The Great Resignation is really the “Great Reflection”

Employee engagement should be a cornerstone of every bank’s strategic planning given its direct connection to profitability.

As we head into the 2023 strategic planning season, banking C-suites are scratching their collective head trying to figure out how to meet lofty goals in today’s difficult staffing environment. Using pizza parties, jeans days and Fun Fridays to keep employees motivated ended with the pandemic. Probably even earlier.

The impact of the ”Great Resignation” on banking institutions is being felt from the front lines to the corner offices. But what if it’s not a great resignation but rather, as one human resources  professional recently shared with me, a “Great Reflection?” The vast majority of people aren’t ending their careers; many, however, are reflecting on work as it fits into the balance of their life. Are they engaged in their job? Is their work purpose-driven? Does it support the life they seek outside the walls of the business?

Those who find a disconnect between life desires and work aren’t necessarily resigning. Some are simply moving from a 40-hour teller position to a 20-hour teller position. Either way, you’re now short at least half an FTE.

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Back to strategic planning for 2023, many additional KPIs are part of the equation. One unfortunately absent from many strategic plans is employee engagement. It’s important to consider this as being different than employee satisfaction.

Consider a satisfied employee as someone who shows up to work on time, does a generally good job, even makes customers happy. Consider an engaged employee as one who proactively looks for ways to improve the business as well as the lives of customers and fellow employees. They don’t live your culture, they define it.

Gallop estimates disengagement among employees costs U.S. businesses roughly $500 billion annually when factoring in the costs of lost productivity, recruiting, interviewing, onboarding, training, etc. It’s not hard to draw a line from employee engagement to profits.

Here are five steps to consider to boost employee engagement at your bank or credit union:

Measure employee engagement: Ask employees if they feel motivated to do more at your bank than they would if they did the same job for somebody else. These surveys can be cost effective, and it’s not too late to accomplish both the survey gathering and analysis before your strategic plan is baked.

Get HR to the table: If your human resources team isn’t part of business planning, you’re already misaligned. Ensure that HR is at the forefront of your business needs to proactively pivot recruitment strategies, hiring pipeline, job descriptions, training tactics and more.

Connect hiring to strategy: Leverage behavioral assessments to ensure the people you’re bringing in carry behavioral qualities consistent with your carefully crafted business strategy. While you’re at it, train your front-line managers to interview the human, not the resume.

Reward what matters: JP Lacroix of SLD recently published that employees in the 35-44 age group put greater stock in rewards programs than time-honored engagement tactics. Of even greater importance is the need for leaders to avoid painting with a broad brush.

  • Reward and recognize employees on an individual basis in the way they would most appreciate. Not every employee has a desire to be called up on stage at the big annual sales rally.
  • Incentivize metrics that are directly within an employee’s control. Consider metrics such as location-specific customer satisfaction and individual performance assessments as the cornerstone of your variable compensation plan.
  • Don’t forget to reward and recognize the top. The higher you are in the hierarchy, the less recognition you’re likely to receive for a job well done. Don’t assume that cash and sports tickets are enough to keep your C-suite and market leaders engaged.

Wash, rinse, repeat: Don’t fall into the trap of assuming the tactics that engage your team today will work again tomorrow. Employee engagement must be measured at least twice per year with strategic action planning to follow.

If you’re especially passionate about Jeans Day and pizza parties, by all means, sign me up provided it’s a fringe benefit and not the basis of your engagement plan. It’s time to get as smart about your people strategy as your business strategy to ensure success in 2023 and beyond.

EJ Kritz is EVP, training and customer experience, at ath Power Consulting.