APA Center for Organizational Excellence: National Winner

The Awards

Small For-Profit Category

Leaders Bank

Investing in Employee Strengths

IllinoisLeaders Bank is a commercial bank for privately held businesses, their owners and families and other entrepreneurs. Anchored by its core values and commitment to a positive culture, Leaders Bank is devoted to attracting, engaging and developing new talent while investing generously in the growth of its existing workforce.

Click here to watch a video clip about Leaders Bank

Employee Involvement

Leaders Bank supports a healthy teams approach that emphasizes trust, inclusion, clear goals, shared leadership, productive conflict, direct communication, willingness to take risks, openness to feedback and commitment to the best interest of the group. Every six months a survey is conducted to solicit feedback in areas such as leadership, collaboration, communication, management of change and morale. Employees rate each area in terms of the degree of difficulty their team has experienced during the last six months and opportunities are identified for action planning.

Staff meetings at Leaders Bank serve as a model of transparency, where the organization’s performance and strategic direction are discussed openly. Regular board/staff luncheons, CEO lunch events and an annual retreat provide opportunities to share feedback, and employees are encouraged to voice ideas for enhancing productivity, innovation and communication. With the opportunity to invest in the organization through a stock purchase plan, employees have a vested interest in the bank’s success.

Health and Safety

Leaders Bank has been recognized as a Fit-Friendly Company by the American Heart Association, and more than 90 percent of employees participate in the company’s wellness program, which has been highlighted as a best practice by the Society for Human Resource Management. Tailored to each employee, the program is designed to reward healthy choices. A dedicated coordinator leads wellness program activities, aggregates health data, oversees the planning and implementation of three wellness days each year and collects ROI data.

Employees have access to a free on-site fitness center and are encouraged to take advantage of wellness program components such as biometric screening, nutritional consultation, smoking cessation and weight loss programs and courses on stress management (see Checking Employee Stress at the Door). Employees earn points for participating in wellness activities and can cash in their points to purchase health-related goods and services.

Employee Growth and Development

All Leaders Bank employees complete a strengths assessment and work with human resources to identify how those strengths can be best applied to their work. Employee development and training opportunities are then customized to build on the employee’s natural talents and enhance productivity and job satisfaction. With this approach, every employee knows how his or her individual efforts contribute to the success of the organization.

Leaders Bank develops leaders from within, with a succession planning model that includes assessing risks and gaps, tailoring recruitment and training resources to address these needs and conducting a review of talent and promotion readiness. In 2008, Leaders Bank initiated a middle management competency training program and has partnered with external graduate programs and training institutes to advance the competencies of existing and future leaders.

Work-Life Balance

Leaders Bank is committed to supporting work-life balance. In addition to informal flexibility in managing day-to-day family and health issues, Leaders Bank encourages and supports employee participation in service activities that contribute to the community and gives employees two paid days per year to participate in approved community service activities. In addition, the Leaders Bank matching gift program encourages employees to give to the charity organizations and causes of their choice by matching their contributions at a specified level.

Employee Recognition

In the Values in Action program, Leaders Bank employees are encouraged to nominate coworkers for demonstrating the respect, partnership, integrity, quality, communication and leadership that define the company’s culture and a committee reviews the nominations and shares them during monthly staff meetings. The bank’s monthly employee newsletter emphasizes employees as leaders and a communication team surveys employees regularly about the effectiveness of various recognition and communication vehicles.

The Bottom Line

Since the rollout of its wellness program, sick day utilization at Leaders Bank has decreased from 37 percent of available sick days in 2006 to 21 percent in 2008, with employees using an average of only 1.4 sick days per year. Over the course of a single year, the estimated cost of employee health risks decreased by 16 percent and between 2006 and 2008 employees demonstrated a statistically significant improvement in all risk categories.

Voluntary turnover at Leaders Bank was 2.9 percent in 2008, which helped to reduce recruitment and training costs and cut vacancy and onboarding time. Additionally, Leaders Bank has been recognized as an employer of choice by various organizations, including the Illinois Chamber of Commerce and the Society for Human Resource Management and in 2008 ranked #51 in Entrepreneur Magazine’s Hot 100 Fastest Growing Companies.

"This is not pie in the sky; this is about the bottom line. Building psychologically healthy workplaces isn't just the right thing to do, it's also the smart thing to do."

The Honorable Alexis M. Herman
Former U.S. Secretary of Labor