» Less than $250M
Local Bank: Aiming for employee satisfaction
By William Atkinson
Virtually everything that happens within Local Bank in Tuscaloosa, Ala., has something to do with its commitment to employee satisfaction.
According to Scott Christoff, president and CEO of the $44 million‑asset community bank, senior management’s overall goal is to ensure that the bank’s employees see the value in the work they are doing, know that management values them and genuinely enjoy what they do.
“We want everyone to feel that we’re a united team,” he says.
To turn these philosophies into tangible actions, senior management’s doors are always open; they want everyone to know that they can come talk whenever they need to. “We value direct communication and encourage our employees to reach out,” Christoff says. “Their voices are important to us.”
In pursuit of open and honest communication, the bank’s management team is highly responsive to employee ideas, problems and concerns. As Christoff sees it, Local Bank is in an advantageous position in that it has fewer legacy structures and processes than many larger banks, allowing it to be more flexible and open to change.
A commitment to continued education
The community bank has a strong commitment to training designed with a focus on individual needs. “We make sure that each person receives training that suits them best,” says Christoff. “It is a hands-on approach. Additionally, we create an environment where everyone feels comfortable seeking guidance from any colleague at any time, even after initial training.”
When we recognize someone’s hard work, we take the initiative to provide them with opportunities to grow and advance in their careers.”
—Scott Christoff, Local Bank
Local Bank also encourages employees to pursue additional training in areas where they believe they need improvement or that will allow them to grow within the bank. “We proactively identify and acknowledge exceptional performance and talent within our organization,” Christoff says. “When we recognize someone’s hard work, we take the initiative to provide them with opportunities to grow and advance in their careers.”
A sense of purpose for employees is also important. “Everyone’s work here directly contributes to Local Bank’s growth and sets the foundation for our future,” he says. “We have created an environment of open communication, trust and recognition, all with the hope that every employee sees their work the way we do: as an important part of our bank’s success and a key building block for our future.”
Raising employee morale
Employees within the community bank echo senior management’s commitment to employee satisfaction. Administrative officer Emily Rodriguez shares some positive insights on why she enjoys being a part of Local Bank, noting that she truly enjoys the teamwork and collaboration within the bank, as well as the flexibility she has been given in her role.
Rodriguez says that what she values most at the bank is that, regardless of hierarchy or title, everyone is personable and authentic. This even extends to the board members, who in her words, “show so much respect and genuineness.”
“I really enjoy coming to work every day, which is such good a feeling to have,” she says.
Secrets to success
While everything at Local Bank is geared toward employee satisfaction, one special feature is that this commitment begins with the board. “Our board’s philosophy facilitates employee satisfaction through a few key principles,” says Scott Christoff, president and CEO. “First and foremost, we prioritize bringing in exceptional people with diverse backgrounds and personality types. Our aim is to foster an atmosphere of well-roundedness rather than conformity.” Second, the board is committed to making it clear that every opinion matters and that every voice is heard. “We want every team member to feel valued and celebrated for their hard work,” he says. “Further, we set high expectations but also assure our employees that there are many opportunities for growth, learning and excelling here.”
Flint Community Bank: Members of a family
By William Atkinson
Flint Community Bank
At Flint Community Bank in Albany, Ga., commitment to employee satisfaction comes from the top. It’s right there in its mission statement: “We will set ourselves apart as the employer of choice.”
“The center thought of our vision statement is to value relationships, starting with our employees,” says Scott Tomlinson, CEO of the $315 million-asset community bank. “If we are successful in this effort, our customers, stockholders and community will feel all of that, as it is passed on by our employees.”
The board and management make good on this commitment by making themselves available to team members. “Cultivating an environment of family and empowerment allows us to have constant and open communication with our team,” says Jason Rooks, chief lending officer, senior vice president. “We want to hear new ideas and ways to reinvent the standard of what we do. We also offer an anonymous online suggestion box to our team members.”
Management responds accordingly, whether it be a new idea or an area of concern. “Knowing that we put them first helps create a culture of trust and respect,” Rooks says.
Providing career opportunities
“In terms of training, our bank supervisors observe their ‘Flint Family’ members and design a specific training plan as needed for the employee,” says Frank Griffin, president. Since Flint Community Bank does not want to be limited to its internal training resources, it often makes use of training offered through the Community Bankers Association of Georgia, ICBA and the Barret School of Banking
The community bank launched its mentoring initiative, the Professional Development Program, five years ago. “Within this program, we identify team members who have either expressed an interest in or have shown the potential for growth within our organization,” says Kim Colby, senior vice president, retail banking manager. “We then put a development plan into place that will revolve around one-year, three-year and five-year goals.”
