Improving Morale and High Turnover for a Financial Services Enterprise

The client’s perspective

Managing change is rarely easy. But how do companies create a culture of acceptance when employees expect the change to be completely different than what it actually is? One large financial services enterprise discovered that it takes a well-tuned change management plan to realign expectation to reality.

The story begins when one of the enterprise’s largest departments—with more than 600 people and 20 percent of the staff—was experiencing low employee morale and high turnover.

One reason for this was that salary levels and job definitions tied to promotions were not in sync with the market. In essence, employees questioned their compensation, and there was not a clear path to advancement within the organization.

To address this problem, the Human Capital Department began an initiative to implement a new market-based compensation plan, new job titles and descriptions, and new job families to make career paths more clear. The enterprise also developed a self-service career mapping tool designed to help employees easily view all of this new information.

While employees had heard about the new tool and were excited about it, they were unclear about its purpose and use. Turnover had been so high that none of the employees who had given input into the tool’s development were still on staff, and there had been little or no communication about it.

Unfortunately, the rumor mill filled this communication void. Employees were under the false impression that the tool would allow them to plan their careers with a touch of a button. In reality, the system was simply a database to search and understand all the recent adjustments related to job definitions. The Human Capital Department knew that it had to get in front of the misinformation and reset employees’ expectations—and fast.

A new view

The enterprise turned to Eagle Hill to develop a change management plan and updated design for the career planning system to be integrated with performance appraisals, training and career counseling and career development processes—all in just five weeks’ time.

We followed a textbook approach to comprehensive change management, which included the following steps:

  • Conducting stakeholder interviews.
  • Completing a full documentation review.
  • Developing an overview critique of the approach to the system.
  • Updating the job family documentation, the career map and overall roadmap charts.
  • Developing a comprehensive change management and communication plan.

Clients like this one are often surprised about how far-reaching the benefits of experiencing this process can be. While the insights are invaluable for the challenge at hand, they often can be applied to broader cultural issues.

In this case, the enterprise was able to gain buy-in from employees, provide executives with guidance for the change effort, identify specific communication and training needs, and create a positive atmosphere to encourage understanding and acceptance of the tool. It was about trading rumors for realities.

A breakaway approach

The team’s approach to this initiative may have been textbook, but the recommendations that we ultimately made were far from textbook.

Our review of project materials and system documentation revealed that there were inherent problems with the system related to design and data quality. This meant that when the tool was launched, it was going to be even further from employee expectations than anyone initially thought.

As such, we knew that the change management plan could only go so far—that the enterprise needed to take another look at the tool itself. We brought our concerns to management and offered a remedial plan for fixing the system. This transparent approach that goes beyond the initial ask is a hallmark of our working style. We are not afraid to tell our clients the difficult things, or to step outside the box to help solve unexpected problems.

The change management and communication plan included a rollout strategy and approach that would provide immediate benefits to employees. It also reassured employees that the career planning tool would receive substantial improvements following the initial rollout.