How Machias Savings Bank improved employee satisfaction and increased commitment to company values

Machias Savings Bank, also known as “The Bank of YES”, has been helping individuals and businesses within Maine to say “YES” to their goals, since 1869. And for as long as this much-loved community bank has been operating, they’ve worked hard to grow and nurture a strong and engaged workforce.

This, of course, is no easy feat. And nobody knows more about this than Machias Savings Bank’s Rainya Davis, SVP, Talent and Learning Manager, and Hillary Tibbetts, Human Resources Specialist.

As experts in their field, Rainya and Hillary both know that building a strong and engaged workforce requires commitment to team values. And doing this requires effective recognition, in order to reinforce positive behaviors.

So, when their 2022 engagement survey told them that 62% of employees felt they weren’t getting enough recognition for their work… they knew it was time to take action.

“We have always valued recognition, but this wasn’t always getting through”

When “recognition for my work” came up as an issue during a 2022 Table Talk event with senior management, HR and Talent Team knew that something wasn’t quite right. After all, it’s not that Machias Savings Bank were ignoring hard work – quite the opposite, in fact.

“We were using a physical coin-based system” explains Rainya. “This meant that when managers noticed somebody doing something great, they could hand out special coins, which could be traded in for payroll bonus.”

However, while this system was certainly innovative, a deeper dive revealed that it was no longer practical – especially with the shift to remote working.

“Our physical coin-based reward system was no longer fit for purpose”

With half of the workforce now working remotely, handing out physical coins had become a bit cumbersome.

“Mailing costs were piling up, there was no visibility of who was rewarding who, and the extra legwork became a real pain for management” says Hillary. And that wasn’t the only issue.

“There was no social element to the recognition” adds Rainya. “Rewards were being handed out in isolation, and nobody was able to celebrate or congratulate one another, because nobody knew who was being rewarded.”

Rewards were also very one-dimensional, and hierarchical – something that Machias Savings Bank was keen to move away from.

“Our previous system was mostly manager-to-employee recognition” says Hillary. “This lacked the depth that we wanted to achieve, as the manager’s perspective is just one of many perspectives. People do great things that their managers don’t always see!”

These issues led to diminished participation, and a growing skepticism amongst the workforce. The lack of transparency meant that claims of favoritism weren’t uncommon, even if they were usually unfounded. And many people were simply forgetting to engage in recognition activities. What was meant to be a fun and rewarding activity, was becoming a tiresome process with too many steps and not enough impact.

“Finding a recognition system that was fun, and people would use”

When Hillary and Rainya first set out looking for a replacement to their coin-based system, they had two key goals in mind:

  1. Find an employee recognition system that is fun and people will use
  2. Find an employee recognition system that we can connect to our company values

“We knew that if we could achieve both of these goals, then not only would our employees feel like their hard work was getting noticed, but that we would be able to use this system to reinforce positive behaviors associated with being a model Machias Savings Bank employee,” says Rainya.

Their first goal was to ensure that Workstars would actually be usable by staff – which meant making sure that it was mobile-friendly, making sure that it was transparent to prove fairness, making sure there was a social element where people could comment and congratulate one another, and of course, making sure that recognition was available on a 360-degree basis – so that people could reward team-mates, not just managers rewarding their direct hires.

The next goal? Using Workstars to reinforce their eight key values.

“Finding a recognition system that we could connect to our company values”

One of the first things that attracted Hillary and Rainya to Workstars, was the ability to connect every single reward and recognition action, with a key company value. For Machias Savings Bank, these values were:

  • – Sense of urgency
  • – Engagement and teamwork
  • – Exceptional customer experience
  • – Community involvement
  • – Effective leadership
  • – Family-first philosophy
  • – Relationship Building
  • – Attitude

It is through these values that the bank ensures a workforce committed to transparency, timely decision-making, and satisfaction for both customers and employees. And so, when they first implemented Workstars, they ensured that each time a person received a reward, that it was clearly connected to one of these eight values.

“By connecting rewards and recognition to company values, we felt we were able to go beyond a simple form of lip service with our company culture” says Hillary. “Our set of values was demonstrably translatable into actual actions and behaviors being performed daily by our fantastic staff.”

“We now have a recognition system that has given us efficiency and visibility over so many processes”

When Machias Savings Bank implemented Workstars, they used it to centralize a whole ton of processes. And not just this, but they pulled in a whole bunch of different reward and recognition events, which they were able to automate and visualize with ease.

