What if you worked for a company where your opinion and insights really matter? A place where members of executive management are willing to sit down informally for an hour with small employee groups to share ideas and enjoy some dessert. Well at Citizens Union Bank, that’s exactly what happens during town hall meetings.
“At most places, ordinary employees don’t have that kind of facetime with executives,” says Tanisha House, assistant vice president and branch manager at CUB’s Blankenbaker office. “It shows that CUB really does value its employees and wants to listen to the people who work there. CUB is very much focused on its employees and wants to always make things better.”
Whether it’s suggesting new ways to serve customers or requesting new office chairs and carpeting, CUB’s town hall meetings are a place where employees have the ears of executives.
“It was good to have facetime with executive management in a small intimate setting,” says Jennifer Somerville, senior vice president and loan operations department head at the Simpsonville branch. “They sat at a table with us and mingled throughout the employees. It made us feel like we were sitting having a relaxed conversation.”
Somerville says many employees asked important questions about the bank’s strategic plan for the next two years and also wanted to hear an assessment of the banking industry.
“It made the employees feel much more engaged in the bank’s goals,” Somerville says.
No agenda, no presentations
CUB executives engaged in 11 town hall meetings in August and September during which the questions were decided by employees. No agenda, no presentations. Just a roll-up-your-sleeves and have some dessert kind of gathering.
“We have always had bank-wide employee meetings in the past, but this was the first time we tried a ‘town hall’ format with no agenda and separate meetings at each location,” says David Bowling, CUB CEO. “We told people we would talk about what they wanted to talk about. I was very pleased with the great questions and open dialogue about issues affecting the bank and our industry. I think the staff appreciated the opportunity to be heard on a number of topics. I’m sure we will do it again.”
Melissa Banta, vice president of human resources, says the informal Q&A sessions were met with overwhelming employee approval. “We’ve heard a lot of positive feedback,” Banta says.
Brenda Hall, title insurance manager at CUB’s downtown Shelbyville branch, says the town hall Q&A gave employees all the time they needed to make suggestions.
“We asked for our cleaning service to come on a different day,” Hall explains. “Lots of our customers are farmers and they wear muddy boots. When we would come into the office on Mondays, the lobby was kind of muddy. We made some suggestions and the executives listened and responded right away.”
Hall says her colleagues also asked if they could have new office chairs, new lamp fixtures and different artwork on the walls. Presto, the new chairs and décor arrived within days.
“They kind of spruced it up,” Hall says. “The customers are already commenting.”
Hall adds, “I think the town hall also strengthens that bond between executive management and employees. It’s especially nice for new employees.”
Jessica Dobner, assistant vice president of marketing, says executives were very willing to set aside several hours in their busy schedules to listen to employees. In fact, executives were the ones who came up with the idea for town hall meetings.
House said employees at the Blankenbaker office asked executives to address a plumbing issue at the branch and MSD showed up promptly.
“I thought the town halls were very, very good,” House says. “The executives were very supportive.”
Sommerville says her colleagues asked executives for additional training on the new company-wide computer system installed earlier in the year.
“We talked about training and offered ideas around electronic signatures,” Sommerville says. “One of the things they did was serve dessert to show us their appreciation. Food always makes things more fun.”
Dobner says the bank hired one of its employees who owns a side catering business named 2 Country Chics to provide the food.
“They fixed desserts in little Mason jars,” Dobner says. “It was really cute and very delicious!”
How can I become of a part of CUB?
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