Employee engagement. Is it advancement? Transparency? Or, just plain love?

happy engaged coworkers selfie in office

It started with some pretty startling, and a bit upsetting statistics. My research into the current state of employee engagement, that is. Here are just a few from the eLearning Industry website: 

  • 51% of employees are disengaged
  • 60% of employees are thinking about resigning from their jobs 
  • 63.3% of small businesses have more trouble retaining their workforce rather than hiring it
  • Companies spend $2.9 million per day, which is $1.1 billion per year, on hiring expenses
  • 25% of working Americans say they are considering leaving their current employer due to their need for a mental health break
  • 56% of leaders admitted that engaged workforces attain positive ROI, while only 40% of managers have access to engagement surveys to know what motivates team members
  • Only 22% of companies know the main reasons for their employee disengagement1

Pretty disheartening, isn’t it? I know how it is … personally.  As a business owner myself, I understand well the challenges that come with keeping team members satisfied, motivated and productive. Let’s face it, it’s not easy. 

Good news, sort of, for banks, anyway

There is good news, though, for those in the banking industry in particular. Why? The banking industry appears to be a great place to work based on data from the 2023 State of Work in America survey conducted by Grant Thornton LLP. “Banking employees are highly engaged, more engaged than employees in other industries. But banking employees are more likely than workers in other industries to report burnout, and they’re quite concerned that they might get laid off. They’re also looking to capitalize on the opportunities for advancement that attracted them to their jobs in the first place. Banking employees reported in a survey that advancement opportunities were the top reason that they were attracted to their current job. But a lack of advancement opportunities also was the top reason they would consider leaving their job.”2

So, how can banking leaders encourage employee engagement? 

The Grant Thornton article tells us that engagement strategies start with employee surveys. “The more you ask them about their opinions, the more valued and respected they feel. Transparent communication is also crucial to building trust and loyalty.”  This made a lot of sense … the notion of feeling “valued and respected.”  Then I came across this podcast, the latest episode of the ABA Banking Journal Podcast.3

In it, Neil Stevens, president and CEO of Oconee State Bank in Oconee, Georgia and founder of Leading Life on Life, discusses his approach to cultivating a bank culture where engagement scores have climbed to 89 percent, triple the national average. In the podcast, which is definitely a worthwhile listen, Stevens talks about how he has built an engagement culture through a framework called Leading Life on Life, a methodology that emphasizes Loving, Equipping, Affirming and Developing (“LEAD”ing) team members. Among other topics, Stevens discusses the critical role that love (as strange as that may sound) plays in creating an engaging bank culture, the importance of active listening, and how an environment of healthy affirmation actually allows leaders to hold their teams to higher standards.  

Here’s just a snippet: “Culture has been something on my mind and heart for a number of years,” Stevens says. “And you hear that word a lot these days, right? I mean, people talk about culture and a great culture and how do you know if you have a culture? According to a recent Gallup study, only 32% of American workers are engaged in their jobs. Only 32% of American workers are engaged in their work. 51% are disengaged. And 17% are actively disengaged, which means they are literally trying to sabotage the organization. That’s why we created Life on Life Leadership and how we developed the LEAD method of building an engaging culture: Love, Affirm, Equip, Develop. It all boils down to leaders within an organization making it a priority. And being very intentional, and leading in a “Life on Life” way, which means that you're intentional as a leader, leading in a way where you’re intentionally investing in the lives of their team members.” What, exactly, is the “Life on Life” way? You’ll have to tune in to find out.

What’s next?

Increasing and maintaining a high employee engagement rate is a never-ending process, one that relies upon a solid strategy and an “intentional” approach to executing it. There are, of course, a myriad number of opinions on how to do this. If you’re interested in learning more about how to create that engaging culture, I suggest you tune in to the ABA Banking Journal podcast featuring Neil Stevens. As I said before, I believe it’s well worth a listen. As always, I welcome your thoughts.

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1eLearning Industry. 15 Employee Engagement Statistics for 2024. April 6, 2024.

2Grant Thornton. Building on employee goodwill in banking. June 15, 2023.

3ABA Banking Journal. Podcast: How a Georgia community bank engaged employees at 3X the national rate. April 18, 2024.