The Word of the Year: Change
Insights - November 2021

Internal Links Bruce Whitehurst

make (someone or something) different; altar or modify

the act or instance of making or becoming different

At our VBA Annual Convention this fall, speaker Dave Martin of bankmechanics gave a great presentation centered on change and one slide in particular resonated with me.  It stated: There are lots of folks out there who hate only two things: 1. Change and 2. The way things are. I thought about this a lot after Dave’s presentation and how much we often complain about the status quo, yet take comfort in the known, whereas the idea of change can be scary, disruptive and uncomfortable.

I then realized that if 2020 and 2021 have taught us nothing else, we have learned that change is not only inevitable but also essential if we are to make progress in any and all aspects of our personal and professional lives. The notion of things staying the way they were before the pandemic seems far-fetched, to say the least.

For all who were fortunate to have the option to convert to remote work in March of 2020, we did so exponentially faster than anyone could have imagined was possible. Our workplace norms have been changing ever since and the way we work today is different than ever before. No doubt these workplace changes – remote, hybrid, in-person, etc. – will continue to evolve and we will keep evaluating how each company’s choices impact its productivity, profitability and most importantly, its culture, since a strong, positive culture is the driver of great company results.

Last month I interacted with more than 60 emerging leaders from all over Virginia at our VBA Leadership Conference, then with a bank board a few days later. I asked both groups to talk about workplace changes, how they are going and what we are all learning in the process. A common theme was employees’ desire for more flexibility is stronger than we imagined was possible before the pandemic. There was also an acknowledgment that flexibility is in the eye of the beholder; to one employee, it may mean having the option to work remotely some or all of the time, while to another it may be having the chance to go to their child’s school or sporting activity during part of the workday, then making up the time later. It seems clear that finding the balance between structure and flexibility in this new world of work will be a defining factor in a company’s culture.

The VBA is working on new programming in 2022 to help you and your employees navigate change.  Stay tuned for announcements from the VBA Education & Training team on a change certification program for senior executives, a digital tool focused on employee engagement, motivation, performance and business development designed for customer-facing personnel, and a potential series that will help banks navigate the future of work discussion.  If you are interested in providing feedback to the team as they develop these programs, please reach out to Courtney Fleming.

Whomever coined the phrase “change is the only constant” was on to something, as we know things are much more likely to keep changing than to stay the same. It’s what keeps life interesting and keeps us challenged and growing. Would we really want it any other way?