We all know how hard it is to attract and retain top talent in the competitive community bank market. The challenge is even more acute today, considering how macroeconomic conditions have changed during the past several months.

Investing in your bank’s culture can help it achieve growth and attract top talent. As a chief human resources officer, I have seen the value of creating and maintaining an agile, people-first work culture. Its daily contribution to operational effectiveness is enormous and serves as a stabilizing and steady force even in the face of external obstacles.

The High Cost of Employee Dissatisfaction
The cost of overlooking employee engagement and turnover can be significant. Gallup found that the cost of replacing a disengaged individual employee can range from half to two times the employee’s annual salary. Meanwhile, research has found that companies with the most engaged employees were 22% more profitable than those with the least.

Signs of disengagement can include slow working tempo, lack of interest in work, being easily distracted and minimal output. Additionally, disengaged employees often possess negative attitudes about their work and organization, which can hurt the productivity and morale of your other employees – not to mention your bottom line.

Three Stages of Culture Development
To avoid the cost and hassle of recruiting new talent, while maintaining an excellent relationship with your current employees, consider these three key points to create an agile, people-first company culture: Know Your Purpose, Know Your People, and Build Your Culture.

Know Your Purpose
Define your bank’s culture so that it becomes your North Star. Start by establishing new core values or refreshing existing ones. Conduct a thorough analysis to identify what values you want your employees to demonstrate, within the context of what is most important to your bank and to your community. This approach can provide your team with a specific direction to anchor expectations and an actionable road map for employee behaviors.

It is also important to recognize and acknowledge appropriate behaviors. These actions help reinforce and speed up the adoption of the culture you hope to build. Establishing a system of core values also helps serve as a guideline for the type of individual you want to hire and who you want to promote.

Know Your People
The needs of employees constantly evolve, especially during major macroeconomic events such as a recession or the recent pandemic. There are easy ways to regularly gauge your employees’ moods and attitudes. For example, a comprehensive semiannual employee survey can provide feedback about what is working, what is not and what can be done better. This information allows executives to see whether the culture is being embraced and internalized, and allows you to quickly address any unfavorable emerging trends.

Taking the time to build relationships with your employees and getting to know them on a personal level can also yield beneficial cultural impacts. Authentic connections between individual contributors and their senior leaders can forge a powerful “in it together” perspective that can increase employee satisfaction and spirit. Employees who feel respected, heard and seen can become personal ambassadors of your bank’s culture within your institution and community.

Build Your Culture
Offering programs, perks and experiences that matter to your employees is an essential component of successful engagement. There is no shortage of options, even if your budget and resources are limited. All it takes is a bit of research, a little creativity and some thoughtful planning.

To help spark your own imagination, here are several recent programs and initiatives that BHG Financial has introduced to enhance its work culture – many of which came from our employees’ feedback in surveys and other engagements. Recent BHG Financial programs include:

  • Transitioned to a permanent hybrid workforce with employees across the country.
  • Launched BHG Pulse, a program focused on the physical, emotional, social, financial and occupational well-being of our employees.
  • Introduced Wellness Weekends, which gives all employees get one Friday off each month to refresh and recharge. It has quickly become our team’s favorite benefit, while maintaining and enhancing productivity.
  • Created “Women in Tech,” our first employee resource group that provides training, connections and support to women within the tech industry.
  • Introduced BHG Together, a diversity, equity and inclusion program that provides monthly support, celebration and training.
  • Offered BHG LEAD, which provides employees with actionable steps they can take to become better leaders and grow their BHG careers.

Building your institution’s culture takes time. There may be highs and lows, but if you prioritize listening to and engaging within your team, you will persevere. We call this principle “winning together” – all oars rowing the same boat in the same direction.


Katie Barnes