Strategic Planning Is About More Than Just Numbers

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Two bankers shaking hands

Bankers throughout the Midwest face two overarching issues regarding strategic planning: 1) the need for liquidity and 2) competition fostering tighter loan terms and rates. Many would agree that both factors can hamper a community bank’s growth and profitability.

When bankers analyze their plans to attract more deposits or compete with peer banks, they often consider offering special certificate of deposit rates or expanding market areas. They don’t, however, address the important role employees, board members and shareholders play in achieving those goals.

People Are the Key to Success

Without motivated people who believe in and support your institution’s goals, accomplishing such goals can be exceptionally difficult. So the real challenge in strategic planning is how to get employees invested in your goals.

The first step in attaining happy and motivated employees is to discover how employees feel about working for the institution. And let’s be honest—employees work for managers, not for an institution. An institution doesn’t make their lives better or difficult; people do.

A tried-and-true mechanism for gauging employee satisfaction and engagement is to conduct an employee survey. While this can be very sophisticated and expensive, you can get equally adequate data by simplifying the process, and at a much cheaper cost. The most important facet of an employee survey, though, is that it must be confidential. Employees, even in an organization that has built a high level of goodwill, aren’t likely to be completely honest and transparent if there can be any kind of blowback.

Once survey results are compiled and trends and outliers are analyzed, executive management must act on the results. Sharing the results with employees is a good first step, but management should address some survey items to prove to employees that their voices matter. Consider involving employees in certain portions of strategic planning meetings to openly discuss the survey results. Doing so shows employees their feedback is important to management and the board of directors.

Once you get employees involved in the strategic planning process, you can focus on how employees can help achieve strategic planning goals. Here are some ideas:

  • Committee involvement – Employees, especially millennials, want to be involved. They want to help make decisions and have a hand in the company’s success. Creating committees for employees to participate in will help accomplish this, as well as potentially reduce responsibilities from certain highly leveraged officers or employees. Examples of committees your institution can create include:
    • Employee engagement
    • Expense reduction
    • Holiday party
    • Family involvement
    • Education or training
    • Customer appreciation
    • Innovation
  • Understanding different department programs – When people don’t understand the struggles of others, it becomes easier to complain about them and not demonstrate gratitude or empathy. Learning what roles others play in the institution, in contrast, helps employees become more understanding. In many banking organizations, for example, deposit operations personnel and loan operations personnel don’t spend a lot of time together to understand each group’s respective tasks and responsibilities. However, they can learn by spending time in each other’s departments.

Having the right people on the right seat of the proverbial bus will make achieving strategic goals easier and more effective. Try to refrain from viewing your employees as your greatest asset, since you don’t own or control them. Instead, view them as your greatest resource and path to success!

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