Wells Fargo's Kevin Cowden: Five Pillars of Truly Effective Employee Engagement

Cowden is the national practice consultant, Health and Productivity, Employee Engagement at Wells Fargo.

By Kevin Cowden, national practice consultant, Health and Productivity, Employee Engagement at Wells Fargo (No. 12 on the DiversityInc Top 50 Companies list)

In today's dynamic workplace environment, the need to make paradigm shifts seems to affect all aspects of our daily work. One of the biggest paradigm shifts for senior leaders in the past decade is the employee-employer relationship. What once was a "deal" based on mutual loyalty has evolved into a partnership.


For senior leaders, this paradigm shift has magnified the need to establish corporate cultures and work environments where employees are productive and engaged, and can thrive. But what does this mean? And more importantly, how do you as a senior leader accomplish this goal in practical terms?

Not surprisingly, the first step is to acknowledge and embrace this paradigm shift. Senior leaders must be conscious of and respect the needs of their workforce, and acknowledge that operant conditioning where rewards or punishment drive behavior change no longer works on its own to sustain behavior change among employees. In other words, you must embrace the fact that monetary rewards are no longer the sole motivator to maximize your workforce's productivity.

You must also value your employees' ambitions to generate engagement. Employees today desire opportunity, empowerment, clear goals, and objectives. They want to be informed and included. They covet honesty, trust, autonomy, and respect, along with the awareness that their contribution helps the organization win. To successfully unleash the discretionary output that your organization desires, it's critical for you and all leaders to recognize these objectives.

Once you embrace the paradigm shift, the real work begins. To implement meaningful, measurable initiatives within your workforce — and subsequently maximize engagement and productivity — your second step is to diligently execute the following five pillars of engagement.

Engagement pillar one: Convey your vision and mission

Senior leaders define the mission, vision, values, and goals for their organization. These principles or standards define the core purpose of the organization and provide the foundation for its culture and work environment. To successfully engage employees, you must convey the strategic mission of your organization, illustrate how specific values and goals differentiate the group in the marketplace, and explain how each member of your workforce fits within your long-term plan.

When implementing new tactics or initiatives, be sure to demonstrate:

- How they align with your mission and vision

- Why they will help achieve key organizational goals

- What the workforce's roles and responsibilities are to achieve shared success

Engagement pillar two: Establish bi-directional expectations

Once the strategic mission and vision (or the purpose of a new tactic or initiative) has been established and clearly communicated, you'll need to define the measures of success and establish expectations. It's important to understand, however, that expectations are bi-directional. You'll want to provide supervisors and managers with thoughtful game plans (inclusive of long-term strategic goals) so that they may engage, educate, and lead their teams. In turn, ensure that your supervisors and managers understand and acknowledge their employees' expectations to ensure a productive work environment.

To win in both cases, make sure expectations are clear, direct, and precise to avoid ambiguity. If effectively shared, employees will understand their roles and responsibilities, prioritize their tasks, and perform their work free from the risk of micromanagement. Moreover, because expectations facilitate the development of metrics, you'll be able to establish your organization's foundation for rewards and recognition.

Engagement pillar three: Develop a thorough communications strategy

The formation of a mission and vision with clearly defined expectations is a fundamental task of leadership. However, the most significant task you undertake may be the development of a communications strategy, which effectively communicates with a broad and diverse audience. For effective employee engagement, your communication must be targeted, proactive, clear, and consistent. Strategic communication from senior leaders not only helps to establish the importance of meaningful initiatives within the overall strategic mission, but it lends credibility to the leaders themselves. Honest and transparent internal communications from supervisors and managers can build trust and commitment with employees. A well-thought-out plan that is timely and creatively delivered can energize your workforce, keep them focused, and increase productivity.

Engagement pillar four: Constantly work to build and nurture trust

Without trust, a dynamic, engaged workforce is difficult to create. No matter the size or type of your organization, you must build and nurture trust across all individuals and teams to achieve success. In fact, empirical evidence suggests the level of trust inside an organization is a fundamental differentiator of employee engagement.

When your employees trust their supervisors, managers, and senior leaders, you may realize numerous benefits. For example, your employees may take greater initiative and display more creativity. Increased opportunities for open, honest sharing of ideas and resources may present themselves. You may see an improvement in team function, efficiency, and productivity. And, of critical importance in today's fast-paced work environment, trusting environments are less resistant to change.