“We have streamlined several recognition processes within the program, such as onboarding, birthday acknowledgements, milestone anniversaries, and more” says Rainya. “It has also helped us boost people’s ego, facilitate charitable contributions, and introduce schemes such as popular gift card redemption options.”

Both Rainya and Hillary have been delighted with how the regular reporting within Workstars has allowed them to demonstrate the value that their fresh new recognition programme has brought to their workforce.

But since implementing the system over 12 months ago, the big question on everybody’s lips is… what results has it delivered, and has it satisfied their key goals?

Key result 1: Recognition activities have increased by 1,286%

In the year leading up to the 2022 table talk where their recognition crisis was first addressed, Machias Savings Bank had recorded just 303 instances of “recognition” awards being handed out. This was due to a combination of logistical difficulties with using an outdated coin system, but also that there were so many steps in the process, that employees and managers would simply “save it for later”, and then forget to process the reward.

“Since implementing Workstars, we’ve been averaging at over 350 recognition instances per month” says Hillary. “That’s more than we saw in the entire previous year – we’ve got 13 times more engagement with our recognition system, which is incredible!”

The fact that people are engaged with the new system, and actively using it, is a huge achievement for Machias Savings Bank.

“Because it is instant, people aren’t forgetting to use it” explains Rainya. “And because it is easily accessible no matter where you are, it is perfect for our entire workforce – office-based, home-based, or hybrid.”

Key result 2: Employees citing “recognition” as an issue has dropped from 62% to 38%

As well as increasing the frequency of engagement, this has also increased the visibility among employees. And with more people seeing and using the recognition system? There are far fewer complaints about a lack of recognition within the company.

In fact, Machias Savings Bank can even now put a cold hard figure to this improvement, thanks to their most recent employee engagement survey.

“The implementation of Workstars has had a positive impact on the company’s culture, as evidenced in our 2023 engagement survey” says Hillary. “Pre-Workstars, in 2022, 62% of our employees cited ‘recognition for my work’ as an area needing improvement. In 2023, since implementing Workstars, this number had fallen sharply to 38%.”

Hillary and Rainya both say that they love seeing the impact Workstars has on the happiness of their workforce, and that they love knowing their employees feel more recognized and appreciated for their commitment to company values.

Key result 3: Machias Savings Bank has saved 30 days of work per year

Perhaps one of the side-goals of implementing Workstars, was to rid their old recognition and reward system of inefficiencies. And Hillary and Rainya both say that this has been a super successful goal, too.

“The transition to Workstars has probably saved us about 30 days of work annually” says Rainya. “There are fewer steps to complete when recognizing hard work, and it is so much easier to track and report on recognition activities effectively.”

And with fewer steps to take, and better reporting available…there’s been an unintended but hugely-welcomed consequence to the implementation of Workstars…

Bonus result: “Our CFO really appreciates our new reward and recognition budget”

“One of the things that Workstars has really helped us to do, is plan an actual budget for reward and recognition activities” says Hillary, “which our CFO really appreciates!”

She explains that the previous system had been difficult to plan, difficult to track, and difficult to budget for – especially considering the inconsistent way in which it was being used, and the imbalance that it was causing throughout the different teams.

However, the Workstars platform has helped them to budget for rewards and recognition by providing clear reports, which have helped them to gain more credibility with their CFO.

“We can show exactly where money has been spent in the last 12 months, exactly how much money we will need for the next 12 months, and importantly, we can show the impact that this spend has had on results that really matter for the company.

“We now have an effective recognition platform that is connected to company values, and that people actually use”

Machias Savings Bank’s shift to Workstars has shown just how eager they are to stay ahead of emerging technology, and truly put their employees and their customers first. And the numbers don’t lie: recognition is up, and employees are actually engaging with the system. Rainya and Hillary have steered the bank from a process that was becoming tired and cumbersome, to a sleek digital solution that fits the modern workforce and promotes company values.

“We have always valued recognition” says Rainya, “but this wasn’t always getting through to employees. But with Workstars, we now have an effective recognition platform that is connected to company values, and that people actually use.”

Looking forward, they are excited to continue this momentum. Their work is not finished, and both Hillary and Rainya will continue to assess, review, and improve their efforts to strengthen their company culture, to ensure that their employees continue to feel the recognition they deserve for delivering an exceptional service to clients of Machias Savings Bank.