In the buttoned-up world of banking, tradition, hierarchy and the prestige of a corner office are ingrained in the corporate culture. So when BBVA Bancomer, the largest financial institution in Mexico, decided to move its headquarters from a traditional building with lots of private offices to two state-of-the-art, LEED-certified buildings full of open work spaces designed to foster collaboration and transparency, the executive team knew it would be a shock for employees and management.
“When you change your physical space it affects your culture,” said Alfonso Bustos Sanchez, dean of Bancomer University. “If you don’t address that shift in mindset, you will lose a great opportunity to foster change.”
The move to the new buildings was part of a broader digital transformation at the bank that included moving all products and services online and enabling the more than 100,000 employees worldwide to collaborate digitally. Collaboration and transparency were not considered priorities in the old way of doing business at BBVA Bancomer.
“One of the main obstacles for a collaborative and digital culture was the legacy building,” said Fernando Rau, talent management consultant with consulting company Overlap in Mexico City. “Dysfunctional buildings can develop dysfunctional habits.” In the old headquarters, the level of contribution of each staff was measured by the size of their office, and the overall design of the office spaces fostered privacy over collaboration, he said. Employees weren’t accustomed to working side-by-side with managers, or prioritizing things like work-life balance and team empowerment.
BBVA Bancomer’s leadership team knew the employees needed a robust change-management effort to make the move successful, and traditional communication campaigns and training programs would not be enough. “We wanted to use the move as an opportunity to help our employees acquire a new way of working so they could take full advantage of the new building,” said Uriel Galicia, learning and development director at Bancomer University.
In 2015, to coincide with the move, BBVA Bancomer’s learning and development organization and Overlap designed an innovative culture change program, called Ciudadania NET, or Nueva Experiencia de Trabajo, which means “new working experience.”
The program used gamification to foster collaboration and competition, and included online training modules, social media components and real-world activities to demonstrate behavior change. “We developed the program using games, missions and journeys to make it engaging for employees, and to create opportunities for collaboration,” Galicia said. “We found that to be a useful way to convince employees of the importance of changing their behaviors.”
Rau said in the beginning, gamification was a tough sell for the bank’s executive stakeholders, who needed to be persuaded that games and leader boards were serious enough to drive the desired change. But the learning team took the time to answer all of their questions, and to talk through how it would work to win their support. “It was risky,” he said. “It took time to get them on board, but they are very happy now.”
7 Habits of Highly Effective Employees
With leadership support, the learning team began by defining the seven behaviors employees would need to be successful in the new environment:
- Show respect for others, their space, their environment and the rules.
- Exercise work-life balance and encourage it in others.
- Be collaborative and promote teamwork.
- Keep things simple, be positive and embrace technology.
- Use the new premises and workspace layout properly.
- Keep personal impact to the environment at a minimum.
- Be autonomous, making use of and promoting the new bank’s self-service capabilities.
Using the seven habits as a framework, the learning team created a blended online and real-world learning initiative that includes 14 missions to be completed over 12 weeks.
The missions are grouped into three phases. Phase one is focused on building awareness and educating employees about the new behaviors and why they are important. Phase two is about taking action — getting employees to actually use the behaviors on the job. Phase three is about reflection and feedback, during which they discuss the effect of the change on an internal social media platform, complete feedback surveys, and capture and share moments where team members made the change part of their new way of working.
Each mission includes a combination of online learning and live interactions with specific tasks. For example, in phase one, employees might watch a video about respecting the environment, and complete an online trivia game about collaboration. In phase two they perform specific assignments, such as scheduling use of a shared meeting space, posting a selfie to the social media site using the recycling center, or collaborating with teammates.
Employees receive points for completing tasks that can later be exchanged for prizes. As they complete missions and gather points, they receive badges and earn higher rankings to demonstrate levels of mastery. All of the points and employee rankings are shared on the online leader board to foster competition and highlight employees’ accomplishments in the new space.
Show and Tell
One of the more unusual aspects of the program are the actors; they perform in the online videos and engage with employees in the workplace. Rather than put on formal staged productions, the actors were instructed to mingle with employees while in-character.
“Each actor embodied a specific personality,” Rau said. “Some represented behaviors employees needed to embrace while others represented behaviors they needed to leave behind.” Each one was given anironic name, like Joaquin Solente, which in Spanish sounds like “Joshua the insolent” and Laura D´irse, which translates to “time to leave.”
While in the office the actors might engage in disruptive behavior, such as talking loudly on their cellphones in common areas. It was a way to show employees the right and wrong way to behave, which had a big effect, Sanchez said. “They would follow a script but they also engaged with employees and had conversations with them.” These interactions were one of the most popular features of the program.
In the final phase, employees received points for sharing feedback on social media about how their group is doing with the training — good or bad. The social sharing helped foster a more collaborative experience for trainees.
At the end of the 12 weeks, employees who complete all the missions receive a NET citizenship passport. “It is a way for them to show pride in their new culture, to say ‘I am a citizen of this environment, and I am making these behaviors stick,’ ” Sanchez said. “The passports were very well received.”
To further embed a sense of team work, the company moved employees into the new space in stages, so the learning team could focus on groups of roughly 100 people at a time, rather than all 9,500 at once. “Each group moved over together, and they all work on the same floor, so it created camaraderie and support,” Rau said.
The training began in May 2015. By December, nearly 8,500 employees had completed the program, with the remaining groups scheduled to finish in early 2016. To track the programs’ effect, the learning team surveyed all employees on the key behaviors before and after training — a survey that employees received points for completing. Results released in December showed substantial improvements in several categories. One of the most notable: Before training, only 19 percent of employees agreed with the statement, “No need to think before I promote and practice work-life balance” in the workplace; after training, 79 percent agreed with the statement. This 60-point jump was especially exciting as quality of life was one of the more difficult behaviors to get employees to embrace in the old bank culture, Sanchez said.
The results show similar increases among those who say they “embrace the technology available that allows me streamline my job;” this increased to 99 percent from 42 percent; and those who say they “properly use the new ‘auto-service portal’ ” also jumped to 99 percent from 42 percent.
Though he said the culture transformation is far from complete. “Change is not a one-shot program, it is a journey,” Rau said. “We still have to follow up and keep reinforcing the behavior change if we want it to be embedded for good.”
The learning program was a great chance for the HR and tech teams to prove their value, Sanchez added. “It sends the message that we are innovative, and that we understand how to create an environment where employees can learn from each other and partic