How to Empower Employees and Create a Culture of Change

The financial services industry has largely begun to undertake the work of transforming their customer experience model from physical branches to their digital experience, to at least some degree. However, to get the most out of these intensive projects, transforming the people who work in banks and how they work is just as critical as your app, your branch design, and marketing campaigns. When people are included in transformation, not only do financial brands get a better end result when it comes to the customer experience, but they’re better poised to fend off incoming disruptors.

Today, we’re speaking to EJ Kritz, the EVP of Training & Customer Experience at ath Power Consulting about why financial brands need to take as much care with transforming their people practices as they do with every other part of their business. EJ, thank you for being with me today.


Melinda: Hi, I’m Melinda and you’re listening to Think Retail.

The financial services industry has largely begun to undertake the work of transforming their customer experience model from physical branches to their digital experience, to at least some degree. However, to get the most out of these intensive projects, transforming the people who work in banks and how they work is just as critical as your app, your branch design, and marketing campaigns. When people are included in transformation, not only do financial brands get a better end result when it comes to the customer experience, but they’re better poised to fend off incoming disruptors.

Today, we’re speaking to EJ Kritz, the EVP of Training & Customer Experience at ath Power Consulting about why financial brands need to take as much care with transforming their people practices as they do with every other part of their business. EJ, thank you for being with me today.

EJ: Thank you for having me. I’m excited.

Melinda: Me too. Can you just start us off by telling us a little bit about you and ath Power?

EJ: Yeah, it’d be my pleasure. So, my background is all over the map. I’m one of those weird people who work in banking who’s never been a banker, which I think actually aligns very, very much to what you’re talking about. This idea of open-mindedness towards finding talent from unconventional places.

So I spent a lot of my career in broadcasting and marketing before moving to work for a couple of very large institutions, including TD, and Santander. Leading things like experiential marketing, sales and service strategy, and truly becoming a student of customer experience. Today, as you mentioned, I am with ath Power, where I have the pleasure of working with our clients on talent-based and experience-based solutions.

Our firm is unique in that we’re a full-service customer experience research firm. So we can and do provide clients with mystery shopping solutions, customer satisfaction surveys, and the like. We’re unique in that we take insights and we turn them into actionable tactics like training and then supply the training to the firm as well. So, training and customer experience research all under one roof and there’s nothing that gives me more joy than being able to kind of straddle both sides of those fences to help our brands truly create meaningful cultural change.

Melinda: Great. Thank you. Let’s start off with really the big picture and why transformation is so important to financial institutions.

EJ: Well, you mentioned at the beginning, that transformation isn’t just about the physical. It isn’t just about the digital, but it needs to be about the talent end as well. And I tend to oversimplify these things, so I’ll apologize for not necessarily spouting off all these different statistics and such.

Banks are boring. Banks are not awe-inspiring. Now, if you go back in the day, so go re-watch any old black and white movie from, you know, the earlier times of motion pictures. If the main character had to go to the bank, that was a really big deal, you know, and they got dressed up, they were in a suit or a very nice dress. I mean, I’m a big Harry Potter fan and in Fantastic Beasts, the Kowalski guy goes to get the loan for the bakery and they go into the president’s office and it was very formal. But that was like one of the biggest days of his life. The day that he went to go to the bank to get the loan for his bakery.

And we’ve gone from banking being so formal and I’ll even use the word noble. Being a banker was a noble profession to being bland, cold, and transactional. And it’s sad, you know when we hear the statistics from our friends at SLD that only 4 percent of bank consumers see the branch as a place to get financial advice. That’s insane to me. That I can’t go enrich my financial life at a bank? It’s so counterintuitive. And so I think that the industry has hurt themselves. They have nobody to blame, but themselves. They cannot blame government. They cannot blame rates. They did this. And so I think that there’s a bit of forced transformation and the bell that I love to ring, and you mentioned this in the introduction, is you can build a really pretty branch and you can transform the digital experience, you can do something cute, like universal banker, which is a whole other headache in and of itself, but without transforming the human beings responsible for delivering the experience that strategy is going to pretty much fall flat on its face.

