As of September 6, 2011 there have been 449 bank closures in the US since 2008. When you compare that to the three closures during the years of 2005 to 2007, it is easy to see that the future for any company in the financial industry is somewhat bleak. Many other companies having also been feeling the effects of the failing economy since 2008.
Financial institutions and other companies within the financial industry had been one of the hardest hit because of the misrepresentation of many securities tied to home mortgages. Soon after, regulators started to audit any financial company or institution that showed signs of weakness. In some instances, the regulators took over and eventually forced closure of these financial institutions. With scrutiny from the public and its regulators, it was difficult being a banker. In industry where most banks are doomed to fail, how does a bank, a financial institution succeed? The key to any company’s success is their employees; this is any company’s most valuable asset. To effectively manage and keep this group alive you need a knowledgeable and tactful Human Resources department. This department needs to have professionals with strong interpersonal skills to maneuver through sticky situations. In a crisis similar to what was happening in 2008, strong interpersonal skills will allow this department to improve employee morale and motivation even when the budget to do so is scarce. Here is a list of the four easy and inexpensive ways to improve employee morale and motivation in slow economic times:
1. Build Trust—being able to build and sustain trust among your employees will increase people’s confidence and performance. This is done through open communication. For example, at South County Bank Diane, HR Director, and Kent, President teamed up to organize bank-wide meetings where information was shared about the Bank’s bottom line, where the company was headed, and answer any questions. These meetings stopped one of the South County Bank’s biggest morale killers: rumors. With everything out in the open there was no speculation about what was really happening.
2. Give Recognition—in times where there is not much to celebrate, how do you encourage employees to work hard? Through simple and low budget recognition programs, like employee of the month. South County Bank uses their monthly meetings as platform to recognize employees for yearly anniversaries’ and performance successes. At one of the first meetings, Derek, Relationship Manager, was recognized for collecting late fees. Seems real simple, huh? And it is! Employees in the Credit Department were so use to waiving fees that collecting fees were unheard. This old way of thinking stopped once an incentive was tied to collecting fees. Employees will appreciate this recognition and know that their hard work does not go unnoticed. Other employee will want to work harder so they too will be recognized as a top performer in front of their peers.
3. Create a Great Company Culture—employee morale is most high when a company has a great company culture. This can easily been done through increased training and growth opportunities for employees. When employees see growth in their positions, their job satisfaction and happiness will follow. At South County Bank, the HR department created a new training program to deepen employees’ knowledge of their job. This empowered the employees to make better decisions and have educated conversations with the customers about their accounts and different products.
4. Bring Back Casual Dress Day—using this as a reward for employees for meeting goals can increase employee morale. In a financial institution, this is a little harder to implement because customers are dealt with on a daily basis. Diane and Kent, at South County Bank, reinstated casual dress by allowing employees to dress appropriately for their day. Meaning if they were working with customers they needed to dress up or in the stock room they could wear jeans. Top management also allowed people who did not have face-to-face customer contact to wear jeans on Fridays.
In a failing economy, companies need to concentrate on keeping employee morale and motivation high to ensure their companies’ survival. Human Resources is the department to look towards for the solutions and programs to manage this. Through the strong interpersonal skills of the HR department this can be achieved. When morale and motivation are low, the HR department can execute low-cost initiatives to turn it around. Better morale leads to a better workplace attracting and retaining the workforce needed to succeed when times are tough. HR has the skills to find, hire, and place the right people in open positions. Using these four easy ways to improve morale and motivation can spell success for any company. It means going back to the basics looking at what you have to work with, seeing where you need to be, and knowing the small steps that will get you there.
Contributor: Cassandra Phillips