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Branding Your Culture

Wisconsin banks empower employees, drive service

By Hannah Flanders

Accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic, changes in work-life balance, employee expectations, and workplace culture have all dramatically shifted among every industry. However, as new cultures of service emerge internally, an increasing number of businesses are considering how this company culture shift may widely benefit both current and prospective employees as well as the perspective of customers.

The Culture of Serving Others

Company culture, or the shared values and beliefs held within an organization, continues to prove itself as a significant factor not only in talent attraction and recruitment, but in how Wisconsin’s community banks are able to stand out from large competitors.

Time and time again, poor management or lack of service are often to blame for individuals leaving businesses or finding new providers. However, as Wisconsin’s community banks focus their efforts into doing what they do best — providing high quality service to every member of their communities — it will come as no surprise that talent and customers will follow.

Establishing an Effective Company Culture

According to Amanda Emery-Morris, training and marketing coordinator at Farmers & Mer- chants Union Bank in Columbus, company culture is largely connected to the mission, vision, and beliefs held by the bank. In this, most Wisconsin banks have already completed the most challenging aspect.

In order to encourage employees to adopt these values, managers should ensure a sense of trust among their staff.

Robb Rempel of Nebraska-based Haberfeld highlights that in order to empower the employee, it is critical that they are provided with, and have an understanding of, products they believe in and have processes that encourage follow through.

These processes should not only include training and equipping every team member to identify customer needs but ensuring every team member understands where they can turn with questions or direct others. These skills are vital in fostering a confident team.

Sustaining Culture Among Employees

Of course, setting employees and prospective talent up for success is one aspect to consider — but how can banks ensure they are continually boosting employee morale and that company culture is evident to new or prospective employees? Rempel suggests that community bankers should lean into the changes caused by COVID.

“Regularly check in with your team — really get to know them as people,” he notes.

This follow through not only drives engagement and performance but develops a personal connection between team members. As our industry demands this intimate connection with others in order to better serve, it is critical that at every level, managers show this care for their employees who then feel inclined to pass it on to the customer.

“Part of our retention strategy is to provide the tools [our team members] need to do their jobs efficiently,” says Emery-Morris. “Whether it be more training or mentoring, [our goal is to] help that individual be the best banker he or she can be.”

Additionally, banks should recognize team members based on their contributions to the overall culture of the organization — not just top job performance. By building a brand surrounding the service provided by employees of the organization and celebrating the successes, others are encouraged to take part.

The Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) considers reward and recognition programs as key mechanisms to motivate employees to act in accordance with the culture and values.

While strategy remains an important factor not only in keeping Wisconsin’s community banks relevant and competitive against the growth in competition for customers and talent, Rempel encourages banks to “build a brand around service, not so much procedure.”

How to Leverage Culture Externally

While commonly considered as a way to form rooted connections among employees and the business, culture can also be used to make community banks stand out. In focusing specifically on expanding the culture of service bankers bring to their communities, new ways to market closely follow.

In particular, word-of-mouth marketing is one of the most valuable tools a business can utilize. According to Semrush, an online visibility management and marketing platform, around 90% of people are likely to trust a recommended brand.

This tactic has the potential to not only drive sales in new customers, but it is also a simple and highly effective way for community banks to increase the awareness of their organization.

During the recruiting process, community banks may also emphasize company culture by ensuring prospective employees align with the bank’s mission, rather than solely by skill.

“By knowing who we [Farmers & Merchant Union Bank] are and what we want to achieve, employees and prospective employees know what we stand for and what’s expected of them,” states Emery-Morris.

In this, community banks that intertwine culture into the standard hiring process may find that employees are more likely to have higher performance and the business will suffer less from the costly impact of departures.

Staying Informed and Ahead

As company culture continually shifts and services valued by employees and customers evolve, it is critical that Wisconsin’s community banks are prepared to deliver.

During the Wisconsin Bankers Association’s (WBA) upcoming LEAD360 Conference, bankers will be equipped with the tools, skills, and understanding to cultivate an environment of productivity and foster connections.

Retail, sales, marketing, and financial literacy bankers convening in Wisconsin Dells November 16 and 17 will have the opportunity to learn more on topics related to service culture and talent retention from Rempel and Emery-Morris as well as several other speakers.

To learn more about the conference or register, please visit wisbank.com/lead360.

The conference is designed to help ensure Wisconsin’s community banks are prepared to promote the value of staff and assist team members in efficiently and effectively serving their communities. The ability to stay abreast of the ever-evolving workplace culture shifts and trends in our industry will prove essential in remaining competitive and ready to serve.