You could say it’s because the bank was keen to move with the times.
In May 2012, a strategic review of financial services identified that Westpac was in a period of major change of economic transformation, demographic shift, new rules of banking and Asia growth and digitalisation, all of which formed the basis of their 2017- plus strategy.
Subsequently, the organisation realised the only way to keep up with these changes was to reinforce the importance of an agile and innovative workforce. And to do that Westpac had to find a way of getting their staff on board, says the company’s people and capability organisational development consultant, Che Solomon.
- “At Westpac, we really want to have a culture of innovation – for innovation to become part our DNA.”
- “In order to execute our 2017-plus strategy, we need our workforce to be more innovative, courageous and bold so that we can break free of bureaucracy and find better ways to do things for our customers.”
- “It’s about giving our 36,000-plus workforce permission to break silly banking rules and permission to break the old way of how things had been done.”
While changing group values may sound wishy-washy to some, it’s actually a strategic way to drive behavioural change, and for one of Australia’s big fours, that’s a huge undertaking. At the heart of the change was simplifying processes to make it easier for customers to interact with the bank.
To get there, a number of focus groups, executive leadership teams, gen-Y groups and high-potential groups – all from within the bank – were consulted. Westpac then enlisted its 4500 people leaders to enforce the value of courage throughout the bank.
“On a quarterly basis that notion of courage and values is reinforced at the people leaders forums, run by Gail Kelly and the executive team across the country,” says Solomon.
He says even simple things, like newsroom stories on the intranet are values and courage based. “There’s a realm of activity to stress that it’s not just an HR activity, it’s so much more and we really do a lot to celebrate, award and recognise when people have shown courage and been innovative – how they have simplified processes,” he says.
The value supports Westpac’s 2017-plus strategy made up of five key themes, three of which feed directly into the value of courage.
They are: driving deep and enduring customer relationships, radically simplifying products and processes, and pulling together as one team.
“I think the fact that the business recognised it’s not just an HR activity, but it’s actually required to execute against our 2017 strategy made it quite an easy project to roll out across the group,” says Solomon.
He says the team’s win of the Fons Trompenaars Award for Innovation and Creativity is an “absolute achievement”, particularly as it follows a win for Westpac last year, when it won the Wayne Cascio Award for Organisational Development and Leadership at the 2012 AHRI awards.
“Deciding to change our group values was a large implementation and activity,” he says. “There were so many stakeholders involved across the business. To be recognised externally for the work we’ve done after just 12 months is a great achievement.”