Create Wealth: Enrich Your Corporate Culture. (Feature)

Article excerpt

Whether planned or not, your financial institution already has a shared set of attitudes, values and goals. The problem is that these traits may not be the ones that management prefers. Here are ways of introducing and molding the type of high-performance practices and habits that beef up the bottom line and enhance sales initiatives.

There are three questions that marketers and managers 4 should ask themselves concerning their institution's corporate culture:

Do employees love coming to work?

Do customers enjoy their transaction experience?

Is the bank's bottom line profitable?

Chances are if you answered "no" to any of these questions you answered negatively for all three. The reason is that profitability is related to positive employee motivation; and positive employee motivation is related to positive customer experience. If fact, all three questions are one and the same. If you gave any answers, that response indicates that your bank has an organizational "culture" problem.

Not all bank managers understand this.

The first thing that some managers say when they see that the bottom line is weak is, "We need to develop a sales culture!" A sales culture is a wonderful idea, but you need the foundation of a strong corporate culture (or what I call a corporate "cultural initiative") before you can move on to the higher stage of a sales culture.

A cultural initiative is about creating consistency in the workplace. Examples of retail companies that have achieved success through powerful cultural initiatives include Southwest Airlines, Home Depot and Starbucks. Employees at these organizations are trained well and treated well, and customers know what to expect when walking into any one of these retail shops. The experiences of both employee and customer are positive in the overwhelming majority of instances.

Why is it critical that financial institutions learn from their successful retail peers? Because in this highly competitive economy, the bank team that keeps both its employees and customers happy simultaneously is the team that wins.

A cultural initiative does not take place only at the managerial level or in a short period of time. There has to be a firm commitment from the top down, and there are no quick fixes.

I have outlined below some steps that a financial organization should follow in defining and developing a cultural initiative. I have included an example of how Mt. Washington Bank, a $272 million institution in South Boston, Mass., was able to implement a cultural initiative that helped it to increase profits, expand client reach and reduce high levels of employee attrition.

Here are some suggestions for developing a cultural initiative.

1. Meet with everyone in the organization. Let them know that you are about to embark on a cultural initiative. Lay out the objective. Clarify that everyone in the organization counts in terms of meeting the objective--from the courier to the facilities operator to the service staff. The message is, "You work for the organization or you don't"--everyone must be onboard with the idea of defining and developing work experience. Establish objectives for each individual as well as for the organization as a whole.

2. Research what works and what doesn't. The research can be done in a variety of ways. One is through mystery shopping: Are employees smiling? Are they knowledgeable? Are they helpful? Does their behavior promote your culture? Focus groups, online panels, intercept and satisfaction surveys can be used to gain information on image and consumer perception.

Other types of research include internal focus groups, one-on-one meetings and management and staff feedback interviews. This is where you uncover both possibilities and obstacles. The information should indicate whether employees understand their role within the organization and if the organization is headed in a dear direction. …