Melinda: Yeah. I also found that 4 percent number very surprising that people were substantially more likely to go to a family member to ask for financial advice than a bank is pretty mind-blowing. So what are the signs? Let’s just say, I run a bank. What are the signs that I need to pay attention to that say, I need to make a big change?

EJ: So one of the leading indicators I think would be employee attrition, but unfortunately, most banks tend to look at deposits. So for losing deposits, that must mean something is wrong. Well, not necessarily, you know, what if you have a very, very, very large commercial client that they just invested $40 million into a new facility and that $40 million was liquid in your bank and now it’s no longer liquid because it’s brick and mortar and it’s building a new factory. So yeah, you lost deposits, but the community grew. So I would very much point towards employee attrition, coupled with general customer satisfaction data, as the opportunity to see that there is smoke before there’s necessarily fire. At issue is two things.

Number one, customer satisfaction is measured so many different ways, but the scary thing is that sometimes it’s not measured at all. Particularly among smaller institutions, I think that there’s a perception that measuring customer satisfaction is expensive. And sure it does cost money. But perhaps not as much as people would often think. And there’s an age-old debate around, okay, do we look at customer satisfaction? Do we look at NPS? Do we just care about a national benchmark study, like a J.D. Power, for example? So which flavor do we choose? Sometimes there’s so many flavor choices it’s easier to pick none of them. And that’s a little bit dangerous. We have to have some eye and ear towards the voice of the customer.

But the other thing is the idea of employee satisfaction and the potential for discrimination leading to wrongful termination. So, I mentioned if we have employee attrition, that’s a problem. So many institutions, many companies just in general measure employee satisfaction. I think that’s dangerous too. I would rather we look at employee engagement versus employee satisfaction. So now you’re going to ask me, what’s the difference…

Melinda: That is exactly what I was going to ask.

EJ: A satisfied employee in my mind, let’s take a bank teller. A satisfied bank teller that’s going to work 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM. They’re going to arrive at 8:50 to get ready. They’re going to clock in. They’re going to put a smile on their face. They’re going to balance their drawer. Their customers will generally be happy. They’ll take their lunch when they’re told to. At 3:00 o’clock, they clock out. They go home. They don’t think about the shop at all until 9:00 o’clock the next morning when they arrive. We need those people. We need the people who will clock in, clock out, do their job, be happy and move on. But I’d rather have an engaged person.

So take that same teller and now make them engaged. Maybe they’ll be curious. Maybe they’ll offer to help a partner when the branch is slow. Maybe they’ll pick up an extra shift. Maybe they’ll even say that transaction with that customer was a lot harder than it should have been, there must be a better way. And actually, say to a leader, this is hard for me, there must be a better way. If you’re not truly engaged and invested in your job, whether you’re the CEO of the institution, or you’re a 20-hour part-time teller. If you’re not truly engaged, you will never take a step beyond what is absolutely necessary to simply do your job. And you can be satisfied and do every step necessary to simply do your job and you’re happy about it and you’ll say, yes, I’m satisfied working here. I’ll work here till I retire someday. That still doesn’t mean you’re engaged to the point where you feel an emotional drive to help the bank get better. So I’d rather measure engagement.

Melinda: Okay. So, we know that many banks are transforming some part of their business, whether it’s to amplify digital banking or transforming back-office processes, how are banks doing when it comes to transforming employee engagement and getting to that level of engagement with their team?

EJ: Terrible and I’ll tell you why. Silos are as much a part of banking as the money the bank holds. Traditional silo, commercial, retail. But the amount of sub silos that I’m finding more and more over time is incredible. The fact that I asked this question at the Bank Customer Experience Summit. I said, show of hands, who recently had a strategic planning session for your department, and you also invited somebody from human resources to be a part of that meeting?

Melinda: How many people put up their hands?

EJ: Nobody.

Melinda: Nobody. Right.

EJ: Why would you ever think about inviting HR to a strategic planning session that has nothing to do with HR? And that’s a big miss. So when the IT department is considering a minor tweak to the way we process deposits, when branch deployment teams and design teams are considering where to open a De Novo location, the fact that the talent strategy doesn’t necessarily come along with that is a pretty dangerous thing. Because the intrinsic natural human behaviors of who needs to execute on that strategy may be subtly different. It might not be wildly different, but there might be just a wrinkle enough that that transformation or the execution of the strategy might be swimming against stream a little bit more than you should simply because we haven’t considered not what are the skills that we need the person who’s executing the strategy to have, what are the natural human behaviors we need them to have? That’s, I think, rarely taken into account.

