By the People—Not By the Numbers

While banking is a numbers-driven profession, watching the numbers like a hawk and pouncing when employees fall short is not the best way to boost financial results.

Instead of merely tracking metrics and focusing on punishing those who don’t meet goals, innovative banks are using behavioral approaches to improve financial performance.

Banks that work to elicit employees’ discretionary effort are gaining better results, particularly in deepening share of wallet. They’re finding that want-to performance produces better outcomes than have-to performance. For example, in six months, a bank that identified and reinforced behaviors linked to cross-selling tripled the number of new accounts with three or more bank products or services.

Because those results stemmed from effective behaviors, the results were sustained throughout the next year. Banking managers and executives will benefit from adopting these people-focused behaviors, also advantageous for other industries:

  1. Keenly observe the impact of your actions, and make adjustments based on how people respond. Constantly and objectively notice how others react to your words, actions and decisions. Learn what does and doesn’t work, and watch for unintended effects. Consider creating intranet forums to solicit employee questions and comments.
  2.  Do more asking than telling. Use questions to engage, involve, educate, inspire, and positively reinforce critical behaviors. For instance, ask: “What happened when you did (whatever approach we discussed)?” “How did the customer respond when you said X (or did X)?” Or, “What did you notice?” Doing so will help employees feel valued, trusted and supported. You’ll win their buy-in, learning and sustained behavior change.
  3.  Relentlessly shape the critical behaviors that drive key performance indicators. Instead of reacting to the numbers, be proactive. Focus constantly on strengthening the behaviors needed to build organizational capability and produce required results. Practice shaping to reinforce successive approximations, or incremental behavior change. This requires measurement (leading indicators and evidence of behavior change), observation, feedback, and reinforcement.

For example, as described in this video, M&T Bank has used upward-feedback surveys solely as a coaching tool to help managers strengthen their employee relationships, leading to greater employee commitment. Across industries, upward-feedback survey data over the last decade have shown a high correlation between these three behaviors and top-quartile employee engagement scores. Increased discretionary effort and engagement, in turn, result in better performance. If you concentrate on behavior, you’ll make or exceed your numbers—and have a more fulfilled workforce. Read my original, longer post on this topic at Banking Exchange.

Posted by David Uhl

As senior vice president with more than 25 years of consulting experience, David is a seasoned executive coach, change leader and valued partner who leads his clients in applying behavioral science technology to accelerate and sustain organizational change and performance improvement. Known for his flexibility and adaptability, David has built longstanding relationships with those he serves across every organizational level. In his personal time, David is a ‘retired youth sports coach’ who enjoys watching his three teenage children compete in football and lacrosse; and rooting for his beloved Browns and Longhorns.