WorkProud® CEO, Michael Levy, Interviews Lisa Hutcherson of First Federal Bank of Florida

Join WorkProud’s CEO, Michael Levy, and Lisa Hutcherson, SVP Director of Human Capital Strategies at First Federal Bank of Florida, as they discuss how recognition can translate into showing your employees that you genuinely care for their wellbeing, and how it can also be a meaningful connection to the mission and vision of your organization.

Watch the full interview below.


Michael Levy:

All right. So, our next guest, if I’d like to call you a guest, Lisa. Thanks very much for being available from First Federal Bank of Florida. Appreciate you joining us today. Comes from a long history in the banking industry. Time at Wells Fargo, also at First National Bank, now at First Federal Bank of Florida. So, tell us a little bit about your recent career and your role at First Federal Bank.

Lisa Hutcherson:

Awesome. Thank you for having me. I’m super excited to visit with you today. Yeah, I’ve been in the financial industry over 25 years. It’s gone by super fast. Have been in banking in Texas, as well as in Florida, and both my husband and I are career bankers. And so, we’re partners in crime, he works for the same bank. We come as a package duo. But lately, I have been really researching psychological safety, positive work environment, and emotional intelligence, and looking for ways that we can impact being the best bank to work for in Florida and in the Southern region. And so, with that, trying to teach our executives about those concepts has really led to quite a bit of years of research that I have been doing. So, super excited about those types of strategies that we’ve been deploying at First Federal.

Michael Levy:

From your experiences, do you think that recognition has become more important or less important in a post-COVID hybrid workspace environment?

Lisa Hutcherson:

Oh, absolutely. It’s become more important. Having workforces that are hybrid or if they’re in the office or away from the office, it’s very easy to be captured on that island by yourself. And to know that you have people that are interested in your wellbeing and making sure that you’re okay, well, how do you do that? You can do it in ways of recognition and let them know, “Hey, I really appreciate you turning that file for me in such a short timeframe. I know you’re struggling with child at homeschooling, and so I really appreciate your dedication to our customer service levels.” So, there are ways that you can connect people to the vision and mission of the company and is more meaningful because it’s personal and they haven’t been forgotten. The remote worker hasn’t forgotten about the in office person and vice versa. So, it is more important now than ever.

Lisa Hutcherson:

Also, the other thing that we see is a shift in demographics in our workforce. And so, as we are facing baby boomers retiring at a large percentage for our institution, we are looking at those workforce folks that are going to be coming in and it’s a younger generation. And one of the things that they do look for in a company is that strong company culture and the reward and recognition piece is an important piece of our culture. It’s part of the foundation. And so, when they are looking for a place to work, it’s them interviewing us anymore, it’s not us interviewing them. And so, our culture, our rewarding, the way we do it, we find innovative ways and creative ways to let people know that their work matters and that they’re bigger.

Lisa Hutcherson:

They’re part of something so much bigger than just checking the box. That’s the type of environment the new folks that are coming into the workplace to replace these baby boomers, those are the type of folks that, that’s what they’re looking for. And they’re going to be attracted to us because we’ve done the work now versus being reactive to do the work on reward and recognition.

Michael Levy:

Great, great. Thank you for sharing. That was great.

Lisa Hutcherson:

Absolutely.

Michael Levy:

So, what are some of the tips or tricks for getting leadership to participate that you found worked at the bank?

Lisa Hutcherson:

Excellent question. Thank you. Yeah. So, we have participated in several work environment type assessments that have been conducted by a variety of companies. One was the ICBA, the Independent Community Bankers Association, and some have been non-banking related as well. And so, taking those results and really drilling down to what we do and what we can do and sharing those with our president and CEO, who is very much into diversity and inclusion, and trying to have a positive work environment, making sure we impact those types of measurements. But sharing those with executive council and really helping them understand that we can have these conversations in a safe manner so that it’s not offensive or violates anyone’s privacy. But really to help them self discover where they can improve and that they can be vulnerable. No one expects our executives to have the answers all the time.

Lisa Hutcherson:

And in a world where we have to be comfortable with being uncomfortable, those are some of the approaches that we try to connect them to as we share the results with them is that it’s okay not to have the answers. It’s okay not to know how to navigate this new normal that we’re going through. And so, by just talking about, let’s be realistic and let’s show the empathy side of things and tap into who you are as a person, not as an executive, that’s what we need right now. It was easy to help get them connect to the initiatives we were trying to achieve.

Michael Levy:

Oh, that’s some great learning then. Appreciate you sharing those. [crosstalk 00:05:28] with us.

Lisa Hutcherson:

Absolutely.

Michael Levy:

So, final question for you, Lisa. The connectivity between employee engagement or employee performance in a construct of banking and the role of recognition, what are some of your observations where you think you can draw dotted lines between how does good recognition play out in terms of performance and outcomes in a banking world?

Lisa Hutcherson:

Yeah. So, one of the things that we have really been looking at is really understanding our workforce demographics and how the different age, generations, and demographics like to be recognized and what is most significant for them, what is most meaningful. And just because we think we have an idea of what meaningful recognition is, is going to vary across the board. And so, really understanding that, has given our executive team a new insight as well, bringing that data to them. And really making sure that we make it personal and that it’s not just a canned response, it’s not a check the box.