Melinda: Right. And when you make a small change that can lead to a domino effect and small changes can have a big impact, especially for large institutions.

EJ: Well, and some people deal with change differently as well. So I heard somebody use the phrase they wanted their bank to have a culture of change. And that looks really cute on a poster, in a breaker.

Melinda: It’s nice words. Yeah.

EJ: It’s nice words. Right? How does your team feel about change? Have you hired people that deal with change well? Can you train that? Can you train people to get good at change? I think some people just naturally… Look, some people love change, some people hate change, and it’s a natural thing that’s born within you. So we can train people on change management that might involve the people part of it. But we could actually measure the degree to which employees like things consistent and feel comfortable with consistency or they like a driving environment. And we need to sort of flex things like our communication strategy accordingly. So, it’s not like if your team is built up of people who like things consistent or are averse to change, does that mean you don’t change? No, but maybe your change needs to be a little bit more methodical. Maybe your communication strategy needs to be a little bit more robust. And perhaps you need to consider the degree to which you’re transparent with your team a little bit more than somebody who can just go with the flow.

Melinda: Right. A lot of this is really coming down to leadership and, you know, SLD, we work a lot with banks, you work a lot with banks and you know, it’s a traditional industry like you alluded to in your metaphor about the movies, the black and white movies, you know, they’ve been able to fend off FinTech a little bit. Do you think that there’s some overconfidence or maybe complacence that is preventing people from making words, like let’s be a culture of change from really taking that on? Do you think there’s a bit of overconfidence there?

EJ: Amongst the banks?

Melinda: I’m talking about leadership in banks? Yeah.

EJ: It’s an interesting question. I think bank leaders publicly are very confident.

Melinda: Right. They have to be.

EJ: And privately might be shaking in their boots a little bit. Privately might be trying their best to read the tea leaves and understand, you know, what is going to be really happening in the FinTech space. What is really going to be happening in the neobank space? I think that confidence is fine. I have no problem with confidence, I have problems with cockiness. And there are institutions that are getting a little cocky, getting a little arrogant. And then on the flip side, though, there are plenty who are super smart, who go, “Hey, this is going to be a if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em type thing.” And they’re bringing FinTech in. You know, when we look at companies like City Ventures and this idea of having an incubation lab, I mean, they’ll have a FinTech arm, I feel like, they want to innovate, they want to create in that space, and they want to partner with FinTech. I think it will be dangerous for an institution to look at FinTech and say, this is a fad, this isn’t going to be a major threat, this is going to go away, particularly for the big banks. Where I think for a community bank, the real challenge for those folks is to say, we’re too small to play around with cool stuff in the FinTech space. We’re too small to partner with FinTech. Because if anything, I would say you’re so small, you get to partner with FinTech.

Melinda: There is a bit more of an authentic connection there.

EJ: Well, but also you can pivot, you know, we’ve heard the analogy a million times. Would you rather turn around a kayak or would you rather turn around a cruise ship? I’d rather turn around a kayak. Every time I’d rather turn around a kayak. And the community bank is the kayak in the analogy, but the community banks don’t think of themselves that way. The community banks think of themselves as we’re so limited, we’re so small, we don’t have money, we don’t have resources, we don’t have the people to do the work. They couldn’t be further from the truth. They get to play in the sandbox and they should be more excited about that opportunity than they really are.

Melinda: I mean, in Canada, our big five banks enjoy a depth of consumer trust that maybe is not quite there in the U.S. so they’re very comfortable. And I would say that that’s, I mean, some of them more than others are, I would say maybe complacent when it comes to that. So yeah, it will be interesting to see what happens as some of these FinTech companies get a bit more sophisticated and their offering is a bit more appealing to a broader group of people.

EJ: You know, I’m so glad you just used the word trust because I do not believe that the average American banking consumer does truly trust their institution. Now that’s for a wide range of reasons. Some of it does have to do with the financial crisis.

