Banking on Information in Turbulent Times

Linda Dulye's picture
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Imagine you’re a bank employee and you arrive at work to find Federal regulators taking control of the bank. Is this the first you’ve heard of your employer being in dire straits?
 
Unfortunately, this has been a scenario for thousands of financial-services workers over the past year. And just this past week, a bank in California was seized by the FDIC and absorbed by an out-of-state institution.  
 
As I was reading about this, I wondered how connected the bank’s employees were to its financial bearing prior to the takeover news. A letter from the CEO to employees explained what had happened and why, but I’ll bet that for many staffers that was the first they knew of any financial problems. Why? Several reasons, not the least of which being sensitive financial data, likely hindered executives from being completely open about the bank’s condition.
 
In these topsy-turvy days, leaders walk a fine line between open, two-way communications with employees and appropriate levels of confidentiality. What can a leader do when faced with a delicate situation? Here are three must-dos:

1. Remain visible. If the executive team goes missing in action, you can bet the workforce will become anxious and productivity will plummet.  Invisibility won’t inspire confidence.

2. Keep managers in the loop. Employees look to their managers for information. If the managers are left in the dark, you can bet employees will become suspicious and disengaged. Use multiple media sources to expand managers’ knowledge about developments at the enterprise and division levels.

3. Seek out and respond to employee feedback. You might not be able to answer every question, but answer the ones you can promptly. Sincere listening matters most. Employees want to know that their voice really is heard.

The challenges of today’s business climate are unprecedented and the rules are constantly shifting. But you can still engage in sound, time-tested communications practices to keep your team focused. 

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