Engagement pillar five: Take personal ownership in the process

To inspire and empower your workforce, you and all senior leaders in your organization must model the desired behaviors you seek. Your behavior must support the culture and environment you wish to develop. True, your employees and teams need forcing functions (requiring them to do something in a certain way to ensure cooperation) to achieve goals and objectives. However, prior to implementing forcing functions, you must deconstruct and analyze the big picture, to provide the tools and resources necessary to succeed.

Ask yourself questions and answer them. What resources are necessary to achieve success? What training or education do we need to provide for our employees and teams? Do our policies and procedures support the culture and environment we are striving for? By competently addressing these questions while communicating and providing the necessary tools, your leadership will demonstrate a commitment to employees that you are willing to take the necessary steps to achieve the mission.

Moving forward

The nature of work and the workforce is changing rapidly, and human capital as a competitive differentiator may be more important for your organization than ever before. As a senior leader, creating a culture that effectively drives employee engagement is no small challenge. However, if you and all senior leaders spend considerable time connecting employees to your organization's mission and vision; provide information to employees so they understand expectations; support employees with the training and resources they need to win; and provide employees with the opportunities and autonomy they desire, then your organization will be well-poised for success.

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Company to waive ExpressSend remittance transfer fees to all countries, payout locations June 15–18.

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Originally Published by Wells Fargo.

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Funding awarded to local Community Development Financial Institutions.

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Originally Published by Wells Fargo.

Wells Fargo & Company announced that 13 Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) around the U.S. have been selected to receive $12.1 million in lending capital and grants under the Wells Fargo Works for Small Business: Diverse Community Capital (DCC) program. The recipients are private, nonprofit financial institutions that are dedicated to delivering responsible, affordable financial products to underserved populations and communities. Many of the small and micro businesses CDFIs serve may not be ready to access capital through conventional financing methods.

The Diverse Community Capital recipients are:

  • BOC Capital Corp. - Brooklyn, N.Y.
  • California Capital Financial Development Corporation – Sacramento, Calif.
  • Cooperative Development Fund of CDS for Shared Capital Cooperative - St. Paul, Minn.
  • Cooperative Fund of New England – serving New England
  • Entrepreneur Fund – Duluth, Minn.
  • First American Capital Corporation – West Allis, Wis.
  • Hartford Community Loan Fund – Hartford, Conn.
  • Local Initiatives Support Corporation – serving Los Angeles
  • Mission Economic Development Agency (MEDA) – San Francisco
  • Mountain BizWorks – Asheville, N.C.
  • New Jersey Community Capital – New Brunswick, N.J.
  • PeopleFund – Austin, Texas
  • Rainier Valley Community Development Fund – Seattle, Wash.

Diverse Community Capital funds will be used by the awardees to increase lending to diverse small business owners; help more diverse small business owners get the coaching and education resources they may need to grow their business; and improve, create or add resources, materials, products, or programs to better serve their target market.

Under the program, awardees also have the opportunity to participate in a social capital component, delivered by Opportunity Finance Network, a national network of CDFIs. Social capital opportunities include an online learning community, working groups on specific topics, consulting, peer learning and mentoring.

"Now in its third year, the DCC program's impact on communities has been compelling," said Connie Smith, Wells Fargo's Diverse Community Capital program manager. "DCC awardees are increasing access to capital and development services for diverse small businesses in their local communities. These awards are inspiring collaboration and innovation in the CDFI industry every day."

In fiscal year 2017, Diverse Community Capital awardees closed more than $284 million in loans to diverse small business clients. That represents a year-over-year increase of 23 percent for the first 18 awardees and a 63 percent increase for the next 26 awardees. Awardees closed nearly $103 million to black or African American entrepreneurs and more than $75 million to Hispanic or Latino entrepreneurs. In addition, 76 of all development services offered by DCC awardees were delivered to diverse small businesses. Most awardees reported at least one new or changed program or product designed to increase capital deployment to their clients.

"When local businesses succeed, so do the communities where we live and work," said Mike Rizer, director of Community Relations at Wells Fargo. "By financing community businesses — including small businesses, microenterprises, and nonprofit organizations — CDFIs spark job growth and retention in communities across the U.S."

Today's announcement marks Diverse Community Capital's fifth installment, or round, of awardees since 2015. Wells Fargo has committed an additional $100 million over the next three years to CDFIs serving diverse small businesses.

To earn back your trust, Wells Fargo has renewed its commitment to you. See our re-established goals at http://www.wellsfargo.com/renew.
We are re-committing to you and re-inventing how we serve you, delivering banking features like Card-Free ATM Access, and Debit Card On or Off for when you misplace your debit card. We have changed our sales policies and culture to fix what went wrong and make things right, knowing an apology is just the beginning.