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Hiring Team-Oriented People Helps This Bank Thrive
Business Journal

Hiring Team-Oriented People Helps This Bank Thrive

WSFS CEO Mark Turner says hiring people focused on relationships and teamwork has helped his bank prosper while others failed during the recession

A Q&A With Mark Turner, President and CEO, WSFS Financial Corporation and WSFS Bank

Since 2008, more than 450 banks have gone into FDIC receivership. But some banks came out of the recession stronger than before. WSFS, a 41-branch retail bank based in Delaware, is one of them.

You need to come up with big ideas to keep engagement fresh.

Mark Turner, WSFS CEO and president, attributes this success to the bank's culture. "Associate engagement is part of our strategy, and it's what makes us different," Turner says. Since 2008, WSFS has hired nearly 300 associates, increasing its staff by 50%, and exited the TARP program.

Turner believes that his bank's focus on engagement protected it against the worst of the recession. But maintaining that success requires building a staff that internalizes engagement. In this interview, the second in a two-part series, Turner explains what he looks for in the bank's leaders, managers, and associates; what he does when that choice goes wrong; and how he fosters a culture that has helped the bank thrive.

Gallup Business Journal: How do you know if you're hiring employees who really embrace the WSFS culture and mission?

Mark Turner: You're never sure. But it's like everything else in life and in business: You have to try to improve the likelihood that you will be successful. We have tools that we use to hire. We use Gallup to conduct leadership interviews at very high levels in the organization to help determine if candidates will be a fit or will fill some talent gaps. Many leaders in our organization have undergone those leadership interviews. We are fortunate in that for the last five years, we've been named among the top five workplaces in the state of Delaware, so we have plenty of people wanting to come to work for us.

But the biggest thing we filter for is cultural fit. Those tools help us, but it can get down to more subtle things. Peggy Eddens [WSFS' executive vice president and chief human capital officer] and I consider what people keep in their offices. If there are lots of pictures of friends and family and things that speak to teamwork and organizational accomplishments, it means they're relationship- and teamwork-oriented, and that bodes well for fitting in our culture.

If their office is filled with mementos of personal achievements, that probably means they have a lower likelihood of success at WSFS. If they determine what's going on by looking at reports, numbers, charts, and information from their direct reports, that's not a good sign either. But if they talk to people on the front lines and develop trusting relationships so they can hear firsthand what's going right and what's not, that means they'll likelier be successful in our organization.

How do you handle it when people don't fit -- especially those who are otherwise high performers?

Turner: We've faced this issue, and we've developed some rules of thumb. The first is to distinguish between a style difference and a values difference. Style differences not only are acceptable, but they should be encouraged. We don't want to become a Stepford community here, and we want people to take different approaches.

At the other end of the spectrum, there are values differences. If the people are good -- if it's worth sitting down and talking with them -- we give them a chance to change. For some people, the issue is not who they are, it's a product of where they've been. If talking with them doesn't work -- if the behavior is clearly not correctable or it's entrenched -- then you have to help them to exit in a way that recognizes that they're not bad people, they just have a different way of operating that doesn't fit your company. If you transition them in a very fair, friendly way, other people in the organization will think, "If it's ever my time to leave, the company treated that person fairly, and they'll treat me fairly as well."

Ten years ago, when you started using employee engagement as a strategy, it was new to the banking industry and so a competitive advantage. But as more banks implement it, how do you plan to maintain that advantage?

Turner: You still need to come up with big ideas to keep engagement fresh, and we know that there are a lot of other organizations that are progressing along this dynamic with engagement and even with HumanSigma [Gallup's metric that assesses an organization's success in optimizing the employee-customer encounter]. Now we've moved to the concept of improving associate well-being. People spend most of their time in the workplace. If we can find a way to meet people's well-being needs, whether they be Career, Financial, Social, Community, or Physical -- Gallup's five elements of well-being -- that not only will make them more productive, but more engaged, more committed, more likely to stick with our organization.

I'm sure in five years we'll need to find another method, once we achieve excellence at well-being. But that's the value of being a learning organization -- when you know things will make you better at what you do, you're able to learn them and adapt them to your culture.

-- Interviewed by Jennifer Robison

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