Give Power to the People Throughout Tech Transitions

By Catherine Skrzypinski May 12, 2017
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​VANCOUVER, British Columbia, Canada—When a company embarks on a major technology shift, managers need to pay attention to their people to make it a successful transition, according to an HR executive with firsthand experience.

"Tech programs fail without a focus on people," speaker Jay-Ann Gilfoy said May 3 at the Chartered Professionals in Human Resources of British Columbia and Yukon's HR Conference & Tradeshow 2017. Gilfoy is senior vice president of digital solutions and business technology at Vancity, a Vancouver-area credit union. Before that, according to her LinkedIn profile, she was chief human resource officer at Coast Capital Savings, Canada's largest credit union and president of the British Columbia Human Resource Management Association.

In 2014, Vancity began its Banking Applications Renewal program—the biggest tech project in the company's 70-year history. More than 500,000 members in metropolitan Vancouver and Victoria, the capital of British Columbia, Canada, tapped into this new online banking system in November 2016.\\

"[Vancity's] leadership had a concentrated approach to help employees gain confidence through this change," Gilfoy said.

Learn from Failure

Vancity's leaders turned to its employees—who work in the metro Vancouver area and in Europe and India—as the primary users of the new technology platform. They learned plenty of lessons as a result, Gilfoy said.

During software development, quality assurance and training, there were several missteps and failures, Gilfoy said. Regardless, she put a lot of trust in the tech team to work alongside Vancity's 2,500-plus employees. She also placed an emphasis on transparency.

"[Vancity] had a culture of fear, as this failed once before," she continued. "We needed to think differently and set principles. This was a significant change for our employees to … adopt new technologies and improve tech solutions."

 

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Lead with 'Design Thinking'

As they upgraded the credit union's technology, Vancity's executive leaders and managers eased the transition by relying on what Gilfoy called "design thinking"—an approach to problem-solving that integrates the needs of people, the possibilities of technology and the requirements for business success.

As SHRM Online reported, the Harvard Business Review describes design thinking as a concept that "empowers employees to observe behavior and draw conclusions about what people want and need."

Vancity's leaders also tried to respond faster to credit union members—especially those who bank online or by using mobile devices, Gilfoy noted. They also focused on technology trends and how members interacted with the credit union.

People Plan

Vancity's leaders check in with employees with surveys and regular outreach to see how they are using and adapting to the updated system. Workers also rely on video training to get up to speed. "Everyone feels like they are a part of the same team," Gilfoy said.

"We learned plenty about our teams' capabilities during this process," Gilfoy concluded. "It's ultimately our people who enable our organization to achieve our goals."

 

Catherine Skrzypinski, a freelance writer in Vancouver, covered the Chartered Professionals in Human Resources of British Columbia and Yukon's HR Conference & Tradeshow 2017 for SHRM Online.

 

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