By Mark AndersonToday’s workforce is more diverse than perhaps any time in previous history. At many banks, it is now common to have four generations of employees working together, from boomers and Gen Xers to millennials and now, Gen Z. Overall, this diversification has been a boon to American business, as it has been shown to drive innovation and improve the customer experience.
The ongoing challenge for bankers is now to attract and retain the most talented employees. To achieve this, many institutions have made considerable investments in facilities and infrastructure designed to help them stand out as inclusive, accommodating and up-to-date. These days, the industry is seeing some banks beginning to look less like traditional retail branches, and as one banker in Colorado said, more similar to the work environments of modern technology firms. In fact, Goldman Sachs recently announced it was loosening its dress code in an effort to appear more attractive to younger staff.
Employee engagement beyond the mountain of internal email
Perhaps most importantly, banks are seeing the need to modernize the ways they engage with staff. To ensure that all employees are fully invested in the institution’s corporate culture, the bank must be able to reach everyone, whether they’re onsite or remote workers, flex-timers, technophiles, traditionalists, clock-punchers or “always-on.” And just as bankers think about channel and content type when marketing to a diverse customer base, they must adopt a similar approach when it comes to internal communications.
Like consumers, a diverse staff will have a range of unique preferences for how they want to communicate—and within generations, certain channels are more effective than others. Ultimately, it’s the bank’s job to ensure it is meeting those needs. Otherwise, important updates, news and announcements may get lost in the day-to-day shuffle.
Relying solely on traditional internal communications channels is simply less effective than in years passed. While email may still reign supreme across many organizations, it is no longer the most effective tool for communicating with everyone, particularly millennials and Gen Z. Further, ensuring internal emails are opened, much less read and internalized, on a daily basis is a constant struggle for corporations.
Moving toward new channels
When considering the modern workforce, studies have indicated that baby boomers and Gen Xers tend to prefer print, phone, email and even face-to-face communications. While both groups, Gen X in particular, are technologically savvy, they still place great value in traditional mediums. Millennials and Gen Z, however, tend to prefer graphically-based content—blogs, videos and even podcasts—as their preferred communications mediums. Those emerging content types hold immense potential for engagement. Because they are often created from the perspective of someone at the executive level, they can foster a greater sense of interconnectedness within the bank.
To ensure these materials are front and center for employees however, banks must also centralize internal communications and collaboration. A well-designed intranet, for example, can host all of the above media forms and ensure they are the first thing an employee sees when starting his or her day. This puts the institution’s goals front and center in the employee’s mind and engages them with the bank’s efforts as a whole.
Managing the security issues
Of course, security is also an imperative when it comes to internal marketing and communications materials. Such information can serve as fodder for the competition, as well as a great tool for potential hackers or bad actors to gain insight into individual bank process. Once materials are developed, they should be protected by a document management system that segments who has access to what and restricts what can be done with them, such as saving, printing or editing.
Making it fun
A benefit of employing newer technology to support internal communications is that it frees up bankers to be more creative in communicating with staff. Washington-based Kitsap Bank, for example, has implemented a gamification strategy featuring a recurring scavenger hunt. At the beginning of each month, specific images or icons are hidden within pages of its intranet—pages that the bank wanted employees to visit more regularly. Now, employees are engaging with the content. And at the end of each month, the bank conducts a random drawing among all those who found the image, with a grand prize going to the winner.
Front line staff serve as the voice of the bank
Just as enhancing internal communications can significantly improve an institution’s ability to attract and retain talented employees, it can also serve as a way to support marketing and sales initiatives. According to Aon Hewitt’s annual Trends in Global Employee Engagement, a one percent increase in a company’s employee engagement translates to a one percent increase in overall sales. This supports the idea that centralizing and maximizing internal communications across all channels has a direct, positive impact on a bank’s growth over time.
The practical application of this is among front-line staff, who tend to serve as the voice of a financial institution. They are the ones interacting with customers day-in and day-out. By leveraging different channels and formats to distribute marketing materials and sales policies, banks can maximize their reach and create more effective campaigns to drive revenue and customer engagement.
Banks have made great strides in producing more creative content that supports the customer experience by better engaging consumers across a variety of channels. It’s time for that same approach to be taken internally with staff. By leveraging multiple forms of communications, bankers can ensure greater consistency of brand among staff. And they can do so in a way that helps retain their most valuable resource—bank employees.
Mark Anderson is CEO of Johnson City, Tenn.-based Banc Intranets, a leading provider of secure, web-based intranets and directors’ portals for financial institutions that centralize employee onboarding and training, streamlining day-to-day operations.