Since the financial crisis of 2008, banks have, understandably, come under increased scrutiny and regulation. Unfortunately, ongoing scandals and charges of misconduct have continued to tarnish the industry as a whole.
As a result, organizations have become more risk averse and can suffer from a culture in which people are afraid to make mistakes and feel stifled by what they perceive as a high bureaucratic burden. Combined with the tarnished reputation of the industry, this can make it more challenging than in pre-crisis days to keep employees motivated and engaged.
Leadership is key to restoring employee trust and pride.
To engage their teams and build pride and morale in times of challenge, leaders can:
- Lead by example. Set the tone for how to behave through your own words and actions, showing you hold yourself and your team to the highest ethical standards. Actively foster a culture of ethics and integrity so that employees know what is expected of them, particularly when dealing with decisions that are not clearly black or white.
- Be authentic and empathetic. Take the time to engage with your teams and truly listen to their concerns. It’s not enough to tell them to put their heads down and focus on their work. You need to provide a channel through which team members can honestly express concerns and hear back from you. Examples include providing talking points for your weekly meeting; holding regular, open forums; and establishing an open-door policy.
- Keep elephants out of the room. Celebrate team and organizational successes, but also acknowledge when mistakes have been made, including any associated reputational issues. Then be clear on how leadership is addressing the issue in order to restore faith and pride.
- Remind people of their purpose. Clearly and consistently communicate the purpose of the organization and how it contributes to society. Employees need messages they can use with family and friends when they are challenged as to why they work there.
- Be consistent in what you encourage. Employees look very closely at who is being recognized and rewarded in an organization because it sends a very strong signal about what is truly valued. So be consistent in how you recognize and reward “good” behaviors and discourage “bad” behaviors through performance reviews, compensation, promotions, access to special programs, and other perks.
- Invest in their careers. Show employees how much you value them through training and development, mobility, and other career opportunities. Organizations that help their employees build their careers and become more competent tend to be better at engaging and retaining their talent.
- Connect people. Whether through training programs, events, or projects, it’s important for employees to connect, particularly when an organization is going through a difficult patch. People can feel isolated and even angry if they feel tainted by a stigma that came about through others’ actions. Connecting them to others in the organization helps them feel part of something bigger and lets them know they’re not alone.
- Allow for mistakes. They happen and can provide valuable opportunities for learning. Of course, if someone has willfully broken rules or codes of conduct, that must be addressed. But enabling people to take considered and thoughtful risks within a clearly established framework helps them to continue to learn and innovate.
- Connect with the community through Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs. Most employees, and particularly Millennials, want to connect with their wider community. You can facilitate this through CSR programs, which present opportunities to reach into the community and put a personal face on the organization. Familiarity can help improve your company’s image and boost employee morale.
Of course, leaders cannot control everything, but they do play a critical role in shaping the culture of their organization, instilling a sense of pride, and creating an environment in which their people feel valued and engaged.
Most recently she served with UBS in Zurich where she was a managing director and Group Head of Talent and Development. Her responsibilities included executive development, succession planning, performance management, learning and development, diversity and inclusion, and employee engagement.
Prior to that, Ms. Pledger served for 13 years at Goldman Sachs in New York where she was a managing director and Global Head of Talent Management. Her responsibilities included Goldman Sachs University, succession planning, performance management, talent acquisition, diversity and inclusion, and employee engagement. She also served as the Head of HR for Operations, Finance, and Corporate Services for three years.
Prior to joining Goldman Sachs, Ms. Pledger served for 13 years as a management consultant with Accenture in London and Johannesburg. Her most recent position was an associate partner in the Change Management consulting practice serving large corporate and government clients. She also has experience with strategy and technology consulting.
Ms. Pledger holds a BSc in Economics (with Industrial Relations) from the London School of Economics, and an MSc in Information Systems from the University of Brighton.
Ms. Pledger served on the Board of City Harvest in New York for three years and currently serves on the Board of the Hudson Area Association Library.