How Banks can Leverage Employee Engagement for a Competitive Edge

Unemployment is at its lowest rate since 2009, and job openings have increased by 73 percent. At the same time, Baby Boomers are rapidly retiring, new college graduates lack the skills businesses are seeking, and at least one third of the existing workforce is ready to quit:

The number one reason employees quit their jobs, after financial considerations, is lack of recognition, and 65 percent of U.S. employees don’t feel recognized at work.

Many banks consistently make the mistake of mixing customer experience with “customer-facing” when, in reality, a bank’s back-office performance plays a huge role in defining the customer experience. The efficiency, or lack thereof, of back-office roles determines whether customers’ deposits and other transactions are executed quickly and properly, how long they wait for response on a loan request, and how easy (or difficult) it is to resolve problems when they do arise. These and a host of other variables help determine whether the customer has a positive or negative experience.

Employee Recognition Promotes Engagement and Alignment

Employee recognition helps companies align employees to overall business objectives by reinforcing behaviors tied to corporate results. And it fosters employees’ emotional connection with the organization, making them more engaged. Recognition promotes engagement and alignment. Engaged, aligned, and recognized employees will work harder to enhance the customer experience, and in turn generate greater shareholder value.

Employee alignment can be a powerful business performance tool. A well-designed employee alignment effort enables employees to deliver excellent customer service by giving them the tools they need, and ensures that all customer-facing and back-office staff support an exceptional customer experience. Employees understand that their own jobs and functions affect the experience of customers and recognize that improving their own performance will improve the customer’s experience, and the organization as a whole.

Fostering a Culture of Collaboration

With non-officer turnover at 18.7 percent and officer turnover at nearly 7 percent, bank employees are changing jobs at the fastest pace in many years. The cost of replacing lost employees and training new ones, and the resulting loss of productivity, makes turnover expensive. Recurring, meaningful performance conversations between employees and their managers, and surveying employees to understand their concerns and level of engagement can help to minimize turnover.

According to a Gallup study, “How Millennials Want to Work and Live,” only about one-third of young professionals strongly agree that the mission or purpose of their organization makes them feel their job is important. And just 40% feel strongly connected to their company’s mission. This is a problem that leaders need to take seriously because Millennials currently make up 38% of the U.S. workforce, and that percentage will continue to rise.

Young employees want to be heard, to feel included, that they matter, and that what they think is considered when making decisions. Banks realize that attracting and engaging millennial employees requires some different approaches, and are starting to implement relaxed dress codes and more ability for employees to work off-site to attract tech-savvy millennials.

Ensure your strategy is mobile-first—the workforce is now more mobile than ever before.  According to Gartner, there are more connected mobile devices on earth than there are people. Gartner expects 80 percent of businesses to support employees who use tablets by 2014. Employees can work anywhere in the world. Mobile technology can help you create and sustain a culture of recognition, even for offline employees, so build a culture of recognition for your offline and geographically dispersed workforce with a mobile-first strategy.

Equip Employees (and managers) with training. When you launch a program set employees up for success by coaching them on recognition best practices, the power of engagement and alignment, and how to effectively use dashboards and reporting tools. And don’t forget about managers. Too often managers are trained on the how, but not the why. Don’t simply train on process and technology. Everyone must understand the “why” and see the connection to overall business success.

These efforts, however, cannot happen without support from the top. Senior management must strongly believe that this is important, and support the idea that people want to feel engaged, and without that engagement, the high performance doesn’t come.

United Bank

United Bank, a prominent New England bank with more than 50 branches in two states, more than 700 employees, and over $6.4 billion in assets, initiated an employee alignment study to gather insights from internal staff following a recent acquisition. The study revealed a clear linkage between shareholder return and the willingness of United Bank employees to recommend their own bank to friends and peers. The data showed that key drivers of customer satisfaction and loyalty aligned with employee satisfaction.

Based on these findings, senior management recognized the concrete benefits the bank could derive by increasing employee satisfaction and loyalty. They concluded the best way to do that was to rally employees around a cause that was bigger than themselves and that provided meaning to their everyday work—serving the bank’s customers. The goal was to “Ignite a spirit to serve.”

Bank employees placed a high priority on how their work contributes to the success of the bank. In many banks, back-office and support staff feel disconnected from customers and the business strategy as a whole. Evidence that employees were strongly engaged with the bank’s overall performance and success showed that United Bank was well-positioned to successfully align all aspects of the organization toward serving the customer.

Companies that are more effective at engaging their employees are proven to be more profitable. SoGoSurvey’s Internal Satisfaction Survey ensures you’re asking the right questions to accurately assess the satisfaction and engagement of your employees, and align them with serving your bank’s customers.