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NOTEBOOK: Some insights from Bank Iowa’s new culture and onboarding campaign


I recently visited Bank Iowa’s new headquarters in West Des Moines — both to see how the bank had repurposed its new leased office space on Jordan Creek Parkway, and to hear about the new employee engagement campaign the bank has just rolled out internally to its more than 260 employees across the state. 

As part of the campaign, Bank Iowa’s president and CEO, Jim Plagge, hit the road to personally deliver some gifts to each of the bank’s team members, including items such as a tall insulated Bank Iowa travel mug and a notebook. Each employee also received a video mailer at their home that, when opened like a small book, automatically plays a short inspirational video about Bank Iowa. 

“It’s more than a campaign — it’s a mindset,” said Josh Fleming, the bank’s vice president of marketing, who helped develop the campaign. “It’s a way for our people to connect the importance of their role to what they do every day.” 

Fleming said that on average, Bank Iowa hires about 50 new team members each year, and the campaign will become part of the bank’s onboarding process. 

A strategic planning process the bank conducted in 2018 highlighted the need to articulate to team members the bigger picture of why their work was important. The bank also conducted focus group workshops and had each employee complete a 12-question Gallup engagement survey. 

“From the results, we knew that we had work to do, and we knew that the work we had already done with the strategic planning and the purpose, vision and values was a good start, but that we could do more,” said Kate Wolfe, Bank Iowa’s senior vice president for human resources. “That’s when we really decided to focus on how we were going to roll this out to the broader audience with a really meaningful communication platform.” 

In the video mailed out to every employee, Fleming and his team worked to convey a theme of a people-centric culture and a family-like atmosphere among the family-owned bank’s employees. 

The bank also hopes its message resonates with the employees’ family members, which is why they mailed the videos to their homes, Wolfe said.

“A lot of times, the family members are just as invested as the team member from a community and support standpoint, so we wanted to make sure that they were able to hear and receive this message,” she said. Personally, she and her family played the video “again and again,” Wolfe said. 

Incidentally, the video mailer is a pretty attention-grabbing little piece of technology in itself, as I realized from the intense interest some of our ad reps and senior leaders at Business Publications who couldn’t keep their hands off of it when they passed by my desk. Don’t be surprised if you see some new technology popping up at one of the next Business Record events you attend.

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