Back in 2012, West Plains Bank and Trust Company began taking a deep look at its culture. As President/CEO David M. Gohn says, the bank was growing, and it needed to build up a layer of managers and supervisors who were empowered to make decisions. So it hired an outside consulting company and embarked on an intensive three-year process to refine and communicate the bank’s unique culture. After that, the organization continued to work on culture incrementally, and this emphasis still plays a big role in the hiring processes used today.
“In hiring, it’s more important to get the culture fit right and then teach the banking skills that are needed for the position,” Gohn says. “Certain positions are very specific, but at the entry level, you can teach skills—if you can get the culture fit right.”
In 2014, the bank made another important shift when it implemented an employee stock ownership plan. Employee benefits already included a 401(k) plan with an employer match and a profit-sharing plan. Transforming employees into employee-owners was a sensible next step, Gohn says.
“Now at the end of the year, instead of making a contribution to the 401(k) through the profit-sharing plan, we make a contribution to the employee stock ownership plan,” he says.
“Our value will outperform most 401(k) plans, so the employee will get a better return on their dollar and be better off in retirement.” Plus, the ESOP brings an extra benefit. “Everyone takes extra accountability because they’re thinking like an owner now,” Gohn says.