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  • Gifford Thomas

How The Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation (HSBC) Change their Culture to Remain Relevant.


HSBC is one of the largest banking and financial services organisations in the world, with operations in 65 countries and territories. The bank has approximately 235,000 employees worldwide and is considered one of the major players in the world of banking.


However, in the late 1990s, management recognizes that the banking environment was changing, and to ensure that the bank remains in the league of top ten banks in the world by market capitalization, HSBC introduced a bank-wide strategic culture change programme called Together, We Win! (TWW!)


As an integral arm of their five-year strategic plan, dubbed “Managing for Value.” Their approach to the change was very dynamic, as illustrated below.


1. The purpose and vision were Communicated To everyone.


Management ensured that the purpose and vision of change were communicated to everyone in the organization around the world. This got the staff ready for the change and set the tone for the new strategic direction.


2. The strategic goals and core values were infused into the change.


Together, We Win! (TWW!) was introduced over the period 2000-2001 for HSBC Holdings Hong Kong plus their five subsidiary companies. The core values, together with the company strategy, was used as the catalyst for the change, as illustrated below:


HSBC Strategic Goals

  • Heighten the levels of customer satisfaction

  • Build shareholder value

  • Improve staff satisfaction.


HSBC Six Core Values


1. Achieve More

2. Embrace Change

3. Delight Customers

4. Take Personal Responsibility

5. Continuously Learn

6. Continuously Improve


3. The Leadership was committed to the change


A steering committee was formed to provide the strategic direction of the change. The head of personal financial services, head of corporate and institutional banking, head of human resources, and the head of training comprise the committee. It is imperative to get buy-in from every member of the leadership team since they will be ultimately driving the change and acting as the change agent for their department, their home country and, by extension, the company. This is incredibly important because your leadership team can be an active enabler of the change, or they can be the chief resistor, which will only make the change much more difficult to execute.


A programme manager reporting to the steering committee was established to receive direction from the chair. A dedicated programme team supported the programme manager, and the programme had a budget and other resources assigned to it. The steering committee met as a group every six weeks during the duration of the programme.


4. Communication is the KEY


Training and Communication


The training programme for staff was divided into two phases:


Phase 1

Over 15,000 staff from HSBC Holdings Hong Kong plus five subsidiary companies attended the one-day event, between November 2000 and July 2001. At this event, the facilitators and top management cemented the reasoning for the change. Reinforcing the core values in their presentation and answering questions from staff.


Phase 2

Phase two involved transferring the learning event to the multi-faceted local workplace of over 15,000 staff by providing customized learning tools to help the staff embrace the change in their local workplace. The programme was implemented in the workplace during regular work duties. Teams would apply the programme core values with support and reinforcement from their team leaders and identified line champions.


A TWW! booklet was produced and circulated to every staff member. The booklet explained the linkage between the TWW! Core values and HSBC group’s strategic imperatives and articulated to staff how each individual could contribute to the group strategy in their own roles.


After 2.5 years of changing their culture, HSBC achieved significant benefits and the outcome yielded an ROI of 606.3%. But what is important to note is that the bank recognized the need to build a culture of trust during the process and did not fall victim to a quick fix or implementing the change from a top-down approach.


Now if an organisation of this magnitude can successfully plan, manage, lead and execute this change; what's holding you back from successfully executing your change. Do you think this approach is too much work? Some people have said that two and a half years is way too long for a culture change, but change takes time, and if it is done correctly, the results are quite evident.


According to the Great Places to Work Institute, companies with the best workplace culture have a significant return on their stock as oppose to other companies. If you want your organization to be a great place to work, you must invest and build a culture of trust within your organization. HSBC was committed to the process, and the company witnessed a significant return on their investment.

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About Gifford Thomas


I am the founder of Leadership First and the author of The Inspirational Leader, Inspire Your Team To Believe In The Impossible. At Leadership First, we are committed to publishing the very best inspirational leadership quotes and articles to inspire our 210,000+ community of leaders to believe in the impossible, while creating an environment free from toxic, fearful and intimidating leadership. We believe everyone can and should enjoy their work, but it must start with the leadership leading by example. Follow our community of leaders HERE, and let's change the leadership status quo to help inspire and motivate our leaders to make a difference and create an organization their people will love.


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