Sneak Peek: CIBC Engages People to Implement Strategic Change

CIBC Implement Strategic Change

This month, Mark Galbraith, Vice President of Learning, Development and Knowledge Management at CIBC (Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce) shares his thoughts on changes the company has made to bring employee engagement front and center – for the long-term. Take a read and see what insights you might be able to apply to your own organization!

What motivated your brand to invest so greatly in employee engagement?

Employee engagement is a huge priority to CIBC. Our organization is going through a significant change, as we shift from operating with an inward focus to an absolute outward focus – where things are all about the client. The only way to successfully accomplish such a great change is to ensure our people feel connected to the change, understand it, and are emotionally engaged in it. We need them if we want to make the change a reality now and for years to come.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned?

I’ve found that if you want people to support your organization and you’re asking them to participate in a big change, you can’t just talk to them about it. You need to interact with them to get them involved so they become personally invested and connected. This is why Root’s Learning Map® sessions really resonated with our people – this methodology engaged our people in the change.  The sessions were interactive and collaborative, and therefore created the connections we needed.

Sharing a 40-page deck isn’t engaging. You need to give your people a voice and a way to participate in the change. You need to talk about what the change looks like and feels like to them, so they feel like they have a voice and view their role as being essential to the change process. The Learning Map® modules were very effective in accomplishing this.

What is one of the biggest misses organizations make when it comes to engagement?

McKinsey tells us that about two-thirds of business transformations fail. As senior leaders, we know this statistic and work very hard to avoid it by taking time to carefully plan out new strategies. We meet with our top-level team members … discuss … create … revise … and revise some more. By the time we’re ready to share it with the masses, we’re more than 100% comfortable with the strategy. Where we can fail is underestimating the time it will take our people to change their mindsets and get as comfortable with the strategy as we are.

Another mistake is feeling the pressure to succumb to speed. The reality is that successfully moving your organization through a major change can take months or years. It takes an extreme commitment – at all levels.  Senior leaders have to make sure their people remain engaged by incorporating sustainment initiatives into the strategy.  It’s important to help people push through their discomfort, so the new strategy has a chance.

How is CIBC working to avoid these pitfalls?

We have people checking in on our process to make sure our organization is staying committed to the change so we don’t get lost in the euphoria of the honeymoon phase. This especially applies to strategic change versus operational change. True strategic change is a long process. It takes months and years to have a strategic change become embedded in your DNA. We are focused on staying the course by realizing we need to be focused on what’s happening in the moment, and in the next quarters, while also remaining focused on the long-term.

Any final thoughts to share?

In order to create engagement with your people, you’ve got to keep it fresh and interesting. Because we live in such an on-demand world, we’re accustomed to getting what we want, when we want it. We can fast-forward through commercials. We have an unlimited amount of content to keep us entertained. Our choices are truly endless. So, leaders have to work even harder to come up with ways to engage with our people that keep them energized and focused.

It’s also very important to ensure your people understand you’re thinking about them as individuals. They need to know you care about how the change impacts their day and their lives and not just about how the change impacts the big picture.