Chief Investment Officer
BirdsEye Viewemployee engagement
Incentive compensation plans are now par for the course in all walks of banking life. From the internal audit department to
Re-energizing Employee Engagement when the economy short-circuits
Employee Engagement has been proven to directly correlate to bottom-line success. Research has shown that organizations whose employees are highly engaged experience lower turnover, enjoy enhanced sales and customer service and feature employees who are self-motivated, produce at high levels, demonstrate a willingness to collaborate, and focus on the right things.
But what happens to engagement when the economy falls apart and an employer’s bottom line turns from black to bloody red? Faced with a devil’s brew of layoffs, salary freezes, diluted benefits and an uncertain future, employee engagement can quickly dissipate. As senior management focuses on balance sheet issues, many of the practices that fuel engagement get relegated to the back burner. That is a serious mistake!
Here are a few insights on why re-energizing employee engagement during the hard times needs to be a priority. While there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to this concept, the ideas presented here can be applied to most organizations.
1. Precisely define Employee Engagement at your organization. This is an essential first step to success. At Old Second, Employee Engagement is defined by two specific measures: our bi-annual Cultural Assessment (Employee Opinion Survey) and a down-and-dirty SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis conducted by our senior executive team. The results:
The Cultural Assessment: The majority of our employees were AMBIVALENT to engagement mainly due to their unfamiliarity with the concept. Some employees also opined that the Bank’s strong commitment to customer service and management’s willingness to empower employees in that regard were highly positive components of engagement. As for improvement opportunities, employees responded that there was a high risk of burnout as the economy and the Bank’s performance continued to affect headcount levels. Our employees also responded that they were looking for more visibility from senior management and wanted more recognition and rewards for their loyalty and efforts in this “do more with less” environment.
SWOT Analysis: The executive team’s analysis of Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats with regard to our employees and their level of engagement uncovered some stark, but not totally unexpected results. While our employees are fully engage with the bank, we could be at risk of losing key players once the economy improved, especially from non-bank employers.
2. Develop a structured Employee Engagement Business Plan that addresses results of the Cultural Assessment and SWOT analysis and commits the organization to re-energizing Engagement across the board. Our Business Plan consisted of three rather simple but critically important steps:
· Over-communicate the organization’s Mission and Vision.
A company’s strategic plan often changes drastically during a down cycle. Vigorous growth turns to a hunker-down mode while riding out the storm. Aggressive hiring of high-level sales producers is replaced by focusing on employees who can effectively retain important legacy accounts. Employees want to know and NEED to know that there is a well-defined interim plan to right the ship and that the company will survive and thrive again on the other side of the recession. Our communication blitz included: A State of the Bancorp meeting for all employees; voice message blasts from senior management; and senior management walk-bys to connect with staff at all levels.
· Retool our culture of recognition/reward/development
In response to our employees stated need for recognition, Human Resources introduced our “Bill Bucks” program, named after our Chairman and CEO. The program features the award of small monetary prizes to employees for exhibiting outstanding customer service or going the extra mile. We launched a state-of-the-art intranet-based career develop site called Career Trackers, a tool which gives employees the ability to view details on more than 100 specific career opportunities across the Bank and assist them in their career-path planning. Top management began sending hand-written cards to employees to commemorate a milestone service anniversary or just to say “thanks.” You can get a lot of mileage out of telling someone that he/she is important to you!
These initiatives gained traction quickly, and we believe that they were a major factor in keeping turnover low. Tailoring these tactics to your specific environment is important.
· Re-establish the Company’s collegial, consensus-building environment
Finger-pointing happens when a company’s profits start to deteriorate, especially after a long history of record earnings. So does the tendency to return to silos and protecting one’s own turf. To ensure against this, the executive team took a “we’re all in this together” approach. Our CEO and President insisted on genuine collaboration and common accountability as we rode out the storm together. Business Banking, Commercial and Retail, in partnership with our Training and Development team, rolled out a new, collaborative business plan, which top management used as a model in defining their expectations about maintaining a team concept through the Bank.
3. Take the temperature of the work force regularly to ensure that the re-energizing of engagement continues to track. We conducted Employee Engagement Roundtables at the beginning of the initiative, six months into it, and will do so again six months later. We invite employees to participate in these 90-minute sessions to share their creative ideas on what is working and what might work better. The employees truly appreciate being part of the solution and believe that their company is an “Employer of Choice” for the premium that is placed on employee relations.
We have made some good inroads on re-energizing employee engagement at Old Second, but we’re not done yet. Other aspects of engagement on our future radar are:
· Career development coaching for managers as part of our leadership development curriculum
· Proactive retention, especially regarding our “Franchise Players” and High Potentials
· Strategically upgrading staff as the economic recovery continues.
One thing is for certain: Like Succession Management and Work Force Planning, Employee Engagement is a fluid, dynamic process. Linking it to the annual business plan, especially during an earnings down cycle, can keep it fresh, vital, contemporary and relevant.