The Excellent Employee Experience

Four tips for engaging your youngest team members.

By Kayla Lutz

When it comes to engaging employees, bigger isn’t always better. It’s for this reason that smaller financial institutions have the upper hand. They are able to create a more intimate experience that fosters trust and a greater sense of community.

Even so, employee engagement continues to be a struggle for employers of all sizes — particularly when it comes to younger generations. In fact, Gallup’s 2016 How Millennials Want to Work and Live report found only 29 percent of millennials are engaged at work.

The key to improving engagement for millennial — and the newest generation to join the workforce, Gen Z — employees within smaller financial institutions is to deliver an excellent employee experience. Here’s how:

Educate and Lead
Gen Z and millennial employees don’t respond well to micromanagement and simply following orders. They want to be coached and led, not managed.

Accenture’s 2017 Gen Z Rising report found that 86 percent of Gen Zers expect their first employer to provide formal training. In fact, they ranked training opportunities as the second most important offering aside from salary and benefits.

Tip #1: Make personalized career development a top priority. When younger employees are actively learning about how to advance in their career, they’re more engaged in the day-to-day. 

Consider paying for your staff’s continuing education through Independent Community Bankers of America and American Bankers Association. They provide a variety of career development tracks, as well as certification programs that align with younger employees’ interests.

Also, make sure to check in with employees on a regular basis so they can share feedback on their overall experience and thoughts on leadership. BankPlus in Belzoni, Miss., for example, encourages reverse evaluations so employees can confidentially provide feedback on their managers.

Address Stress Now
Workplace stress is inevitable. It’s when that stress is chronic that it becomes detrimental to productivity, engagement and employee well-being.

One of the most pressing kinds of stress is associated with financial wellness. My company, LifeWorks, recently conducted a survey and found that a whopping 71 percent of Gen Z employees say they’re moderately to very stressed about finances.

As a result, more companies are providing a financial wellness program. A 2017 survey from the National Business Group on Health and Fidelity Investments found that 84 percent of 141 large- and mid-sized companies now have financial wellness programs — up from 76 percent the year prior.

But even small companies, like community banks, can help Gen Z and millennials improve their financial wellness.

Tip #2: Provide financial coaching services, such as group education or individualized counseling. These services are low-cost and can be incredibly beneficial in reducing financial stress. 

For example, Atlanta-based SunTrust provides its employees with a branded financial wellness program called Momentum onUp. It includes counseling tools, online modules and a customizable financial management dashboard.

While SunTrust is a nationwide bank, the concept can be adjusted for smaller banks as well. One of the most important aspects of your financial wellness program is branding. Employees respond better to wellness benefits when they have a distinct brand and are promoted well. So, work alongside your marketing team to develop a branding and marketing strategy for your financial wellness program.

Praise Performance
Feeling unappreciated is a widespread issue in the workplace. In fact, a 2018 Officevibe poll found that 63 percent of employees feel like they don’t get enough praise.

This is especially detrimental for younger employees. They’re confident and eager to learn and grow. But if they feel undervalued, they will disengage and even look for greener pastures.

Tip #3: The good news is that employee recognition doesn’t break the bank (pun intended). Small banks can create a recognition program that fits their culture and budgetary restrictions. 

For example, host weekly meetings where employees gather to celebrate each other’s ‘weekly wins.’ This gives management an opportunity to share customer praise they hear as well.

Some companies do this daily. Canada’s RBC Bank, for instance, hosts branch huddles before they open their banks, where they share business information and also praise one another.

Showcase Alignment
Another bank’s survey found that bank employees prioritize seeing how their work contributes to the success of the organization.

This can be especially impactful on eager millennials and Gen Z employees. When they see how their performance impacts the bigger picture, they become far more enthusiastic.

Tip #4: Encourage leadership to host one-on-one informal sit-downs with employees on a consistent basis. 

First Federal Savings and Loan Association of Pascagoula-Moss Point, Miss., makes this interaction between senior leaders and employees a must. In fact, the president spends one-on-one time with key members of the team regularly.

Leaders need to use these informal sit-downs with young employees to discuss performance and also highlight how the organization benefits from their performance. This shows Gen Zers and millennials how their efforts align with the larger vision of the company. Plus, it fosters a more communicative workplace culture.

When employers address these employee experience issues, they build a stronger workplace culture that, in turn, gets their youngest team members engaged in and enthusiastic about work.


Kayla Lutz is a regional sales manager at LifeWorks, a company that delivers holistic and comprehensive well-being through meaningful and purposeful technology and services. For more information, visit

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