Melinda: Which is why Canadians don’t have that same response. Right?

EJ: Right. Unethical selling. It could be another reason. Arijit Roy is with Truist and he shared an interesting sort of diagram that showed a box and the box just simply said “high tech.” And then overlaid against that box with just the corners of the boxes sharing space was the word “human touch” and in the middle where those boxes intersected was the word “trust.” And I think that that’s that interesting balance. How many institutions are just going way too heavy into the high-tech? His overall point was, banks shouldn’t consider fighting FinTech. They need to consider joining in partnership as a means of increasing that client trust and confidence.

Melinda: Yeah. I agree 100 percent. So when it comes to having the right people to get the most out of a transformation initiative or addressing the people issue, where do you see the biggest need for leadership in banking to shift?

EJ: So there’s a definite mindset that the best people to hire for banks work at other banks. Let’s go take away from the competition. Now, as my friend, Brian McEvoy, who’s with a bank called Webster Five will share, he’s a community bank. So when he goes to hire a branch manager from another institution, is he hiring that human being? Of course he is, but he’s also hiring their book of business. He’s hiring their influence that they have in the community. When you’re hiring a branch manager at a community bank, you’re not looking for a branch manager, you’re looking for the mayor, you know, they need to be the mayor in town. They are a COI in and of themselves. Okay. But when we peel that back a little bit, and we look at things like foundational roles, tellers, bankers, underwriters, processors, call-center representatives, or all the folks that I like to say are the ones in the banks who do the real work.

Again, banks inherently hire from the competitor. And I would just simply question why? What’s the advantage to doing that? Because those roles, while very important and ultimately the most important cogs of the bank wheel, those jobs aren’t that hard. And they can be taught much the same way you hire somebody who has never worked in quick service and you teach them how to make the hamburger. We can teach somebody how to process the deposit. And so I do need to beg of bank leadership to really start to think about what other like-minded brands are out there that aren’t necessarily banks, but that the people are delivering the same experience with the same attitude that we would like to be delivering in our bank. Now, the throwaway example would be Chick-fil-A that the “Yes sir, yes ma’am, it would be my pleasure,” and the common niceties associated with a southern U.S. brand, that’s the throwaway example.

I like to highly localize that because markets are unique. I need a teller in Harlem who is going to be very, very different than a teller in a flyover state in rural America. They’re going to do the same job, maybe even with the same hardware and software, but those intrinsic human behaviors between the small-town America teller versus the De Novo in Harlem, they’re going to be rather different. So, I think we really need bank leadership to consider who in our community do we want to emulate that’s not a bank. How do we recruit from there? The good news is a lot of those tend to be in retail and quick service places that aren’t necessarily associated with a career. Places that aren’t necessarily associated with great benefits, even things like a 401k. So that recruiting efforts should be appealing aside from the fact that I think that those employees typically viewed bank jobs as boring.

So how do we make the appeal of the bank branch a little bit more fun? And what’s important for the leaders to think about is not only do they need to make that mental shift into where they recruit from. The customer already did it.

I heard a great statistic recently from a friend of mine, Corey LeBlanc who’s with a De Novo, an internet De Novo bank called Locality. And he shared that 73 percent of consumers say that their experience and expectations with one company is based on their experience and expectations with all others. Said another way, if I just went to Target, or I just went to Starbucks and I had a wonderful experience, and then my next errand was to my bank. And while it was fine, it wasn’t quite as wonderful as the barista at Starbucks. I will view that bank experience worse because it paled in comparison to Starbucks.

Melinda: Yeah. That makes perfect sense. It’s like you’re benchmarking…

EJ: So that’s a real challenge. You’re benchmarking against just all experiences that I’ve had in all industries. I flew Southwest Airlines last night, I visited a coffee shop this morning. Was the flight attendant on Southwest Airlines more or less friendly than the barista who got me my coffee this morning? Polar opposite industries, but it’s still a customer experience. And if we tie that into the employee experience as well, and we think about where are the experiences from a customer and employee experience that we want to emulate? Let’s bring that into our hiring practices and our recruiting efforts. And that’s just simply not happening in financial services to the degree that it should because banks are inherently averse to change. And it’s an unknown, and it’s uncomfortable, and it’s unfamiliar and you know what you have to do? You also have to train. Now we have to retrain both the minds and the skills of hiring managers to interview differently. To not look at the resume and say, oh, I see you worked at TD. That’s so interesting. Tell me about that experience. That’s a terrible interview. Get to know the human being instead.

