Enabling Your Branch Team in a Hurricane of Change

Ric Hughes

When teams are stretched to the limits, we need to do whatever we can to support them.

A headshot of Ric Hughes on a geometric background.

The hits just keep on coming. Branch and back office team members are struggling with multiple waves of change: confusing reopening guidelines, rapidly changing PPP loan guidance from the SBA, a barrage of loan extension requests and social unrest. I’ve heard (a lot!) from our customers about how their team members are managing to pivot and stretch beyond their normal roles to address each one of these changes with minimal impact to their customers.

Unfortunately, our teams are approaching exhaustion and from what we’ve all heard in the last couple of weeks, this ongoing cycle of rapid change will likely extend well into 2021 and beyond. Current Fed predictions indicate strong doubt of the quick “V” shaped recovery that we all hoped for. The unintended consequences are only now just coming into focus.

This recent WSJ article (“Flying Blind Into a Credit Storm: Widespread Deferrals Mean Banks Can’t Tell Whose Credit Worthy”) sheds light on decreasing consumer lending approvals as banks try to apply fairly brittle OCC standards to a very dynamic marketplace. We’re asking our teams to accomplish the near impossible in an environment that they’ve never experienced before.

Here are several changes that we’ve heard about from our customers that appear to be working as their teams maneuver through this hurricane of change:

  • They Need a Break – You Need to Insist: Our team members have been working at a breakneck pace for several months, while under enormous personal stress in every part of their lives. The very character that keeps them going through a crisis can erode their ability to recover and stay productive over time. At SAI, we paused our PTO policy beginning in mid-March and strongly recommended that folks take as much time as needed. In some instances, members of our leadership team have further reinforced the need for folks to take time away. One of our customers is about to make it mandatory for team members to take time off.
  • You Don’t Need to Julienne the Carrots: Risk awareness has been reinforced thousands of times into every bank operating process. Though many, if not most branch and back office processes are the same or similar across banks, most have insisted on creating processes specific to their own organization and have been reluctant to borrow processes from outside. Even a great chef is ok with using a bag of Julienne carrots instead of spending all that time with a sharp knife. Borrow what you can and give the team time to create the rest.
  • Job Aids on the Fly: In a rapidly changing environment, we need to be able to quickly create and distribute job aids that are problem specific. We also need to ensure that team members understand them and can find them when they need them. We’re partial to using our Acadia platform to do this but you can use Office 365 or other tools also. Select 2-3 team members that understand the problem and let them run with a first draft of the content, then ask 2-3 leaders to assess the draft. Target turning around the content in no more than 3 days. You can improve and update it as your team members begin to use it.

I can’t remember a time during my thirty-five years in the business world where I’ve seen so many “ordinary” team members accomplishing the extraordinary. From a manufacturing customer converting breweries to hand sanitizer production and our own employees using 3D printers to make face masks, team members are doing the impossible under difficult circumstances with a short schedule.

If you’re having great success and taking care of your team in the process, please let me know about what’s working for you and I’ll share it with our other customers.

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