Within each of those goals are milestones to achieve, as well as training opportunities in other departments of the bank. “Working in conjunction with the training opportunities, we also focus on personal development, such as emotional intelligence, presentation skills, communication skills and dress in the workplace,” Colby says.
Family comes first
Flexibility is an important concept to Flint Community Bank. Although working hours are determined by the bank being open for business to the public daily, its leadership group knows that everyone has more important matters in their lives than their careers.
The Flint Family is committed to having a healthy, supportive work environment that gets the business done while improving the lives of our team members and their families.”
—Frank Griffin, Flint Community Bank
“When a Flint Family member has a family event, such as an illness, emergency, school event for a child, etc., the expectation is that the employee will do what he or she needs to or should do to be present for the family,” says Griffin. “The Flint Family is committed to having a healthy, supportive work environment that gets the business done while improving the lives of our team members and their families.”
Team members are aware of the bank’s commitment to employee satisfaction and appreciate how it affects their lives. “I know coming to work every day I am going to be working with the best of the best, the hardest of workers, and that makes for a good challenge,” says one team member.
They continue: “I wake up wanting to be the best I can that day, so I am not letting my team down. Being in a positive work environment, where coworkers are more like family, makes coming to work more enjoyable.”
Keeping employees satisfied
Flint Community Bank prides itself on its creativity when it comes to employee satisfaction. “We have been very intentional in crafting our service culture here,” says Jason Rooks, chief lending officer, senior vice president. “One of the ways we are intentional and set apart in our culture is our small group initiative.” Small groups range in size from eight to 10 team members and vary among tenure, management level and department. “We meet once a month to … discuss a leadership book, a leadership concept or our core values,” Rooks says. “This gives our team a way to process and discuss our culture in an open environment and connect our new employees to our team immediately.”
CS Bank: Emphasizing family and team
By Don Sadler
Eureka Springs, Ark.
When Mickey Belle Shields Manley started working at CS Bank as a 19-year-old teller, she was shocked to find out that one of the first people she would meet during her orientation was the bank’s CEO, Charlie Cross. “That really made me feel like I was somebody special,” she says.
Manley is now the marketing director for $530 million-asset CS Bank in Eureka Springs, Ark. “There’s a strong emphasis on team and family here, which is one of the things that makes CS Bank a great place to work,” she says. “Employees believe in our mission: that we are founded on trust, built on service and strengthened by relationships.”
Another thing that has always stuck with Manley was when a board member she once met in passing took the time to get to know her. “Whenever I see him now, he always remembers my name and asks about the things we talked about before,” she says. “I know things aren’t this way at every bank, which is another reason why working here is special.”
Though that board member, Col. Dan Mumaugh, has since passed, CS Bank’s employees are forever grateful to have experienced his leadership and genuine ability to connect with other people.
We’re trying to make the bank a joyful and invigorating place for our employees so they’re happy coming to work each day.”
—Charlie Cross, CS Bank
“A cool place to work with cool people”
According to Cross, this is all part of CS Bank’s commitment to building a strong workplace culture. “I’m a huge believer in making this a great place to work,” he says. “We all spend a lot of time at work, so the bank should be a cool place to work with cool people. We’re trying to make the bank a joyful and invigorating place for our employees so they’re happy coming to work each day.”
Mission accomplished. “CS Bank is the best place to come to work each day,” says deposit services representative Breanna Buntjer, “because no matter what else is going on, you know you are surrounded by people who support you and who will lift you up. It’s practically impossible to have a bad day!”
IT support specialist Alex Batres agrees: “While being a part of CS Bank for the past six years, I’ve met great people and made great connections that have helped advance my career and helped me better serve my community. This is the major reason I am blessed to work here.”
Cross stresses that it’s the bank’s employees, not the executives, who set the tone for the culture. “They’re the ones who interact with each other and with customers every day,” he says. “Customers sense their positive attitude and demeanor, which improves the customer experience. Banking is really a commodity business, so banks need to distinguish themselves. We try to do this through our people.”
