staff engagement

Are your team members all in? 9 clever ways to increase engagement

Bethany RamosAbout Cornerstone, Industry Professionals, Loan Officers, Realtors

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July 17, 2018.

If your team members haven’t used words like “fantastic,” “amazing,” and “absolutely the best” to describe your company yet, engagement may be suffering. While team member engagement is up as a whole in 2018 after seeing a slump in 2017, there’s always room for improvement. As the global professional services firm Aon noted in their 2018 Employee Engagement Report, a 5-point engagement increase can lead to 3 percent more revenue.

It’s not just about the money, though it helps. An increase in companywide profit benefits all team members. Creating a strategy to improve engagement — which Aon defines as a team member’s psychological investment in a company and motivation to produce exceptional results versus run-of-the-mill happiness — can also reduce turnover, amp up productivity, and increase customer satisfaction.

WeSpire’s The State of Employee Engagement 2018, an annual report published by the team member engagement platform, found an engagement strategy to be vital to recruitment and retention, showing that the majority of team members wanted to see their company making a positive impact. Unfortunately, only 36 percent of the 1,500 workers surveyed believed their company had active team member engagement.

9 real-world examples to shape your engagement strategy

If you don’t have one, it may be time to get one. And if you already have a team member engagement strategy, you can use one or more of these helpful ideas to revise, refine, and regroup:

1. Stop managing and start leading.

staff engagement
Rule numero uno for outstanding engagement: It shakes down from the top. The level of engagement in an organization will be a direct reflection of the quality of leadership displayed in that organization, Cody Hardridge at Cornerstone Home Lending, says. “People often view the terms ‘manager’ and ‘leader’ as synonymous, when, in fact, they are quite different. A manager is someone who moves resources from one place to another in order to achieve a desired result. A leader, on the other hand, is someone who inspires a group of people to greatness.”

At Cornerstone, we hire all team members based on leadership potential and promote from within whenever possible. Our leaders work together to cast a vision for the direction of our organization and then effectively create the network of conversations that become the group culture. Hardridge says that as a Cornerstone leader, he’s responsible for the conversations that become the company’s culture and subculture — and he leads by example. Jeff Haden, writing for Inc., sums up it up by saying that an exceptional leader should speak last and ask clarifying questions.

Building a work-family supports our company purpose to make a difference in the lives of others. Is there room for you on our growing team?

2. Nix the word ’employee.’

In 2017, Cornerstone CEO Marc Laird banished the word “employee” from the company’s vocabulary, using “team member” instead. This move signified Laird’s belief in servant leadership and investing in the common good of the group. Since that seemingly minor change, Cornerstone team members have taken notice, and the company’s growth continues to accelerate. “We have team members, not employees… Everyone here becomes part of a big family. People never want to leave when they get here because it’s the best place to be,” a Cornerstone team member in Houston says.

3. Make work-life balance more than lip service.

It’s a popular buzzword, but with strong leadership, it can become an in-office reality. Cornerstone prioritizes work-life balance by treating our team members like family. As University of Michigan researchers discovered in 2018, work-life balance is a concern for all types of team members — particularly mothers, as well as men and those without children. Up to 40 percent of workers in the study felt they would get penalized for asking for time off. But because of Cornerstone’s focus on a “family first” work environment — with remote work opportunities, paid vacations, and bonus days off just for the fun of it — team members report a “high degree” of work-life balance that helps to support performance and sustain retention.

4. Care during crisis.

Having an active engagement strategy can work like a safety net for team members experiencing hardship. Sticking to our core principle of cultivating a work-family environment, we provide our team members with several support initiatives. The Cornerstone CARE Program, launched in 1996, offers financial aid to team members and immediate families in times of crisis. And it proved pivotal when Hurricane Harvey swept Texas — and the Cornerstone headquarters — in 2017. Like good leadership, this care also trickled down from the top as local Cornerstone team members made national news performing rescue efforts for their communities.

5. Recognize team members’ weird (and wonderful) talents.

staff engagement
To get team members to go all in, someone’s got to break the ice. Standout team members like Sharon Ford of Charlotte are what makes Cornerstone’s company culture so vibrant. Sharon went to her hometown 4th of July Parade dressed as LoanFly, a tongue-in-cheek play on Cornerstone’s LoanFly mortgage app.

Suffice it to say, Sharon’s company spirit helps keep her team members motivated, engaged, and bonded together. Team members at Cornerstone who are willing to take creative risks, whether at work or at play, are always recognized and rewarded. “When you reach a milestone or achievement in your career, they always reach out to acknowledge you,” a Cornerstone Loan Review Analyst in Albuquerque says.

6. Make team members’ jobs easier.

Providing team members with all the resources that they need to get their job done — and do it well — has an immense impact on engagement. (Not to mention performance, retention, and customer service.) One underwriter working in Cornerstone’s Houston office shared how they appreciated the many resources made available for processors, underwriters, loan officers, and branch management. “[Underwriters] also have a lead advisory team, who guide and correct us and handle all second-level reviews… And they have a stash of information about loan scenarios that they are willing to share.”

7. Practice an open door policy.

Our open door policy hinges on strong leadership and welcomes our team members to bring any topic to management’s attention. More importantly, we encourage team members to use this time to share their own solutions that could benefit the company. Working within a family-like environment, team members can talk freely and feel confident that the appropriate action will be taken. Sharing power can also make team members more proactive and self-sufficient. “Management listens to its [team members] and implements new processes and changes based on comments and suggestions made by team members. Working here is like working with family,” a Cornerstone Loansoft Help Desk Support team member in Houston says.

8. Find something to celebrate.

staff engagement
Our team members are so talented that it’s easy to find a great reason to celebrate — weekly and sometimes daily. In 2017, all Cornerstone team members were gifted an extra floating holiday to celebrate a milestone in the company’s achievements. The same year, we launched our new CELEBRATE campaign that treated team members to fun gifts, special lunches, and other monthly tokens of appreciation. “The atmosphere, the people, and the management [are] also understanding no matter what you are going through. Love the Thank You Thursdays and catered food the last two days of every month,” a Cornerstone Transaction Coordinator in San Antonio says.

This attitude of celebration is reciprocal. In the 2018 Best Workplaces awards from Great Place to Work, 95 percent of Cornerstone team members ranked us as the “best workplace.”

9. Give team members a purpose.

As WeSpire’s The State of Employee Engagement 2018 report pointed out, team members want to look forward to waking up in the morning. The vast majority of the team members surveyed said they hoped their company would be a force of positive impact. One critical component of our team member engagement strategy is our laser-focus on our company’s core value: We aim to transform lives through lending, starting with our team members who impact our borrowers and our local communities.

A Cornerstone Loan Officer in Seattle says that helping his borrowers get into homes or improve their financial situation is the most meaningful part of his job. “Some of my clients don’t think they can own, and to show them a roadmap to homeownership is really rewarding. I also consider the Cornerstone team family, and it’s great to come together to accomplish something truly remarkable,” he says.

Right now, up to 70 percent of U.S. workers aren’t engaged, Gallup’s 2017 State of the American Workplace confirmed. This means that for companies in need of a culture shift or a brand-new engagement strategy, there’s a big opportunity for change. And for team members looking for an engaging, work-family environment, we may have room for you on our growing team. Join the Cornerstone Talent Network and find out if we’re the right fit.

For educational purposes only. Please contact a qualified professional for specific guidance.

Sources deemed reliable but not guaranteed.

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