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How Ohio Valley Bank Became a Great Place to Work

How Ohio Valley Bank Became a Great Place to Work

Who is Ohio Valley Bank?

Since it was established in 1872, Ohio Valley Bank has never changed its name. Today, the bank oversees $1 Billion in assets and operates 18 offices throughout rural Ohio and West Virginia. Ohio Valley Bank is committed to remaining independent and helping local communities thrive.

How OVB Uses Communifire

Employee Directory: OVBnet connects more than 300 employees across 18 branches.

Document Management: Employees access interactive forms, HR resources, instructional materials and other important documents through the Communifire document management system.

Spaces: Departments post content in their own livable spaces. Committees use private spaces to collaborate, sometimes in lieu of in-person meetings, saving time and travel expense.

Task Management: Committees use Communifire task management tool to assign duties and monitor progress.

Points and Badges: Corporate Communications uses gamification features to stimulate intranet activity. Employees accumulate points and move up the “levels.” OVB also awards badges to recognize employees for being new to the intranet, rating articles, and for uploading five profile pictures or more.

Photo Sharing: In addition to making wall posts, employees post snapshots of company life to designated albums. Communications scans wall posts for interesting images and shares them on the home page.

Videos: Training and Communication departments post instructional and brand awareness videos for employees.

Social features: Employees have full access to every social feature available through Communifire, including wall posts, commenting, liking, sharing, and rating content, instant messaging, and chat.

__________

In the banking industry, size matters more than just about anywhere else. That’s why retail banks have been consolidating for decades. And yet, plenty of regional banks still exist alongside the national giants, like Bank of America and CapitalOne. How do the little guys—if you can call someone managing $1 Billion little—compete with the megabanks?

Bryna Butler, VP of Corporate Communications at Ohio Valley Bank, has a simple answer:

Community First

Rather than selling out to the big players, the bank’s management resolved to remain independent and take care of the communities they serve. All eighteen branches are in rural areas, where the population is spread out and community resources are scarce, compared to the cities. The bank decided it would become a resource to its neighbors:

“It’s our job to make a community thrive,” says Bryna.

Each OVB employee gets three days a year, fully paid, for his or her choice of community service. With over 300 employees and growing, it’s like funding three people to work on community projects every day of the year. The bank also has launched over thirty Community First debit card designs for local schools and non-profits. When a customer chooses to upgrade to one of these designs, money is donated to that organization.

Employees First

OVB’s Community First mission would not be possible without paying special attention to employees. Not only are the bank employees a big part of the local communities, they are the lifeblood of the company. OVB set its sights on rapid growth, and losing employees to competition and other opportunities is not part of the plan. It is, however, the unfortunate part of everyday reality: turnover in retail is notoriously high, and banking is no exception. Add to it the draw of the big-city life, and holding onto good people becomes an uphill battle.

The entry-level jobs are the most vulnerable. The bank had to convince young employees to see their work as a career and not just a paycheck. That said, banking isn’t for everyone: hiring had to become more selective. Meanwhile, recruiters were scrambling to find candidates who would stay and grow with the bank.

The management realized they needed a rock-solid people strategy. They found one: to become one of the best banks to work at. It was a great idea. To make it a reality, the company would have to overcome all the common barriers that keep management and employees in separate corners.

Communicate First

Early on, Ohio Valley Bank figured out that they couldn’t make employees happy without talking to them. The training department conducts multiple employee surveys throughout the year. Among them is a weekly mini-survey to catch any pressing issues. There was plenty of evidence that communication was lacking:

“We were constantly seeing gaps in communication: one department knew something, while the rest of us had no clue. We wanted to understand why it was happening, so we looked at the way we were communicating.”

Speaking of communication, Bryna’s team was ahead of the curve. Unlike many companies that rely primarily on email, OVB had a functioning intranet. Employees used it regularly and even enjoyed certain features. However,

“It was one-way communication: only a few people could post, and no one could comment or collect feedback. The collaboration piece was missing entirely.”

The next step was clear: if the people initiative were to get off the ground, corporate communications had to become interactive. People needed a choice to respond and contribute to online discussions, just like they did outside of work. To add the missing piece, the OVB intranet had to move to a modern social platform. Bryna and Online Banking Manager Andrew Bush set out to find one.

