Gaining and Retaining with Central Bank of the Ozarks

A leadership program at Central Bank of the Ozarks designed to retain and promote employees is now a recruitment tool. The two-year program showcases the company’s culture of valuing and investing in its staff.

By Juliana Goodwin

Mar 2024

Central Bank
Photos courtesy Central Bank of the OzarksThe Central Bank of the Ozarks team has created a culture focused on investing in one another to retain and promote employees.

In 2015, a strategic planning session at Central Bank of the Ozarks revealed there was a need to develop leaders and have a succession plan within the company.

“We were going to have a lot of upcoming retirements, but we didn’t have a leadership program that would help with succession,” says Joselyn Baldner, president and CEO. So, in 2016, they launched Central Connect, a two-year program for both current and emerging leaders.

The first year is designed to expose employees to all aspects within the business. Each month a program day is hosted, highlighting the different areas of the bank and how they contribute overall to the team and banks financial performance. Class sizes range from 12 to 14 employees.

The second year is focused on leadership development and what it means to be a community banker. Guest speakers and community partners help with some of those events. The company is committed to being a community banker and that means “boots on the ground” volunteering at Habitat for Humanity or other local nonprofits.

“We are a community bank, and we are committed to our community through our time, talent and dollars so our goal is to teach this class what that means in action,” she says.

Central Connect has been a success, resulting in growth and development of team members. In the most recent class, all but one person moved on to a different position. Employees must apply for the program and have a recommendation at the bank.

Central Bank is a large company, but small businesses can also implement their own version or help develop leaders within because Springfield has amazing community partners who are willing to share knowledge, she says. “Maybe you don’t have enough in your organization to launch a  program like this, but we have enough resources in the community that if you can identify what individuals need to know, then I think you can identify people in the community who can assist you in that specific area of your plan,” Baldner says.

They are getting ready for the fifth cohort.

Kendal Dingus, vice president in commercial lending, went through the inaugural program when he was a branch manager in the retail banking industry. Dingus wanted to grow his career but didn’t know what avenue made sense. He discovered it during Central Connect. Within a year the program, he transitioned to mortgage lending.

He says the experience was an in-depth, immersive look at every aspect of the business, but also a commentary on company culture.

“It showed me the company was making a commitment to employees for their growth and career planning,” Dingus says. “That was a huge takeaway.”

He gained a plethora of knowledge, even visiting a call center on one of the program days. The relationships he built were key.

“It helped strengthen me,” Dingus says. “I got to know Joselyn and she has become an amazing mentor.  Culture wise, Central Bank is all about helping employees, giving back to community, personal and career growth. Central Connect is a testament to how much they value employees and community.”

While it was launched to develop leaders within the company, Central Connect is now also used as a recruiting tool. “When you can demonstrate to employees that career path and development are a focus for us, it demonstrates we care about employees and are invested in you,” Baldner says.

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