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Succession Planning at All Levels for Community Banks | Maggie Abney

At ICBB, we hope to be a resource for community banks in all aspects of their operations. That’s why we’ve asked Maggie Abney, executive-in-residence and director of the Evans Banking & Financial Services program at Eastern Kentucky University, to provide information on operations and strategic planning subjects. In this article, Abney provides insight on the importance of succession planning for entry and mid-level employees, and practical advice to implement at your institution.

It’s the start of a new year, and a time when most of us are thinking about strategic planning.  One component of strategic planning is succession planning.  Most community institutions have a succession plan in place for executive management.  (The regulators will be asking!)  But what about mid-level and entry-level employees?

Retention and Succession Planning Are Important at All Levels of the Institution

While we commonly consider the impact and importance of executive level employees, we tend to spend less time on mid-level and entry-level retention and succession planning.  The cost of losing a good employee is difficult to measure, but we can all agree it is expensive and impactful—particularly when the employee is a front-line worker or relationship manager.  Since the pandemic, many community financial institutions have seen a decrease in customer satisfaction scores due to high turnover in front-line teller positions.

Identify Your Superstars

If you have an entry-level or mid-level employee that is a superstar, chances are they are going to be noticed and eventually recruited by your competitors.  What is your institution doing to engage these employees, so they say no to those offers?  Succession planning can’t always be clear for an entry-level or mid-level employee. But do these employees have a path of near-term and long-term possibilities for future opportunity? Do they have a vision of what their future will look like if they remain loyal to your institution?

Here are a few questions that might help you identify opportunities for your institution:

  • Is there a system for employee awards or recognition for entry-level superstar employees?
  • Do these employees know they are valued for their extra efforts, talents, and skillset?
  • Are superstar employees being challenged in their current role? Or are they working in a position below their ability level because a higher-level position will not become available for several years?
  • Are there small adjustments you can make in their title or pay until that next position becomes open?
  • Can they work on special projects with executive management to begin building connections and relationships at a higher level of the bank?
  • Superstar workers are always ready to learn new things, earn certifications and badges to build their resume, and get professional development and soft skills training. Is your institution offering professional development and educational opportunities to mid-level and entry-level superstars regularly?

Do you know what your superstars love most about their job?

Does your institution survey entry-level and mid-level employees to learn exactly what they like and dislike about their position?  An annual survey conducted by your bank (in addition to the best banks to work for surveys), with carefully crafted questions can provide you with valuable information.

Conduct Exit Interviews

An exit interview with a departing employee can be a valuable source of information to assist you with future employee retention.  This can be an in-person discussion, or an electronic survey you have them complete.  If you carefully craft your questions, you can obtain a surprising amount of valuable information.  Here is a list of questions to help you design an exit interview.

Attracting the Entry-level Superstars to you Institution

In addition to retention and succession planning for entry-level superstars, it is important to be mindful of simple things you can do to attract young workers to your institution.  As the Director of the Evans Banking Program at Eastern Kentucky University, I work to help prepare the next generation of leaders for the banking industry. There is a lot of excellent young talent out there.  But TikTok and TV shows are glamorizing fintech careers and digital currency, not community banking careers.  So, our program and several others across the nation work to promote careers in the community banking industry.  We hope to help community institutions fill entry-level positions with employees that have a strong foundation in community banking, and vision of a long-term career in this sector.  We can help you find young workers interested in community banking, and we hope this blog provides you with tips on how to retain them.   If your institution has a need for entry-level talent, please do not hesitate to connect with us via email at banking@eku.edu!

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