A local community bank doesn’t grow for almost 130 years without keeping up with the times. Citizens Union Bank (CUB), based in Shelbyville, Ky., stays current in a variety of ways, including the implementation of new technology systems. While technology has been important to CUB’s success, the bank’s employees have played an even greater role.

CUB employees are vital to the bank, to the extent that they are the bank. The leaders at CUB recognize this, and that’s why every effort is made to support employees and keep them motivated to grow in their knowledge and skills.

David M. Bowling, CEO of the bank, says, “Developing future leaders is the lifeblood of any organization. CUB has prospered through the years by having generations of new leaders step up and help the bank grow and develop. We believe strongly in the value of investing in and developing the leaders of tomorrow.”

An eight-month commitment that builds team excitement

CUB’s Leadership Academy Program is a prime example of the bank’s commitment to its employees. First introduced in 2012, the annual program kicks off every January and lasts for eight months. The bank’s executive team and senior management hand-pick a small group of employees from different departments to participate, with the goal of enhancing their leadership and team-building skills.

Melissa Banta, VP of HR, and Jeanne Willard, VP of Retail, were instrumental in developing the program and lead it each year.

“Besides providing training and education for our employees, we often send them to motivational workshops and seminars,” says Banta. “They always return to work excited and fired up, but over time that excitement can begin to wane. With the eight-month leadership program, we find that enthusiasm is sustained throughout the year.”

Program participation gives employees a sense of pride

Banta, met with Insider Louisville, along with Jessica Dobner, Asst. VP of Marketing and a participant of the 2016 Leadership Academy, to discuss the program’s impact on their company’s culture.

“Since the start of the program, there have been about 40 employees who have participated,” says Banta, “Many have moved into management positions within the bank or have been elevated within their positions. It has given them a real sense of pride.”

The program begins with a luncheon with executive and senior management, and the group is given a project to work on. Over the next eight months, they do team-building exercises, and they research and map out initiatives based on a specific theme. At the end of that time, the group presents their findings and recommendations to CUB’s board of directors and executive and senior management.

Several bank initiatives launched   

Several internal initiatives have been launched as a result of the Leadership Academy. The 2012 team focused on wellness, and CUB now has a wellness program based on the group’s recommendation. Employees can earn points for participating in activities such as weight loss and smoking cessation. The bank will pay half of their dues, and they can earn paid time off — up to 20 hours per year by attending bank-sponsored wellness seminars on topics such as nutrition and exercise. The program has evolved over the years and now includes a financial wellness component. Participating employees are given access to financial planning and budgeting tools through Dave Ramsey’s SmartDollar and Financial Peace University platforms.

The 2016 group was tasked with integrating CUB’s brand positioning of “going beyond expectations” into the bank’s culture. They developed and presented their suggestion of a new employee recognition program called SPARC, which stands for Secret Peer Appreciation Recognition Committee.

“It’s a committee of people from all over the bank who have been given an annual budget to present employees with monthly surprises such as small gifts, lunch parties, etc. The goal is to show employees how much they are appreciated,” says Dobner.

The first surprise of 2017 will be a specially designed Survival Tool Kit, full of things such as aspirins, heartburn medications, etc., to help prepare employees for an upcoming system-conversion project. The kit is intended to be lighthearted and let employees know that the bank is behind them as they work hard over a period of six months to see the project through to completion. Employees are also reminded that the project will ultimately benefit them, the bank and customers.

Optimism about the program’s future

Dobner, for one, has seen lasting changes from CUB’s Leadership Academy and is optimistic about the coming year and the program’s future.

“If an employee is given ownership of a project, they are going to work harder to see it succeed. By giving employees opportunities to participate in the program, and become involved in key bank initiatives as a result, CUB has given employees something they can be proud of. I am so happy to have been selected to be in the 2016 program, and I’m equally excited to be a part of the newly formed SPARC committee.”

Join CUB in looking forward

Interested in a career at Citizens Union Bank? Explore options on the company’s website: cubbank.com

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