The use of collaboration technology such as videoconferencing is becoming increasingly widespread across a variety of industries, and for good reason. Bandwidth speeds easily accommodate video without the latency issues, employers have greater incentive to provide a flexible work environment to attract and retain top workers, and more companies deploy geographically distributed workforces, creating an additional barrier to management and culture-building.
Collaboration technology, when positioned correctly and embraced by employees, increases productivity. One company, for example, adopted collaboration tools and reduced wasted time by as much as 30 percent, according to a study by management consulting firm McKinsey.
Banks and credit unions, though, face additional challenges that make collaboration technology adoption an urgent priority. Because their networks of about 80,000 branches nationwide serve as the day-to-day employment locations for hundreds of thousands of workers, banks and credit unions must work hard to drive productivity and retain a cohesive culture.
In a 2015 report, “Do Banks Have a Culture Problem?” accounting and consulting firm Ernst & Young argues corporate culture in the banking industry drew increased scrutiny by both the media and regulators in recent years.
“Even banks below $10 billion are starting to hear phrases like ‘tone at the top’ showing up on exams, even though few of them think of themselves as being responsible for the financial crisis,” the report notes. “In fact, many community and regional banks pride themselves on their conservative cultures and the way they treat their clients. But they are more vulnerable than large banks because just one bad actor can bring the bank to its knees.”
The Nexus of Collaboration Tech and Corporate Culture
The distribution of modern collaboration technology, while certainly no cure-all for banking’s cultural challenges, is a vital step in an industry with such a widely a distributed workforce.
Certainly, there is no lack of collaboration technology in the marketplace. Firms are offering businesses a growing range of these tools, including Cisco Webex and video, BlueJeans and Microsoft Teams, all working on in-office hardware from Logitech, Lifesize and Polycom, and the full complement of mobile devices employees already own.
Of course, merely installing collaboration tools in a bank’s corporate environment is no cure-all for cultural challenges. But it’s a vital step in an industry with a distributed workforce. So how can banks use collaboration tools to truly transform workplace performance? Here are two strategies to help companies achieve the large gains in productivity, decision-making and innovation they seek from these technologies.
- Wed collaboration technologies to business processes: Simply deploying a new collaboration solution doesn’t do much good if a bank or credit union fails to ensure its employees bake it into their work processes. It’s vital that technology be paired with policy to ensure an institution is getting maximum value from the new solution.
For example, once a bank or credit union has deployed a videoconferencing solution, employees should be strongly advised to use the functionality, rather than simply dialing into a meeting on their phones. Some businesses, in fact, require employees to use video during meetings because the visual component increases each person’s engagement in the meeting. On camera, it’s harder for a person to focus on other work (or distract themselves) during the meeting.
- Shape the collaborative behaviors that drive results: Just as important as ensuring employees use collaboration technology, companies must also shape, encourage and incentivize collaborative behaviors.
One large company decided to turn collaborative participation into a game with winners and awards. Its corporate social network grew to 240,000 users, including customers and partners as well as employees. Still, actual activity was relatively light. Employees were awarded points and became eligible for awards for completing tasks, answering questions or doing other work on the network. The result: a 21 percent increase in collaborative activity, helping to shape behaviors supporting timely business outcomes.
Community banks and credit unions can engage in similar gamification approaches to encourage employees to use videoconferencing technology, for example, or to shift away from email toward instant-messaging solutions.
It’s clear that collaboration is a key to success across many industries, and financial services is no exception. Banks and credit unions have no reason to ignore the power of collaboration tools.