Fostering a Culture of Engagement: How Employee Suggestions Changed the Way We Work
When Millennium Trust was honored this year by the Daily Herald Business Ledger as one of the Best Places to Work in Illinois, it was bittersweet for VP, Manager of Distributions, Tax Reporting & Reconciliations, Monika Czarkowski.
The Best Places to Work in Illinois awards are based on an evaluation of each company’s employee survey feedback and its workplace policies, practices and demographics. But Monika’s three Operations divisions – Distribution, Tax Reporting and Reconciliations – had received some of the lowest scores in the firm in several areas of the employee engagement survey. Rather than bask in the glow of the overall award and disregard the survey results, Monika decided to face the issues head on.
“My experience with engagement surveys in the past is that everyone gets all worked up about these kind of survey results. Everyone talks about change, starts setting up focus groups… but over time, the enthusiasm just fizzles out,” said Monika. “I was determined to actually change the results in my divisions.”
Monika wanted her staff to know that she heard them. Step One was to set up a division meeting and share the results with them. The three areas where they scored the lowest would be where they would focus most: training and development, communication and role satisfaction.
She emphasized the fact that everyone needed to get involved. “I tried to make it clear that it’s a two-way street: managers don’t have all the answers. Everyone has to get involved and take some ownership of the problems and the solutions.”
At the end of the meeting, she gave each attendee three pieces of paper and asked them to give her an “opportunity for improvement” for each of the three areas. Monika had the answers written up and declared, “This will be our working document.”
The next day she met with managers and went over the issues one by one and discussed how they could address them. If it was something they could handle right away, they did so; if not, they came up with a plan to look for a solution. By the end of the day, she let her employees know that she’d met with managers and that she already had some results to report.
“I wanted to show my people that it wasn’t just talk or a waste of an hour of their time – that something will come out of it.”
One idea they implemented right away was putting out a suggestion box near her office. “When individuals have ideas for enhancements or a process change, they can put it in the box anonymously,” said Monika. “Every Friday I pull the suggestions and report them to staff in an email.”
Some improvements based on employee suggestions included:
Work from home strategy: Monika’s team implemented a 2-days-a-month work from home strategy aligned to company policy, available to division employees after their first year of employment.
Employee recognition: They created the monthly Millennium Valued Performer (MVP) award based on a different theme every month.
Training and development: Whenever there is training in house, management makes it mandatory for staff. They also set aside time for employees to attend courses for professional development.
Employee profiles: To combat underutilization, all employees were encouraged to fill out an employee profile of skills, interests, projects they’d like to work on, etc.
Communications: A division newsletter was created, filled with tips and tricks, division highlights, important deadlines and more.
One suggestion in particular ended up benefiting the company in a big way. Team Lead Ryan Sheppard, along with his colleague Maciej Czernecki, addressed the fact that the Distributions group was getting a little behind on its distribution assignments.
They suggested a simple structural change to a two-person team approach. Once the new process was reviewed, vetted and approved, the Distributions team caught up on their backlog within a month – and distributions now go out four to five times faster than before.
“It was a great suggestion. It saved overtime hours and improved everyone’s work-life balance, resulting in less stress on the staff and improved morale,” added Monika. “Ryan and Maciej ended up being our first MVP winners, and Ryan also received the firm’s 'Innovate' award. His suggestion has gotten a lot of buzz because it was fantastic!”
“This all happened because somebody said, ‘Hey, I’ve got an idea…’” Monika continued, “And management ran with it. You know, it’s not senior management who has to come up with all the solutions – sometimes it’s the person doing the work who comes up with the best ideas.”
Learn more about the culture at Millennium Trust.
The material in this blog is presented for informational purposes only. Millennium Trust Company performs the duties of a directed custodian, and as such does not sell investments or provide investment, legal or tax advice.