One of the biggest complaints from credit union members is poor service or a bad branch experience. And often the go-to strategy for this is to develop member centric initiatives to show the member how much they mean to us. From more mobile banking options to a bigger assortment of lollipops in the waiting area, all these tools focus directly on the member. But, a more subtle yet powerful tool is to engage and retain top employees within your branch. Member loyalty and retention can be linked to employee loyalty and retention. Yet, one of the toughest challenges for branch managers lies in knowing how to successfully direct a staff of disengaged, weary employees.
Here are 5 ways to drive change and steer your branch toward both employee engagement and member service success:
- Lead by example
A great way to renew spirit and boost morale is to manage your staff the same way you ask them to manage their members: offer insight, uncover problems, and connect emotionally. Assume the role of a wise and caring consultant. Understand each worker’s unique decision-making process and grow your relationships.
Who on your team responds best to brief, succinct input? Does anyone need extra guidance and support? Given everyone’s current level of stress, should you dare to set ambitious goals or keep them within easy reach? Some of your employees appreciate clear direction and specific instructions, while others feel motivated by autonomy and the opportunity to make decisions within their job parameters.
Read your employees as individuals and manage to their preferences. A one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work with members or employees.
2. Get to know your people
This can and should be accomplished without being too close. It’s nice when you can ask how someone’s child is doing or how those vacation plans are coming along; it demonstrates that you acknowledge and care about their life outside of work. However, avoid becoming too close with individuals on your staff. Being best buddies with one or more people on your team can create problems, such as feelings of resentment among the other associates on your team.
Make individual assessments of everyday strengths, weaknesses, habits, preferences and responses. Enhance your own people skills by learning to identify the correct triggers for a maximum performance from each employee. Speak a common language. Some workers understand enthusiasm and personal anecdotes while others relate best to technical jargon and to-the-point facts. Know who’s who.
Employees who say they relate to their managers exhibit a more intense sense of company loyalty and dedication, which shines through as they interact with members or perform tasks for members behind the scenes.
3. Develop your team
No one likes being in a rut; create a stimulating environment that stretches people’s minds and creativity. Try organizing some brainstorming sessions for improving branch procedures and operations. Pair seasoned employees with new ones for mentoring. Teach new skills. Groom promising employees for positions of authority – even if you know you can’t promote them right away. This intangible benefit may cost little or nothing. It helps junior employees feeling invested in the company and prepares you well for the future, when you’ll need competent leadership for a new wave of employees.
4. Adopt new communication strategies
Empathizing with both members and employees is essential, as everyone tries mastering the fine art of struggling through economic uncertainty and doing more with less. When change comes down the line, be as reassuring as you can. People who feel they’re being lied to or kept in the dark may look for another job, or another credit union.
Plan frequent all-employee meetings to voice opinions, air concerns, resolve dilemmas and offer camaraderie. Managers adept at conveying a “we’re all in this together” mindset will more readily build and maintain a solid, resilient, growth-oriented team.
5. Express your appreciation
Genuine appreciation is a benefit that money can’t buy: A sincere thank you; public recognition (for your social employees); a personal handwritten note (for those who are more reserved); being available to listen and allowing employees to vent a little; pitching in yourself when the branch is very busy or short-staffed; remembering special days (birthdays, company anniversary, etc.); and the occasional free lunch.