The holidays brought laughter by the fireplace, warm desserts, and the joyous sounds of caroling. But lurking outside in the frigid cold, after the tree is put away and before the first credit card bi...
Over the years, credit unions have strived to differentiate themselves from banks, and banks have done likewise. More recently, financial institutions have begun to go a step further--not only distinguishing themselves as a bank or credit union, but also as the BEST bank or credit union. Those who want to be seen as the best are trying to stand out among their peers by providing a better, more powerful “borrower experience.” But, there is one group whose happiness may impact your financial institution’s bottom line more than your members or customers--it’s your own employees.
Most financial institutions place so much focus on the customer or member experience that they sometimes let their employees fall by the wayside. As you strive to become the best financial resource for your customers or members, you should also consider offering the following valuable programs for your employees to ensure that their competencies, knowledge, and experience stay at your institution:
As you train employees on how to use your proprietary systems and how to interact with borrowers, why not add opportunities for your employees to learn skills outside their current job duties? This could include learning how to be an effective sales person, how to use Microsoft Excel or other programs, or how to do their own taxes. Or, you could even cross-train them on how to do other jobs that are vital to your operations. Giving employees a chance to learn something new that is not encompassed in their current job will not only keep them engaged, but it will also help develop more well-rounded employees; well-rounded employees are invaluable to your financial institution because they bring to the table a breadth of hard and soft skills.
It's also advantageous to educate employees on why you do what you do. When your staff understands how all of the pieces fit together, they are more invested in the role they play within your financial institution. For example, teach employees about key categories such as non-interest income and expenses. Help staff to understand how your financial institution balances liabilities and assets. Then, the next time you promote a CD special or auto loan, your employees have an idea as to the reasoning behind it. When employees understand what it takes to keep a financial institution running, they'll pay closer attention to "cutting corners," and hopefully they’ll look for more cross-sell opportunities.
2. Personal Development
While developing your employees professionally is extremely important, helping them develop personally is also something you should consider. Giving your staff the opportunity to grow personally will not only build a higher level of trust and loyalty among your employees, but it also boosts morale. Consider helping your employees develop on a personal level by offering benefits like tuition and adoption assistance, wellness programs, and meal/nutrition planning. Personal development also involves discovering an individual's career aspirations and goals, and providing opportunities to get them there. Be proactive in identifying training classes, arranging for job shadow experiences, and assisting individuals in mapping out the skills they'll need to help them reach their goals.
3. Free Investment Advice
Your financial institution makes every effort to be the best financial resource for your customers or members, so why not try to be the best resource for your employees as well? Believe it or not, many of your employees may not know the difference between a stock and a bond– and, let's not even get started with mutual funds! If your financial institution provides financial planning for borrowers, afford your employees the same benefit. Allow employees a couple hours of paid time to sit with your financial planners to discuss their personal situations and learn about what services these representatives provide. Through this proactive education, you help your employees become more financially sound, and you may impact how your employees refer borrowers to these services, as well.
4. Retirement Planning and Programs
From 401(k)s, to Roth IRAs and general retirement education, helping your team formulate a workable retirement plan will be very well received. Everyone grows old, but many of your employees may not be planning or adequately prepared for retirement. Arrange a time for your employees to attend informational seminars and to participate in an FAQ session. They will greatly appreciate a helping hand when planning for their future.
5. Employee Assistance Programs
Many people today face struggles that they don’t know how to cope with on their own. Providing employees a place to turn can allow them to get the help they need, whether it be marriage/family counseling or mental health therapy. Providing this type of assistance is not just good for your employees, but it also makes for a healthier collective work environment.
6. Innovative Team Building
Team building is essential to maintaining a happy workplace. Not only can team building be positive and fun, but it can also be used as a tool to overcome negativity in the workplace. There are many new ways to conduct team building; have you ever had a “Greatest Race” or “Biggest Loser” competition at your financial institution? These can be geared around service or sales goals, and can also benefit your employees by helping them achieve their individual goals.
Team building should also be creative in such a way that it turns words into actions and bonds a group together. While team building inside of an intact group is important, in many cases, employees only spend time with the staff within their own branch or department. Arrange for after-hours events, such as sales rallies, where staff from different branches can gather to discuss best practices and refresh their knowledge in a fun, interactive setting.
7. Employee Panels and Focus Groups
Involve your employees in decisions that affect them. If you are planning on introducing a new technology or program, invite staff to attend informational sessions that provide overviews of what to expect. If your financial institution wants to reach out to Millennials, gather a group of your Millennial employees to discuss their financial wants and needs. If you want to make changes to one of your programs, ask various staff members what they like about the current program and what they might change. You have a wealth of knowledge within your employees; ask them what they think, and you may be pleasantly surprised with the ideas they share. Even more importantly, you'll gain their commitment to the changes that lie ahead.
In many cases, an organization’s biggest line-item expense is its employees’ wages and benefits. The cost, however, becomes an investment if you are able to successfully retain your talent. This applies equally to your loan officers, accountants, tellers, and executives. Corporations across the world are learning about the cost savings and benefits that are gained by retaining their valuable employees. And, they’re realizing that as they build employee loyalty and trust, they ultimately improve their bottom line.
As CEO of SWBC's Financial Institution Group, Mark manages the day-to-day operations and sets the strategic direction for the division. He is committed to continuous product training, increased premium penetration, and support of the sales staff with a high level of service to ensure the success of our credit union program. He also embraces the philosophy of creating true partnerships with our financial institution clients.