Chris Lorence: Why acknowledging significance matters

Making employees understand that their contribution matters to your community bank’s success is key to keeping good people.

Today, people of all generations, not just millennials, are leaving organizations and not meeting their potential in jobs they once enjoyed. We hear it all too often: A community bank selects, trains and invests in a well-qualified leadership candidate or fills a key staff position only to have them leave. Worse are those who showed tremendous potential but then became disengaged. Their performance suffers, but they stay on.

According to the 2017 Gallup State of the American Workplace study, employee engagement is at an abysmal 33 percent compared with a worldwide average of 70 percent. Consider that many of those who leave or become disengaged may simply feel their contribution isn’t recognized, valued or even part of the end result.

As a leader within a community bank, you may be left scratching your head. People have job descriptions and plenty of structure. They know what’s expected of them, they get a reliable paycheck, have a comfortable working environment, benefits, annual performance evaluations with goals; where, you might ask, is the disconnect? Is there that big of a difference between acknowledging and rewarding accomplishment, and acknowledging an individual’s contribution and their significance?

In short, absolutely! It’s easy to set a goal and reward based on attaining that goal. It’s a proven method and the backbone of almost every successful organization. Envision, build, accomplish, acknowledge—a simple, forward-looking formula for success. Many in the organization, however, especially those being groomed for upper management and those in mission-critical positions, need more than the formula; they need to know that their contribution is valued and is making a difference.

Methods of acknowledgment
Does that mean that everyone needs a pat on the head and to be regularly told that what they do matters? Not quite, but acknowledging from time to time a person’s contributions and the value of their expertise to the organization, its goals and its success should be part of every leader’s responsibilities. Those leading the community bank and divisions within it may be hesitant to acknowledge an individual’s significance or contribution, because it may indicate a vulnerability, a reliance on that particular person and the expertise they bring. Others may feel that acknowledgment may be interpreted as a guarantee of employment or assurance of a promotion, or that it may cause others on the team to feel there is favoritism at play.

Truth be told, you are reliant on the talent and expertise of your team members. It’s the very reason you selected them to join the bank and decided to invest in their education and training. You wanted their contributions as individuals to propel the community bank toward its goals, right? To that end, there is a huge leap from implied upward mobility or job security and simply validating the importance of someone’s contribution and its significance to the enriched final result. Acknowledging success and accomplishments is important, but identifying and acknowledging an individual’s contribution and its significance to the bank’s success removes any doubt that they matter.

3 simple ways to acknowledge significance

1. Elevate and recognize: In a board report or management document, highlight an individual’s contribution or expertise to a project. Share that document as appropriate.
2. Communicate directly: Make regular appointments with members of your team and verbally acknowledge their contribution and why it matters to the bank’s strategic success.
3. A friendly word: A good old-fashioned handshake and a genuine smile followed by words of sincere appreciation sends a positive message.


ICBA VOICE

Chris Lorence (chris.lorence@icba.org) is group executive vice president, member engagement and strategy, with expertise in enterprise leadership.

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