Robust benefits package and more
As you’d expect, CS Bank offers a comprehensive benefits package including full medical, dental, vision insurance, life insurance and a maximum 401(k) match. In addition, frontline staff can earn up to a 10% bonus on top of their salary. The bank also encourages employee wellness. Executive vice president Melissa Casey leads workouts virtually and in person for all employees who are interested.
Once per quarter, employees meet with their supervisors to receive coaching and talk about progress toward their goals and how management can support them. “Everything is open and candid, and nothing slips through the cracks,” says Manley. “The support we receive from leadership speaks volumes.”
Top tips for creating a great workplace
Some businesses look at continuing employee education as an expense, but that’s not how CS Bank CEO Charlie Cross sees it. “Training and education is an investment in our bank and our employees,” he says. “I believe it’s a critical factor in creating a great place to work.” Marketing director Mickey Belle Shields Manley stresses the importance of treating employees as valuable members of the team. “You can give employees nice-sounding titles and fancy benefits, but these are just the cherry on top,” she says. “Employees need to know that they’re valued—this is the main thing that keeps people here.”
BOM Bank: Walking the walk
By Don Sadler
When it comes to creating a great place to work, BOM Bank walks the walk. Just ask their employees, who rave about working for the $972 million-asset community bank in Natchitoches, La.
In addition to top-notch benefits like generous paid time off and health and dental insurance that’s 100% paid for by the bank, employees appreciate BOM Bank’s commitment to the community and to employees’ lives outside of the workplace.
“I love how involved we are in the community,” says one employee. According to another, “BOM Bank is very good to work for because of the community involvement and the way they treat their people. The bank offers advancement opportunities and training, as well as strong leadership.”
Senior vice president and marketing director Carrie Hough joined BOM Bank 16 years ago as the personal assistant to the president, but she was promoted to marketing director in just six months. She says opportunities for advancement are one of the biggest benefits of working at the bank. “We always look to promote internally before hiring from outside,” she says.
Unique employee benefits
Human resources manager Claire Mayeaux cites a long list of employee benefits offered by BOM Bank. “For example, employees receive a $250 clothing voucher to purchase work attire,” she says. “The bank encourages continuing education and covers the cost for employees to attend training and education classes.”
Hough says that BOM Bank is known for its community involvement and volunteer work: “This comes from our president and CEO, Ken Hale, who is a big believer in giving back to the community.” Employees are allowed to spend work hours volunteering in the community. Over the past year, BOM Bank employees spent 5,000 hours performing volunteer service.
One thing employees stressed was the importance of flexibility and PTO so they can focus on their families. Our president didn’t hesitate to do this.”
—Claire Mayeaux, BOM Bank
The community bank recently conducted an employee survey to learn about other ways they could create a great workplace. “One thing employees stressed was the importance of flexibility and PTO so they can focus on their families,” says Mayeaux. In response, the bank increased the number of personal days from two days a year to five days, on top of vacation and sick time, and increased bereavement leave from three days to seven days for members of the immediate family.
“Our president [and CEO] didn’t hesitate to do this,” says Mayeaux. “It’s good to know that this time off is available if it’s ever needed.”
In December, all employees and their families are invited to the big Christmas festival in Natchitoches for the full day. BOM Bank caters food for up to 350 employees and family members to watch the parade and fireworks and socialize. And at the bank’s Christmas party, numerous awards and cash prizes are given to employees. “We try to keep it fresh and fun,” says Hough.
Promoting financial literacy
BOM Bank believes strongly in promoting financial literacy in the community and encourages all staff to participate, says marketing digital coordinator Micah Murchison. “We attend banking and financial education events in the community, like Bank on Your Future at Stephen F. Austin College,” she says. “And we provide financial literacy materials to faculty and students at Northwestern State University.”
The community bank even teaches financial literacy to elementary school students. “Some of these kids will remember later in life that Miss Micah came into the class with a piggy bank and some quarters to teach them about money,” Murchison says.
Top tips for creating a great workplace
Lots of businesses say that their employees are “like family,” but BOM Bank really means it, says senior vice president and marketing director Carrie Hough. “This is what I would say is a key to creating a great workplace.” Human resources manager Claire Mayeaux says that management has its priorities in order and puts family above business. “When my twin girls were born, our president Ken Hale texted me and said to take care of my family first and worry about my job later,” she says. “It’s great to get this kind of support from top leadership.”
» More Than $1B
MainStreet Bank: Leading with humility
By Bridget McCrea
When MainStreet Bank in Fairfax, Va., rolled out its Miracles on MainStreet program in 2023, it gave the $2 billion-asset community bank’s employees a new way to give back to their neighbors.