Welcome to OVBnet—Where Everyone is Your Friend

Their final choice was Communifire. Bryna decided it was the best tool to build the new intranet, to be known as OVBnet. Communifire stood out from other platforms she researched in three ways:

1. “The level of customization was very impressive, almost nothing we couldn’t do with it!”
2. “Intuitive design made the software easy to use.”
3. Active directory integration, “very important to banks.”

Customization was a must-have. Bryna’s department was familiar with HTML and web design and wanted to put their skills to work. They used the optional design feature to give OVBnet its own look and feel.

Bryna surveyed employees to see what parts of the old intranet they used. Forms, listings, quick links, employee directory, and the Shoutbox—a favorite page where employees praise one another—all made it to OVBnet. New ideas came from the weekly surveys. Andrew carefully laid out the spaces for the current and future content, easy navigation, and clean, clutter-free environment.

“Andrew set us up for success,” says Bryna.

Above all, Bryna knew her employees were starved for interaction. So she gave them maximum freedom from day one:

“On OVBnet, there’s very little difference between a member and an admin. Any OVB employee can do anything except delete other people’s stuff. The only rule is that the profile photo has to be a headshot of themselves. People like to be trusted, so we left it open—just don’t let us down! We give full access to everyone, but we can also take it away. If something inappropriate happens, we’ll take disciplinary action. We’ve never had to delete anything, but we monitor the activity stream daily, just in case.”

Everyone at OVB can watch everyone else. Like a social media platform, Communifire lets you “friend” and follow your coworkers. It could lead to some interesting choices. (Should I friend my boss?) But OVB made it simple:

“We decided that everybody was a friend. We connected everybody with everybody, because we didn’t want to miss out on anybody.”

Emoji!

When OVBnet first launched, Bryna and Andrew went office to office and personally trained all 300+ employees. It took two months to do it, but the results were worth it: 100% completed profiles and everyone came to the site at least once. Since then, the Training department has been training all new employees. And enthusiastic new users keep the training fresh for everyone else.

The new intranet has a lot of features. Once trained, employees use a few and forget the rest—until they see someone else use it. Among all the strategically selected sensational capabilities of OVBnet, which one has the most curb appeal?

Emoji!

“You should’ve seen our group training. We showed emoji and the mood in the room completely changed. They went nuts! That was all it took. Crazy!”

Take Your Senior Executive to Work Day

While emoji swayed younger users, the older email-addicted crowd were a much tougher sell.

“One Executive VP told me it was great, but he wouldn’t be on it at all.”

This executive was one of the champions of the new intranet. He was willing to push everyone else to the site, as long as he himself was left in peace. Bryna got him to change his mind: “He’s not one of our active users, but he is on it.”

Another senior VP never filled out his profile. He didn’t see the importance of it and might eventually get to it “sometime.” Because employee profiles feed into the interactive orgchart, it meant he would be missing-in-action from the orgchart too— and any employee that reported in the chain of command below him.

“When pitching Communifire, I made the mistake of likening it to Facebook, which, for some of our more mature, male employees, gave it a connotation of being unimportant or a time-waster. Nothing I could say would convince him to complete his profile. Finally, I said: ‘You’re doing your employees a disservice. They can’t even find you on the orgchart!’ That’s when he admitted he needed help with his profile.”

Bryna knew just the right person to help this executive, a twenty-something clerk who took to the site on the first day, like a fish to water. She became his OVBnet mentor, and he now calls her for advice. She is not the only entry-level employee teaching an executive. Unlike many of the higher-ups, the frontline folks are intranet-proficient. Customer Service absolutely embraces it.

“We put our managers on a pedestal. OVBnet lowered that pedestal. It opened our eyes, to the resources we have available to engage our people. When younger employees see us use email, it turns them off.. A social intranet helps us communicate across generations, and it helps us keep the Millennials around.”

Everybody Loves a Yard Sale

Between the intranet-resistant executives and the emoji-crazed new hires, there’s a sizable middle layer that needs to be gently herded towards OVBnet. Like a good intranet fairy, Bryna, has her supply of magic tricks that get the job done.

