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Norway Savings Achieves Employee Engagement


Norway Savings Bank is the sixth-largest Maine-based bank, with 275 employees, 20 branches and close to $1 billion in assets. As a community bank, NSB competes with larger regional and national banks in a state that is characterized as “overbanked” and has an aging demographic in both urban and rural markets.

Not unlike similar institutions, NSB works hard to balance intense pressure to perform with its community banking roots, some 145 years deep. In order to thrive — and as the expectations for compliance and risk management continued to increase — NSB leadership knew they needed to become more closely engaged with their employees — and, in particular, find a way to stay ahead of competition by being more proactive and agile. Traditional methods were becoming obsolete and overwhelming employees, not to mention their email inboxes and meeting schedules. Something had to give.

As an elixir, NSB deployed iKNO [“eye-know”] in November of 2010. iKNO is a relatively new intranet system, which is successfully competing with the likes of SharePoint and other online collaboration tools. Thanks to its unique design, each time an NSB employee logs in to his computer, and then throughout the day, the intranet provides real-time information about industry trends, as well as instant access to forms and policies, among other items. NSB leadership is pleased, crediting the system with increased employee engagement and morale.

Holly Young, NSB executive vice president and chief information officer said, “We realized that we needed to employ a collaboration tool. Ultimately, we chose iKNO because it is more user-friendly for the both the front-end and the back-end. We have been very pleased.”

For NSB, there were non-negotiables. First and foremost, the company’s collaboration platform had to function in real-time in order to provide market insights for quicker response to customers’ needs – thereby breaking down the silos and service lines that had developed among employees, and providing NSB with a competitive advantage in its overbanked market.

In addition, NSB’s collaboration tool had to be easy and enjoyable for the employees to use, with an ability to be branded to look like all other marketing materials and channels, and free the IT department from administrative duties so common in other systems. Finally, the platform had to be fully customizable while using standard coding and the latest in technological developments.

“With most solutions, you lose your brand in the application. Sure you can add a logo here and there and some copy, but the look and feel is never quite the same. iKNO totally looks like our bank,” said Karen Hakala, senior vice president of marketing.


iKNO is the collaboration of Becky McKinnell, an award-winning entrepreneur and Internet technology designer, and Mark Girr, a former Fortune 500 company HR and employee communications guru. Together, McKinnell and Girr have created a platform that meets the needs of a growing workforce by taking what they characterize as a “different and simpler approach to the latest in intranet architecture and functionality.”

The system is cloud-based and boasts a business-centric design. According to Girr, “iKNO mirrors the technologies people use every day, so users understand how to use it immediately.”

“As a business owner, the worst thing you can have is an uninformed employee,” said McKinnell. “We designed iKNO to help prevent employees from ever saying, ‘I don’t know.’”

Patricia Weigel, NSB’s president, said that “iKNO has been very successful for us and we have seen marked improvement in many areas. I think the most remarkable being in the areas of employee engagement and morale, productivity, overall customer service, compliance and communication about fraud and risk-management issues.”

Employees also use the system to manage their own HR needs. “In many cases iKNO is the only place to find information, about items such as dress down days, which are extremely popular with employees,” said Young. “To ensure full adoption across all departments and levels, NSB has a forced desktop; when you turn on the computer, iKNO is what you see, integrated on every terminal. We sometimes use email to drive traffic to iKNO, which keeps the incidence of mass emails low and the content within emails short. iKNO is also fully incorporated into marketing and communication strategies; all information and updates are cross-promoted.”

Ray Charest, assistant vice president for network administration, is the first to note that “In terms of service, the followup was excellent. iKNO stayed in touch and wanted us to be completely satisfied. They still consistently ask: ‘How are things going?’ or ‘Are there issues?’”


Today, NSB sees 100 percent adoption of the platform. It is the company’s central tool for communication. The number of emails has drastically reduced, with minimal traffic directing employees to “visit IKNO for the latest.”

In a 2010 piece published in the New York Times, titled “Do Happier People Work Harder?,” authors Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer assert that “lower job satisfaction foreshadow[s] poorer bottom-line performance,” and note that “Gallup estimates the cost of America’s disengagement crisis at a staggering $300 billion in lost productivity annually.”

They go on to state that “[w]orkers’ well-being depends, in large part, on managers’ ability and willingness to facilitate workers’ accomplishments — by removing obstacles, providing help and acknowledging strong effort ... [O]f all the events that engage people at work, the single most important — by far — is simply making progress in meaningful work.”

Thus, it is no surprise that NSB leadership is so proud of its investment, and in the employee engagement and productivity that has resulted from its successful deployment.

Young pointed out that “iKNO has other intrinsic benefit, which we had never even considered. We are now more transparent and are moving toward more paperless offices. Email inboxes and meetings are more manageable, sharing is fast and easy and employees are better informed. And, the investment of iKNO is a fraction of what we previously spent, in soft dollars, for meetings and training session.”

More information, including an online demo, can be found at

Copyright (c) January 2013 by BankNews Media