Melinda: That’s really interesting because we worked with a menswear brand, and they changed their hiring practices because they had very much like what you’re describing. They had always wanted someone to have menswear experience. So they threw that out the window and they discovered that they got some of their best people from cruise lines, and it really allowed them to up their consumer experience and I will say having been in their stores, their people are phenomenal, like really, really a step above the competition. And it just took that shift in the way that they were thinking to completely change the way they hired people.

EJ: As an avid cruise fan. That story makes a lot of sense to me because you’re talking about an employee base that is typically delivering a high-touch concierge experience. Much the same as if I needed a custom suit, I want a high-touch concierge experience. One of my favorite branch managers I’ve ever hired into my career, two, in fact, one came out of selling makeup. Another consultative, right? Like not every woman knows exactly what makeup she needs based on the look she desires. She’s probably going to seek a little bit of advice. And the other one came out of luxury retail. I hired her out of Coach. And again, because that Coach experience was what I wanted my branches to look like and feel like from a hospitality standpoint. And that I’m not just here to pick out this bag, but then even when I do pick out the bag, I want even paying for the bag to feel special. I want it to be wrapped up well. I want it to be presented to me in a way that I just did something more significant than buy a bag. This poor girl didn’t know banking from anything. And I hired her to be a branch manager. She ended up being wonderful. I hired her against a guy who had worked in banking for 30 years and I would make that hiring choice every day of the week, all over again.

Melinda: Great. So hiring practices was really what I wanted to talk about. We’re kind of leading right into that. Let’s just say we’ve solved the piece of we’re looking at different people. People who don’t necessarily have banking experience. What other innovations are available to financial brands on the hiring and training side?

EJ: Sure. So I mean, I’ll toot the horn that we like to offer, and it’s a tool called the Predictive Index. So if we can weave science into all these theoretical ideas that we’ve been talking about, somebody listening to this can say EJ, that’s great. But where’s the data? So we can do things like customer satisfaction surveys, and we can look at sales data and we can say, okay, these are our rock stars. These are the people that they are wonderful at offering products and services to customers and actually having them buy them and do shops or surveys or whatever customer feedback you have. These are the employees that delight the customer. What are the intrinsic behaviors that they share in common? Are they more extroverted? Are they maybe a little less formal like me? Do they have a driving personality where they like variety? These are all things that the Predictive Index measures.

But up until very recently, nobody had really taken customer satisfaction data –  who are the employees who delight customers? And if we were to blend them together, what do they look like behaviorally? And then bring in Predictive Index to say, here are your rock stars. Here’s the model. Here are the guardrails, the ranges of the behaviors that we see. Let’s map your applicants against the rock stars that you know you have. Because every leader at some point has probably said, “Oh, Sussie is so great. I wish we could just clone her.” Well, why can’t you clone her? Well, because people hadn’t generally taken business data and married it to talent data during the recruitment hiring and interviewing process. And now we are.

Melinda: So tell me what that looks like.

EJ: Sure. I mean, it’s extraordinarily simple. Post a job, you know, start recruiting some applicants and let’s measure them. Before we do that, we would put those rock stars, those existing employees that we want to clone, we’d have them take the Predictive Index assessment, which by the way, the behavioral assessment takes under 10 minutes. I think people often associate this as an hour thing. I’ve got to be sitting there. It’s going to take forever. It’s not a personality test. It is a behavioral assessment, your natural intrinsic human behaviors. So let’s get that collection off from our internal folks. And then as we cultivate applicants, the process I really like to follow is let’s just post the role like we always have, and let’s cultivate our applicants, and let’s take a look at the ones that we feel like we might want to interview. Now Predictive Index, we have an open API, so we can sync into recruiting platforms.