The program gives the bank’s 190 associates $1,000 each to contribute to their chosen charitable organization or individual in need, as well as eight hours of paid time off dedicated to volunteering.
Marc Batchelor, SVP for credit administration, donated his $1,000 to his son’s school and also volunteered to help with student eye and hearing exams there. It garnered the attention of two more team members who also decided to give their $1,000 donations to the school. “Miracles on MainStreet has really ignited my group,” Batchelor says. “Soon, my $1,000 donation from the bank turned into $3,000.”
Batchelor especially likes how MainStreet Bank has inspired him to become even more involved as a parent. “This is one of the best places I’ve ever worked; it really is,” he says.
He also appreciates the open lines of communication that run across the entire community bank. “I never feel like I have to stifle or be guarded with my communication,” he notes. “I always feel like I can speak very candidly.”
Addressing emerging needs
Employees’ glowing feedback about this and other initiatives resulted in MainStreet Bank being named one of the Best Community Banks to Work for 2023. Founded in 2004 and led by chairman and CEO Jeff Dick, the bank takes its role as an employer and community pillar seriously. It has a Community Committee that recently organized a successful food drive for the Arlington Food Assistance Center; it offers flexible work arrangements that were in place pre-pandemic; and it is always looking for new ways to address emerging needs.
They lead with humility and with a very unpretentious style. That’s the tone from the top, and it’s one of the things that makes MainStreet Bank such a great place.”
—Debra Cope, MainStreet Bank
“About a year and half ago, when gas prices were spiking, the bank gave out gift cards to all employees to ease the financial pressure,” recalls Debra Cope, EVP and chief corporate communications officer. Cope credits the bank’s “down to earth” leadership approach with helping to create a workplace where people want to come to work, serve customers as a collaborative team and give back to the surrounding community.
“They lead with humility and with a very unpretentious style,” says Cope. “That’s the tone from the top, and it’s one of the things that makes MainStreet Bank such a great place.”
Adding some cheer
Trish Smith, EVP of human resources, says she joined MainStreet Bank after meeting its CEO and seeing just how employee- and culture-focused the organization was. One of the first things she did was set up a Cheer Committee. “That’s one of my babies,” she says. The committee includes representation from various departments and finds team members getting together monthly for cookouts, wearing their favorite teams’ jerseys to work or enjoying an ice cream cone from a food truck.
The Cheer Committee also holds “Snack Chats,” where associates get time away from their desks to enjoy a snack, fellowship and fun. “We also try to do one virtual event monthly, with bingo being the most popular,” says Smith, who is looking forward to closing out 2023 with the bank’s “12 Days of Cheer” event, which includes activities like holiday ornament decorating and an ugly sweater day.
Looking ahead, Smith plans to continue building out the Miracles on MainStreet program and says the bank is in the early stages of putting together a diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) council. “We’re getting feedback from our staff on that right now, and we have a third party doing some assessment work with a survey,” says Smith. “We’ll continue working on that next year.”
3 ways to build a great workplace
Ask employees what they think. When MainStreet Bank was developing its remote work policy during the pandemic, it asked employees for input and then used that feedback to draft a policy on remote work for the bank’s executive group.
Get leadership buy-in. “Our leaders showing up and participating and being active participants sets a good example,” says Trish Smith, EVP of human resources. “It also makes their team feel like it’s OK for them to go downstairs and get some ice cream and get away from their desks for a few minutes.”
Encourage authenticity. The most productive, engaged employees are those who feel comfortable at work. “A bank is made up of people, and it’s up to us to encourage them to be their authentic selves,” says Marc Batchelor, SVP for credit administration.
Each self-nominated community bank’s full-time employees were asked to complete a workplace survey hosted by Avannis, an independent research agency. Access to the survey was protected by a PIN unique to each bank. Only community banks that met a minimum of 40% employee participation were eligible for recognition. The survey consisted of 48 scaled responses, and from that an “index” or composite score was calculated. The index represents the average percentage of employees who gave the top rating (Strongly Agree) across all questions. For example, a bank whose employees selected only the most positive responses would achieve an index score of 100%. Eligible banks were then sorted into five asset classes. The community bank with the highest index score in each asset class was chosen as the winner in that class.
William Atkinson is a writer in Illinois. Don Sadler is a writer in Georgia. Bridget McCrea is a writer in Florida.