The photo gallery

Before OVBnet, only precious few of the photos Corporate Communications and Marketing took at company events would see the light of day. There was simply no space to display them. Now there’s lots of space. Bryna’s team created twelve online photo albums to capture all the memories from anyone willing to share.

The bank offers plenty of photo-ops. On Customer Appreciation Day, local businesses set up tables in the lobby and promote their wares. In warmer months, bankers build homes for Habitat for Humanity. And, of course, the ugly sweater contest during the holiday season. Since OVBnet went live, more and more employees post their own photos on it. To encourage them, Bryna and Andrew scan wall posts to feature a winner on the home page. Another reason to check in often!

Online yard sale

OVBnet is not all about company business. The online yard sale page allows employees to post items for sale. What’s it doing on the bank’s intranet? Bryna has an explanation:

"Why are we wasting our time on this? It drives so many people to other information. Besides, it promotes camaraderie. If you buy your dining table from so-and-so, you’ll know so-and-so a lot better."

And other cheap thrills

OVB is in the middle of a $5 million renovation. The bank bought back its old headquarters, built in 1896, plus an adjacent lot, to rehabilitate and expand the historic building. The new headquarters will house administrative offices and host community events. The meeting room will open onto a rooftop patio, and local families will be able to rent the space for baby showers and other celebrations.

Bank employees have been wildly anticipating the move, especially since Communications posted a video of a building demolition on the adjacent lot. It became an instant hit, and even out-of-state employees are watching it in droves. The marketing and training videos are nice, but there’s nothing like blowing things up to get your people’s undivided attention.

Are You a Rock Star Yet?

Thanks to the combined effort of Corporate Communication and edgy Millennials, OVBnet is changing the way employees communicate. Bryna’s goal is to get off email altogether and send all internal communication through posts, instant messaging and chat.

Bryna absolutely loves it when employees outside of Marketing and Corporate Communications exercise their generous OVBnet privileges. Andrew set up Communifire gamification tools to recognize active users and track intranet success. When they show up and speak up, employees earn points and move up the intranet hierarchy.

Currently there are five levels:

Level 1 “Grasshopper” — 275 employees;
Level 2 “Rookie” — 32 employees;
Level 3 “Master” — 10 employees;
Level 4 “Rock Star” — 12 employees;
Level 5 “Legend” — 1 employee.

Bryna and her team couldn’t be more proud:

“We are pleased to have 55 (17%) users demonstrating that they are more than casually contributing by ascending above Level 1 within the first year of launch.”

And no, she’s not the “Legend.” She’s only a “Rockstar.” When another employee reaches the top level, Andrew Bush, who is currently the undisputed champion of OVBnet, will add another level. What would they call it?

What’s Cooking in the Test Kitchen?

Rather than overwhelm employees and their trainers with Communifire’s wide array of available features, Bryna is keeping some exciting possibilities on the back burner. “Test kitchen” is a private space within OVBnet where the Communications team tries out new ideas.

When testing new features, Bryna looks for practical solutions to existing problems. Thanks to the weekly survey, her team is on top of every department’s most pressing business needs. It’s uncanny how many workplace issues a handy communications tool can put to rest. Here are a few ideas currently in the works:

Mobile banking test group wants to use the Ideation app for brainstorming. Building maintenance is looking at Cases to manage daily to-dos, like hanging a flag, fixing a toilet, or ordering 20 reams of paper and tracking it all the way through. People always ask: “Where can I do my community service?” Why not start a discussion forum to point them to once-in-a-lifetime opportunities? Hey, how about driving a kiddy train on July 4th?

What makes a company a great place to work? A sense of community inside and out will do it. Bryna and Andrew have built OVBnet to bring the employees together and show them how to stay connected. Now every one of them, from Grasshopper to Legend, has the tools to keep making the bank a better place to work.

Discover more Communifire customer stories

Tim Eisenhauer
Written by Tim Eisenhauer

Tim is president and co-founder of Axero Solutions, a leading intranet software vendor. He's also a bestselling author of Who the Hell Wants to Work for You? Mastering Employee Engagement. Tim’s been featured in Fortune, Forbes, TIME, Inc Magazine, Entrepreneur, CNBC, Today, and other leading publications.

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