So theoretically, somebody applies for a job. Boom, you can send them the Predictive Index immediately. For every role within a bank that we’re hiring for, teller, you name it. We got branch manager, processor. We would create that job within Predictive Index with what are those guardrails. So let me give you an example. We measure four key drives in the Predictive Index. Your dominance, your extroversion, your patience, and your formality. I would like a teller to not be insanely introverted. Let’s have you somewhere kind of middle of the road. I’d like your formality, which is loosely described as the degree to which you’re going to follow prescribed processes is somewhat high. I mean, you’re an operationally focused role. I need you to balance your drawer so I can’t have you be like a rule breaker like me. But I need your patience to be very high because otherwise, you’re going to burn out. You’re in a transactional role, you’re doing the same thing every day.

So we can look at that model and we can actually score the applicants on a scale of 1 one to 10, where behaviorally again, nothing to do with their resume, nothing to do with their experience. Behaviorally where do they map against the rock stars? The behaviors of the rock stars that we already have. Now that teller is going to look very different from a commercial lender who I probably want her or him to have much more extroversion. I probably want them to have way less patience. I want them to want variety. I want them to kind of be all over the place, working with a variety of different clients and industries. So we want to create each individual role, and we want to map our applicants against that role.

Now, earlier I talked about how do we train the hiring managers to adapt to that change? Our Predictive Index solution actually provides the hiring manager with an eight-question interview. Behavioral-based open-ended questions that have nothing to do with the job specifically. Like it’s not going to be like, “Tell me about a time you had to underwrite a complex deal.” No, it’s not going to be that. It’s going to be, “Tell me about a time that you had to work on a project alone under a tight deadline.” That would be a great question to ask me. Why? Because my formality is very low. I’m not a rule follower. It’s basically what that means. I’m flexible with the rules, but I’m also an extrovert. So the idea of working alone isn’t necessarily going to come naturally to me. But what if the role demands sometimes working alone under tight deadlines? Let’s ask about that and not “So tell me about a complex deal you had to underwrite.”

Melinda: Yeah. So before we did this podcast, you sent me this test. So I’m just going to describe what it’s like to take the test because it’s a little hard to understand it and I want to just tell people what the test looks like. So, basically, it’s just two questions and the first question is, you’re asked how you think you’re expected to behave at work, and there’s a list of maybe 80 to 100 characteristics. So say, for example, it could be patient, it could be focused, it could be all these different characteristics of things from different personality traits, a full range of them. And so I can click as many as I like. Then the next question is how do I see myself? And I have these same characteristics. And that is all, that’s the full test.

EJ: That is it and that is all.

Melinda: So, it’s pretty interesting, you know, if you’ve ever done something like the Myers-Briggs test or something where you’re answering like 30 or 40 questions and you have to imagine yourself in these different scenarios and kind of go, “I don’t know if I’d do that or not.” And then you get the results and you’re like, “I don’t know if this really feels like me.” So then I got my results and I shared it actually with my boss because I wanted him to see. And you know, of course, when you read stuff about yourself, you’re like, “Hmm, okay. Yeah, this seems like me, but let’s see what somebody else thinks.” So I sent it to him and his response was, “Yep, that’s you.”

EJ: And to give the audience an idea, you know, it said things like you proactively are driving and reaching goals, you move at a faster than average pace. You’re inquisitive, you’re eager for results, you’re a risk-taker, you focus on future goals, you’re task-focused. You have an assertive drive to accomplish your personal goals by working around or through roadblocks. You communicate directly and to the point, and you know, to what you said to the audience around you, by just checking boxes, you checked 55 boxes all in all, that’s it. You checked 55 boxes during the course of this assessment. And we learned so much about that, but we also learned, you know, if we were your boss, what’s the best way to manage you? And we learned, give you a diverse set of tasks and responsibilities. We learned to give you access to large amounts of information. We learned to give you complex problems to solve that require you to take some time to think outside of the box. So not only did I get a little bit of a sense of, okay, would you be good in this role? Would you get to be in that role? What are going to be your strengths? What are going to be your opportunities? But I have a little bit of a sense. I feel like, of even how to be a great manager for you, how to coach you effectively. So while we’ve spent a lot of our time talking about hiring, we could spend as much, if not more time talking about inspiring. Great. We brought you in, we feel your behavior is really right for the role. So many of you referenced Myers-Briggs, there are so many great tests. I mean, awesome assessments out there. They often get left at the door at the time of hire. We want our institutions to not use Predictive Index as a hiring tool alone. It should be used to hire and inspire.