Lisa Hutcherson:

But when we go and have virtual visits, because we’re not doing in person visits right now, and we happen to talk to maybe Susie the teller, and we can say, “Susie, we saw that you were recognized for doing this contribution to your team and I just want to say, thank you.” And what that meant to your team member to step in like that when someone above them or executive level or someone else from another line of business reinforces that recognition that they weren’t expecting to come out of that person when they visited, it is been powerful. And so, we are using tools like on our home internet page, our First Point SharePoint site, making sure that we have profiles on employees so that we can review those before we go into a virtual visit and say, “Hey, I saw that you really love skiing. I’ve just planned a ski trip for later in December. Where do you like to go?”

Lisa Hutcherson:

When you can have little pieces of conversation like that and add value in ways that they’ve never experienced before, it brings that personal touch that is, it’s not measurable because it’s going to impact things that you can’t see far beyond just that interpersonal relationship that you just had in that interaction.

Michael Levy:

All right. So, making it possible for employees and managers to build stronger relationships beyond the traditional professional construct. And that’s helping in customer experiences, or how would you quantify how you think that’s playing through to the end customer in a banking environment.

Lisa Hutcherson:

Yeah. I mean, customers can see through fake. And so, one of the things that we are very proud of is the fact that the service that our customers receive, whether they’re in person or over the phone is very genuine. And it comes across in your voice and it comes across in the words that you choose and your mannerisms. And when you are positively supported by your coworkers and by people in the other departments, and for people across the state, it’s going to build your confidence and your morale and do things with those interpersonal relationships that impact our customer on the other side of the desk. And so, just that camaraderie that we’ve got your back, it does help translate to the customer that we will do anything we can to help them be financially stable and successful, and that’s our goal. And customers feel that, they feel that coming through. And I truly believe it’s because of our culture and the way that we support our employees with different visions of what recognition looks like.

Michael Levy:

All right. So, Lisa, at propose the time with the home office and the work professional space and any changes that you may be going through in terms of, I know you’re also looking at purchasing a new house. How are you guys thinking about the hybrid work models, particularly when you’ve also got a percentage of your employee population that is customer facing? What are some of the things you guys are thinking about either present or looking to in the future?

Lisa Hutcherson:

Absolutely. Yeah. This has been new for us and trying to understand how to coach remotely, work with folks remotely. Some of the discussions are that psychological safety piece. Some folks are happy to come back into the office. They’ve missed the comradery. Some people are still scared to come back into the office. And so, this is when the empathy piece and that flexibility piece really needs to be developed within our senior management team before we even start having these conversations. And that’s what we have been doing is trying to strengthen those perspectives and ideals before we started having these conversations of what does return to work look like. So, depending on the line of business, it’s going to look a little bit different, but we have some that actually were more productive with their workers being remote.

Lisa Hutcherson:

And so, we do have some lines of business that are not going to change that model. And they’re actually going to let people stay remote because those productivity levels have not dropped, and nor has the camaraderie around that line of business. We do have some that never changed. They were always customer facing. They always stayed in the office and they’re going to continue to do what they’ve always done. And then we have a few lines of business who are going to adopt a flex workforce, where some days they transfer, they’ll be in the office opposite of what their coworker will be. So, depending on the line of business, we are adopting several different models for what that new work environment is going to look like.

Michael Levy:

Do you believe that the recognition programs that we’re putting in place with you will help just as much for the remote population as the in person, or maybe help even more? Or how would you respond to that question of recognition in these hybrid worlds?

Lisa Hutcherson:

Oh, my gosh, it is going to be, and it is proving to be incredible. And something that we absolutely could not be where we are today with some of our strategic initiatives, without it. I will say that being in the empathy stage of this program, I have already seen a major connection to reward and recognition in lines of businesses that were never connected. They were never transparent. They were just checking the box and going on and just doing whatever they did within their little group, or what have you, their click. And to see these people open up in ways that we’ve never seen them open up before and recognize people, not only in their line of business, but in other lines of business, such as IT or the training department or even executives.

Lisa Hutcherson:

It has been so empowering for those that have felt like a wilted flower on an island by themselves to be able to feel like they’re part of something bigger than themselves. So, by all means, we cannot stop saying enough positive things about this program and the impact that it’s had, not only on the emotional mindset of our employees, but also at how they view the future of work. And it’s showing to trend in the positive. So, it’s had an incredible impact for employees, not only remote, but also in person.

Michael Levy:

Well, Lisa, thank you for sharing that. And I’ll make an observation on the record. And that is, while we believe we build great programs and support our clients, if there aren’t some change management heros at the companies, Lisa Hutcherson, who’s driving the train and beating the drum, then they can be like those wilted flowers. But from everything I hear about the work you’re doing and the program at First Federal, you guys are doing a great job with it. So much success ahead. And thank you for sharing some of that wisdom with us all today, appreciate you. You’re taking it far.

Lisa Hutcherson:

Thank you.

From the start, First Federal has been committed to both exceptional service and value. Today, we are a community-based mutual bank that serves over 70,000 customers from 25 community banking branches, mortgage lending offices in Florida, the Southeast and Midwest, and SBA and USDA lending offices in the Southeast. Because we are a mutual bank, we are owned by our customers and not stockholders, which allows us to truly focus on our customers’ needs.

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