Middle market banks have done so much to help their employees during the pandemic. They’ve reskilled branch workers to process PPP loans. They’ve helped call center staff transition to remote work. They’ve supported employee health and well-being. But none of this surprises me. Because taking care of their people isn’t something middle market banks do just for show. It’s in their DNA.

Good for people is good for business

Accenture’s Chief Human Resources Officer Ellyn Shook recently led a research initiative that explores the connection between this kind of people-first ethos and business performance. The study shows that businesses that fulfill six human needs through work—financial, employable, purposeful, physical, relational, and emotional and mental—can unlock their people’s potential. The business benefits by making people “net better off” in this way. Consider that even with weak GDP growth, companies that excel here can see a 5% jump in revenue.1

One aspect of the study stood out for me because of its relevance to middle market banks. Employees expect to be cared for holistically, now more than ever. Before the crisis, 67% thought their employer should help them become net better off. Now, 78% feel this way.2 This is a powerful reality check.

Because your people are your best asset

Middle market banks are in the perfect place to act on this reality check. After all, they’ve got an excellent legacy of taking care of their workforce. But here’s what’s different. Banks have to change some practices and keep evolving them. Taking some inspiration from Ellyn’s research, here are three “sweet spot” practices where I think middle market banks can make an immediate impact for their people.

1.    Teach people to be more employable

People look to their employers to help them build the skills they need to have good jobs and advance in their careers. In middle market banks, employees have to get comfortable working with machines. After all, human and machine collaboration is the future of work. There’s also a need to develop customer service skills for digital interactions as well as strengthen skills in key business areas like lending.

But investing to build skills can feel counterintuitive. Leaders worry it’s an exercise in preparing people to leave, especially as the war for talent heats up again. With a future-ready workforce so essential, leaders have to lean into this risk. The saving grace? Building skills builds trust. And trust builds loyalty.

2.    Give people data to work with purpose

People also want to feel a sense of purpose in their work. As we move through the next phases of the pandemic, middle market banks will have a dual focus: addressing the spike in non-performing loans and getting back to credit to give customers the liquidity they need to restart their dreams.

Doing these things well depends on getting the right data in employees’ hands—giving them the tools and training they need to draw insight from data. It’s all about enabling employees to make good decisions on behalf of customers. The way I see it, nothing beats the feeling of a job well done helping people. That’s the essence of purpose-driven work, isn’t it? In this case, it all starts with data insight.

3.    Get creative about how people do their work

Flexible work arrangements in middle market banks didn’t start with the pandemic. Thanks to new technologies and collaboration tools, they were happening well before the outbreak began. Even so, I can say without hesitation that we’re never going back to exactly the way things were.

The opportunity for banks here is to further develop flexible ways of working that meet their people’s needs and align with customers’ new mindsets and behaviors. I think of it as a reset and reconciliation process that prioritizes employee well-being. The possibilities to support workers in more innovative, value-added and—dare I say—fun ways of working are energizing and key to attracting top future talent.

Go beyond just checking the box

Middle market leaders who embrace these practices with intention and transparency can help their workforce—and their bank— thrive. It’s an ideal time to prioritize these changes. Middle market banks are feeling the squeeze of two powerful forces: the impact of the pandemic and the rapid advancement of intelligent technologies. This convergence will reshape the work that people do, and how and where they do it. From now on. So as middle market banks look ahead, I urge them not to forget what they’ve known all along. That addressing what matters most to people makes good business sense.

Connect with me on LinkedIn to stay up to date on the latest trends in middle market banking and read How Middle Market Banks Can Play to Win.


1 Accenture, “Care to do Better,” 2020

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