It is wonderful speaking with David Dunbar on this episode of the podcast, ahead of his presentation at the Work 2.0 event in London in May 2017, because one cannot help but feel a great sense of confirmation of all the theory and conceptual work around digitalisation, attracting talent, HR transformation and workplace transformation coming to life. 

3 year strategy to drive change

The "Dynamic Working" strategy at Nationwide is structured into a 3-year process. David acknowledges that transforming any organisation towards more agile, more flexible workplaces is a steep climb for anyone, and that the right elements have to be in place all along, including the technology piece, the physical space and the culture.  

During the first year it was important to get all the foundation right with the technology, using existing technology and also introducing new tools, getting the physical space right to reflect the new ways of working, and also working on the culture piece. 

The second year will take the technology to the cloud, which will require some adjustment and offer tons of opportunities for greater integration and collaboration of work between the employees in the central office, the employees in the branches and the members. 

One super interesting point David draws our attention to is about the misconceptions around flexible work. Unless employers create new spaces to reflect physically the new world of work, employees will associate it with tele-working or home-working only, whereas it is much bigger than that. It includes collaboration spaces, creative spaces and all kinds of opportunities for employees to meet face-to-face and interact, especially when people are in the office and not working remotely. This collaboration aspect is also one of the main values of Nationwide as an organisation. 

Hopefully by the end of the third year all of this will be engrained in the DNA of the organisation and it won't seem like a special programme or initiative anymore, but feel natural and becomes "just work". 

Integrated function

David confirms, something we firmly believe in, that it really takes the integration of a number of systems or functions to be able to create the kind of change organisations need, and also to make it sustainable. He knows, because he was at the helm of a couple of transformation initiatives, but as he recounts, it was always a challenge to agree bilaterally with IT, with HR, with Heath and Safety, with Facilities.. whereas he now has the authority to drive the process forward in sync with the main functions responsible for the implementation of the change, with full leadership support. 

To actually have the ability to work on a strategy that drives all 3 key pillars is really interesting to me! Trying to get all of them working in a single function is rare, and this is the first opportunity I had to take it forward that way. 

In addition to driving the employee side of transformation, Nationwide in parallel also embarked on a Branch transformation initiative, which is absolutely vital to go all in digital. 

The Role of Leadership

We often speak about the barriers or resistance to change, and in case of such a large scale transformation project nothing goes without Leadership buy-in. In particular in the financial services sector, the structures are very hierarchical, and it has many layers, with career progression towards senior management roles being important motivators. 

In the case of Nationwide, two things happened serendipitously, which ensured a strong leadership buy-in: on the one hand the company had a new CEO start who embraced the change, and on the other they created David's position, which is a very strong signal. 

However, it's not to say it was all seamless. Senior leaders were also asked to leave their closed offices, and join the employees on the work floor. This was not easy, but gave an incredibly strong signal to the employees about the importance and value of collaboration. Changing the way people work from a very status-based, presenteeism based work style to the new, digital, flexible way is challenging to every organisation, but those who do it come out way stronger on the other side. 

Take the Leap!

If you are interested in an exploratory session with the WorkLife HUB consultants to see how we can help you follow the footsteps of Nationwide and embark on your transformation towards digital and new styles of work, get in touch with us! 

As David confirms, every organisation should have a digital transformation strategy, and wholeheartedly embrace it, be enthusiastic about it, or even bring out the brass band and celebrate it! This is such a vital point. So many organisations attempt quick fixes or small changes in the back offices, almost as if this transformation journey was something to hide. On the contrary, it shows leadership, initiative and courage to pre-empt tectonic shifts in the way we live, work and consume, and your employees will appreciate getting to grips with uncertainty and engaging in a pro-active way. 

This podcast was created through our media partnership with the Work 2.0 event organised in London on 25-26 May 2017. For more information please visit the conference website