Workers' happiness rubs off on customers, earnings
By Anita Bruzzese Gannett
Published: Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
In the past five years, the financial industry has taken a drubbing.
Plunging profits, allegations of improper behavior, customer backlash against rising fees and layoffs have challenged the industry.
But various sources list one bank as a best place to work, and its practices may provide a blueprint to other companies on how to keep workers engaged even during tough times.
Umpqua Bank, based in Roseburg, Ore., has earned accolades not only for its profitability and business practices, but also for its community commitment and employee loyalty.
It has $12 billion in assets and reported $101.2 million in net earnings last year, an increase of almost 37 percent from 2011.
“We hang our hat on our culture,” says Michelle Van Allen, head of training for Umpqua. “We've been very honest and transparent with the public and with our employees when we've faced challenges. We make sure we keep our people looking forward to the future.”
One of the biggest incentives for employees isn't the pay, but the volunteer service program that pays full-time workers for 40 hours of community service and part-time workers for 20 hours of service, says Eve Callahan, senior vice president of the bank's Connect Volunteer Network. Last year, 2,175 bank employees volunteered 46,730 hours to 1,757 organizations in four states.
Many of the entries in the bank's database of 3,000 nonprofits come from Umpqua employees who add charities that appeal to their interests, Van Allen says.
“The whole thing has just taken on a life of its own,” and employees say the volunteer service is the employee benefit they value the most, she says.
“We have a 93 percent participation rate in our volunteer program,” she says, noting that's about triple the national average for other employer-supported service activities.
Barbara Baker, executive vice president in charge of cultural enhancement, says the bank shows its commitment to the towns where it has branches through its community service, and that helps deepen the commitment of employees to their employer.
Another key for Umpqua that other organizations can learn from is the bank's consistent commitment to recruiting, training and retaining workers who are willing and able to live the company culture, Baker says.
“Some people may think we're corny, but we think it's a fun environment,” she says. Fortune gave the company kudos for its morning games and motivation huddles.
Applicants are not only screened for skills and cultural fit, but they must get “four thumbs up” from four Umpqua employees in various departments and at different levels, Baker says.
“We have very defined questions to find out if the person is a good fit,” Van Allen says. “It's not just a guess on someone's part. We're very specific.”
Beyond that, Baker says she also looks at “job satisfiers” as potential employees. When she asks an applicant for a teller position what that person most likes doing in a job, Baker says she's looking for answers such as “helping solve problems” or “helping other people.”
“If they give those kinds of answers, then I go ‘Bingo!' I know that's exactly what we're looking for in that position,” she says.
Once hired, employees receive continual career development opportunities, which workplace experts often cite as a key way to engage and retain talent.
“In our annual review, the biggest discussion is about advancement,” Baker says. “We're asking them, ‘Where are you going?' ”
The commitment to careful screening of applicants and the career development opportunities that help retain workers are “why we say that Umpqua is hard to get into and hard to get out of,” Baker says.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Disney to lay off 700 from interactive unit
- Employers nationwide added 175K jobs despite harsh weather
- Google barge departs San Francisco to new home
- Beef costs reach record amid persisting drought
- Natural gas industry buoyed by advancing technology
- Silicon ‘Valley of haves, have-nots’
- Startup envisions ring that could rule them all
- Alpha Natural Resources to pay record $227.5M in water pollution settlement
- Bitcoin’s father said to be found
- Unemployment data lift spirits on Wall Street
- Stock, housing gains boost net worth