When you’ve worked most of your life in big companies, as I have, it’s easy to forget that major change is a huge employee issue regardless of the size of company. Big company complexity can be daunting to contemplate, and I’ve heard people pine for smaller firms with the idea that big change would be easier. News flash: It ain’t necessarily so.
Central Federal Corp and CFBank — a four-branch bank headquartered in suburban Akron with 66 full-time employees, according to Yahoo! Finance — is going to find out how easy it will be, now that former kahuna Mark Allio stepped down. According to Crain’s Cleveland Business, Allio offered his resignation at the company’s annual meeting, and now the firm is searching for a new leader, with General Counsel Eloise Mackus steering the ship in the meantime (and “indicating interest”, per the Crain’s piece).
During any big change process — and a CEO transition is usually a big one — employees get distracted; it’s human nature. There are at least 65 people at that company wondering 1) Who’ll be the boss? 2) What will he/she change? and 3) What will it mean for me. It won’t help matters that the company’s financial performance (as with many banks) has suffered during the recession. Now the boss quits and there’s going to be a “process” to replace him.
Employees are ripe for worry, and worried employees seldom give great service, which ostensibly is the raison d’être for community banks.
The tendency of the board and leadership team is to look inward to themselves and the shareholders. Yes, they have a fiduciary responsibility to those owners, but they must not ignore their wider team. I don’t know that they have or have not — but they will need to ramp up the contact with the ordinary employees and be sure they’re equipped with the right tools to manage the customers and prospects.
Here are three “must-dos”
1. A note to employees with a draft customer letter — explaining the change and next steps, including a basic timeline.
2. Questions-and-answers document anticipating what customers, community leaders, friends and family will want to know about the change.
3. Commitment to a weekly email note and a twice-monthly conference call for managers updating everyone on progress.
It’s not a hard thing to do at all, and following these steps can make it a whole lot easier to glide through the transition.