This is an issue I find most banks are continually looking at which is great – because, the true differentiator in banking is our people. Banks all have similar products, maybe slightly different pricing, but the one thing you have that makes you truly different are the people that interact with your customers, support them and are a part of your community. That’s why it’s so important to protect the people we have – the ones that demonstrate our culture and commitment to customer service and community. And, also make sure we don’t have people within the organization that don’t demonstrate those skills or attitudes because that negative or counter-culture can be really damaging to our organization and customers also.
So how do we encourage and retain a great team?
- First, look at all your employees and decide who is not ‘on board’. Negative attitudes, unwillingness to be part of the team or adopt changes, and generally unsupportive people can do a lot of damage to your culture, especially those high-performers and are the exact opposite. If you identify any of these employees, work with them to identify their underlying problems/gap, create a plan to address them or look at alternative solutions. If they’re not the right fit anymore, what could you do to replace them?
- Secondly, communicate, communicate and communicate. It’s really important to let others on your team know where they stand, how well they are doing and how you see them fitting into your organization long-term. A consistent culture of feedback – one that’s not just about performance, but also about problem-solving and solutions to make the organization better goes a long way to help employees feel included, important and a valued part of the team. Include others in brainstorming how we go back to work, how we keep our staff protected and healthy and how we deliver great customer service under new ‘pandemic’ guidelines. There are many ways you can include them in bank processes and decisions and may find their information and perspectives very different from what you might have thought of.
- Create opportunities for learning. This is really important for those you deem to be high-potential or future leaders in your organization. Learning opportunities become a great way to help build skills, especially if you’re in a small environment where you don’t have new positions open up as often as you’d like. Where can you cross-train, help them learn new skills or try out different areas of the bank. I know many banks that used the PPP process as a way to cross-train others and introduce them to lending. It may not be a fit long-term or what your employee wants to do, however, the learning and new skills are helpful to both the employee and the organization.
- Coach! This is a great opportunity to use coaching as a tool for those employees you want to keep. Managers who coach develop a consistent communication process, and can also design coaching to be two-way. In other words, it’s not manager-drive coaching, but employee-manager coaching that’s created together. The employee has a chance to decide what they’d like coaching/help on and the manager also. This helps bridge the communication gap and also helps the employee drive the process and own their career/personal improvement plan.
- Community leadership is also a great way to help retain your team. Giving them opportunities to represent the bank in community organizations they are passionate about, or interested in, is a great way to help them demonstrate some leadership, be active in their community and enjoy something they want to be a part of. These opportunities can also be found internally (special projects/teams) or externally.
- Words of acknowledgement. I often am asked the question how do I reward employees? This is something that doesn’t cost much and goes a long way. There are two distinctions here: rewarding results and behavior, and acknowledging character and attitude. Be sure you’re doing both. Obviously you want to reward results and the behaviors within the organization that drive those results. That can be done through compensation, contests, 1-2-1 coaching conversations, etc. Acknowledging employees is different, and also in my opinion, can sometimes go farther. This is where you acknowledge someone for ‘who they are’. Thanking them for how they show up, how they handle tough times (especially now), how they go the extra mile. When people often feel ‘underappreciated’ it’s usually in this bucket. Results and production become obvious; acknowledgement of character is less obvious, but its impact is much larger. People want to be seen and understood and acknowledgement is the way they know that is happening.
The most important tool at your disposal is simply to have a weekly plan that includes how you encourage your team. This is an area that won’t grab your attention as a customer problem would. However, if you don’t do it, odds are your employees will feel unappreciated and/or undervalued and may eventually leave to go elsewhere. Turnover is natural and part of a bank’s evolution, but as a leader, your job is to be sure you are turning over the right people!
Donna Flynn – Career and Management Coach, BankTalentHQ