helpful because we could say quantitatively this is the biggest change and here's how it was scored. 

Thomas: Fantastic. We've been talking with Heather Effron and Andy Seacrest from Huntington National Bank. Thanks for listening to the Workday Podcast. If you liked what you heard, please subscribe.

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