For financial institutions, employee morale is one of the most important and yet intangible aspects of running a successful organization. When your staff loses their motivation, it can signal an impending crisis. People may leave in droves, or the business may simply slide into the red. Your frontline staff are the face of your institution, and their attitude says a lot about you.
It takes far more energy to raise morale than it takes to maintain it at a healthy level. Ideally, you can set up routines and policies that keep low morale from developing. Even if you can’t set up a swanky break room with ping-pong and fully stocked refrigerators (amenities are nice, but they aren’t guaranteed to boost morale long-term), there are some proven ways that you can get employees excited and motivated to do their jobs.
We’re going to look at two broad strategies that you can customize to fit your institution.
Help support a good cause.
Almost everyone has a cause they care about, even if everyone may not agree or support the same causes. Ask your staff for suggestions. What charities or non-profit organizations do they care about?
Once you have a pool of candidates, you can learn what their needs are and how you can best help. Look for an organization that you can forge a long-term partnership with, and they’ll know they can rely on your support throughout the year. This will also give you a regular source of good PR.
“Who to help?” is the first question, but “what to do?” is most likely the second. Here are some ideas for next steps:
- Give team members paid time off to volunteer at an organization of their choice.
- Coordinate fund or donation drives at your branches (you can even combine this with a marketing promotion such as an account opening incentive — everybody wins. Think along the lines of “bring in 10 cans for the local food pantry and get $20 when you open a new checking account”).
- Invite representatives from the organization to visit your branches and talk about their mission, or tell stories about the results (your team will enjoy hearing how their hard work pays off).
- Ask about events where you can send employees to volunteer and represent your financial institution at the same time. They need manpower, and you want to show people just how invested you are in the community.
Organize in-office culture events.
You don’t always have to make your efforts “outward” focused. It’s also important to show your team that you care about their well-being and the quality of “work” life at your institution. Do some research to learn what types of culture-boosting events would be meaningful to them. These ideas should get your wheels turning:
- Turn casual Fridays into “Cause-al” Fridays. Employees can pay $3 to wear jeans instead of slacks (or maybe some other coveted dress-code exemption). Then all the money collected goes towards a local charity.
- Holiday potlucks or regular “family meals” where your employees can bring the dishes they love and spend time relaxing together. This could happen in your lobby, or maybe in a nearby park.
- Costume or decorating contests are a great way for team members to express themselves and bring a festive spirit into the branch (keeping a professional atmosphere doesn’t have to be humdrum). Be prepared to offer incentives or prizes to boost participation. Especially if your team isn’t used to this type of event.
- If you’re shooting for a business goal, such as account openings, set up an incentive for the entire company. Maybe the boss brings in coffee and donuts or serves a pancake breakfast on a Friday morning when the objective is reached.
The goal of ANY culture or team-building event is to tap into things your employees care about and affirm their humanity. The only way to do this is to take time getting to know them, asking questions, and taking action when they make suggestions. One sure-fire way to kill morale is to do nothing once you’ve generated excitement and received input. You probably won’t implement every suggestion, but an excellent policy is to always provide a “yes + when” or “no + why” answer. This is critical to building trust and gives your staff confidence that you’re listening or the feedback they need to improve their suggestions.
Don’t be afraid to get creative. A tight-knit culture won’t happen overnight. It takes a commitment to the process and willingness to experiment.