Melinda: Yeah. I mean, I think what was most interesting for me looking at the assessment was the last section of the management strategies. Because as someone who also manages people, it would be extremely useful for me to be able to get this, you know, right out of the gate with a new employee, and not have to spend that year and a half, two years just getting to know them to get this kind of information. And I will say the assessment is pretty accurate.

EJ: It’s freakishly accurate.

Melinda: It is a little freakish.

EJ: But ultimately what you just described though, and I know it’s called the Predictive Index, but when we talk about the idea of predictability. Okay, so we all have drives, we all have things we need, and we all have behaviors. Here’s how it usually works in a bank. A leader, a manager will look at an employee’s behavior and try to guess at why are they doing it the way they’re doing it? So we all have a drive to survive, right? That drive correlates into a need to eat. And so we can predict a behavior. We can predict that we’re going to eat food. Now, the degree to which that behavior flexes might vary. If you’re a little bit more introverted, maybe you run to the kitchen and you grab a sandwich by yourself. If you’re a little bit more extroverted, you may say, no, I want to go out for a sandwich because maybe I’ll see some people. So maybe the behavioral will change a little bit.

But if you measure drivers, then you can correlate to needs and therefore predict the behavior you’re going to see from the employee versus observing a behavior and guessing at the drive. And that’s really what you’re talking about is how can we give the employee what they need to have optimal behavior? I just hired somebody brand new. My nature might be, I’m going to set them up with all these lunches for their onboarding and I’m going to introduce them to 20 different people on day one, and what if they’re crazy introverted? Their first day was terrible. They had a bad first day at work, you know, so we should be able to predict that they need maybe a little slower go at meeting new people.

Melinda: Yeah, really interesting. So what happens to a brand if they, you know, you talked a little bit about this in the beginning. You said, if you transform the branches and make it really beautiful, but you don’t transform the people you’re going to fail. So, if you were going to give a financial brand, you know, let’s say first three steps to transform their people practices, where would you start?

EJ: I think you have to start with what is the business strategy? A lot of folks would naturally be like, well, we need to figure out the talent part, let’s get the right pieces in place, and then, no-no. Figure out what is it that you’re trying to be? Have you stood up values? Have you stood up a true mission? Have you stood up a true business strategy? Go ahead and stand that up first. And then, you know, step two is execution of the talent strategy, but I almost want you to think ahead – almost skip that step two, then what are the desired results? What do we need to deliver to our shareholders? What do we need to deliver to our board? What do we need to look like at the end of the year? And then go sandwich the talent strategy right there in the middle. Go sandwich in how are we going to design our teams? How are we going to hire for that design? And then once we’ve hired them, how are we going to inspire them to perform? So standing up values, standing up a business strategy, having that blue sky session to say, well, how are we going to be different? How are we going to be unique versus any other bank across the street? It has to be step one, we have to solve for that before we can go have fun with the talent strategy piece.

Melinda: Great. So I’m going to link in the podcast description. I’ll link to ath Power so our listeners can find you if they want to. Thank you so much, really, really interesting stuff. It’s been a pleasure.

EJ: It’s my pleasure. And I’ll share that when you do visit our website if anybody would like to do what you did and take a Predictive Index assessment, I will be happy to offer a free one-on-one talent assessment. You can take the PI and then have an individual readout with me to talk about the results and maybe even tie them into business strategy.

Melinda: Great. Thanks so much.

EJ: Thank you.

Melinda: Transforming people as part of any brand transformation needs to be deeply connected to your brand vision and strategy, inspiring employees and making sure they’re proud to come to work starts with this fundamental work. And then as we heard in our conversation today, putting the right people in the right position is not only more critical than ever, but there are new tools that can help, and letting go of traditional hiring practices in favor of more flexible approaches is key. As I mentioned, you can connect with EJ at ath Power through link in our transcript at Thanks for listening to Think Retail.