Change Agent Greenwald Propels Business Forward at TIAA

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As a human resources executive, Josh Greenwald embraces his role as a change agent. He knows implementing organizational change is difficult, but it reaps rewards by giving employees a sense of purpose that propels businesses forward.

Josh Greewald headshot

Human resources professionals are charged with leading change that strengthens organizations. That’s a challenge that Josh Greenwald takes seriously because he knows making the right changes within an organization can improve company culture and associate experiences.

“I am a change junkie, at my core,” Greenwald said. “Ultimately, everything I do in talent management is about behavior change.

“We’re in the behavior change business, and it’s really hard, and it’s exhausting, but it’s really rewarding when it happens.”

Changing corporate culture to align with organizational strategies

Greenwald said one of his greatest successes working with change management came in 2013 when he was relatively new to TIAA. The company was working on its larger strategic plan, and human resources turned its focus to company culture.

“We really started asking questions around do we have the right culture to create the strategies,” Greenwald said.

Greenwald and his colleagues found that corporate values needed to be refreshed since they had been created 10 years prior, and many employees weren’t aware of the values that should be driving their work.

“If you walked the halls and you asked people what the core values were, if you were lucky, maybe one in 10 people could tell you what the values were,” Greenwald said.

Greenwald and his team got to work to change that. They brought together the executive committee and began to examine what elements of the core values, what they envisioned in terms of corporate culture and what values they would need employees to embrace to realize the goals set forth in the strategic plan.

Greenwald and his team worked through most of 2013 to ensure that they had set forth the right plan for shifting TIAA’s corporate culture. What would make that cultural shift a success, Greenwald said, was the focus and energy that the leadership team placed on the change.

Earning employee buy-in

It’s not enough to conceptualize change. To institute a value shift throughout an organization, employees have to support the change at every level. This is often the most difficult element in bringing about change, Greenwald said.

“The values are something you need to wake up every morning and it just oozes out of your pores. It guides your decision making,” Greenwald said. “If you’re not emotionally committed to it, it doesn’t have the same impact.”

In the case of implementing the new set of core values at TIAA, the company – supported by the CEO – devoted the entire agenda of its annual leadership conference to the values. From there, the company held a series of behavioral change workshops to help employees align their attitudes and work styles to the new core values. The success of the project, Greenwald said, boiled down to the enthusiastic support of leadership, which spread companywide.

“Culture is defined top-down but embraced bottom-up. In order to get this to work, we needed the top of this organization to really feel like they owned it,” Greenwald explained. “Everyone was just completely focused and has bought into it.

“Today, that’s still viewed as the most successful change effort that our CEO has experienced since he’s been here.”

Relying on a proven strategy for change

During his career, Greenwald has had the opportunity to use that same strategy to implement cultural change several times over. Greenwald’s approach to corporate change always begins with identifying behaviors that will support corporate strategy then finding the right methods for getting employees to invest in the changes in a way that will move the company forward.

“Every change needs to be rooted for a specific intent, and for a business, it should be rooted in the strategy that you’re trying to drive,” Greenwald said. “What’s always different are the people and the internal dynamics and how you need to bring people along.”

To earn employee buy-in, he said, leadership has to demonstrate why the change is valuable and how it connects to the company’s larger vision. And if you can earn executive support quickly, that will trickle down.

“That’s always the hardest thing is getting the senior’s commitment and buy-in. When you have that, in my opinion, in an organization, you can do anything,” Greenwald said.

Institutional change – and cultural change – is never an easy task. But when human resources approach change with the enthusiasm and the right strategies, it can shape the success of a business.



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