Key strives to create an informal and collaborative culture where teammates are encouraged to talk to their managers and regularly express their concerns or point of view so that management can respond.

Key strives to create an informal and collaborative culture where teammates are encouraged to talk to their managers and regularly express their concerns or point of view so that management can respond. To ensure the best possible employee experience, Key also has more formal feedback mechanisms in place.

We asked three human resources leaders, as well as a client and employee experience expert at Key—each of whom is laser-focused on the employee experience—to share some of the processes, tools and technology that support their efforts.

Listening to the Voice of the Employee

“When you come to work, you want to feel valued, supported, heard,” said Alexandra Ohly, Key’s Voice of the Employee Manager. “And so, from my lens, managing our employee forum, that’s exactly what we’re looking to accomplish. At Key, we place a lot of value in truly listening to our employees, understanding their experiences and viewpoints, and hearing all suggestions.”

Key’s Voice of the Employee (VOE) digital platform allows employees to share their ideas and feedback, and interact with one another by voting and commenting on suggestions submitted on the forum.

“It gives an employee the opportunity to be a change agent,” Ohly said. “I think that inclusivity and the feeling that you’re making a direct impact is really powerful. And it not only has a positive effect on employees, but it also drives a better client experience and makes us the best company we can be.”

Ohly manages the VOE platform daily. “We’ve fielded over 4,000 ideas coming directly from employees,” she shared. “And we have a team of administrators from across all business teams working to relay that feedback to the businesses.” All input, she said, is taken into account for continuous improvement opportunities. More than 1,000 ideas have been marked as complete, meaning an improvement or process change was implemented based on the feedback.

Beyond offering a new idea on the platform, employees can search by keywords and find timeline threads of all the ideas that have been submitted, and they can vote to support them and offer comments. “It’s a way of escalating a post. Not all ideas can be implemented, but all feedback is acknowledged and shared with the appropriate businesses. We want to provide visibility and transparency in the process,” Ohly emphasized.

“While everyone who submits an idea receives an email update, we’re looking to go beyond that for those ideas implemented for change—to really recognize the employee feedback we collect that results in solutions made toward an improved employee and client experience,” Ohly noted. That recognition might come in the form of a spotlight article or a personal acknowledgement from executive leadership, she said.

Actions May Speak Louder than Words

Another way Key ensures the best possible employee experience is monitoring data behind the scenes, said Kim Denk, Human Resources Director of HR Operations. “For example, we look at calls to the service center and monitor clicks on our website and intranet,” she said.

“We are interested in knowing what questions people are asking, what information they’re accessing most frequently, and how their behaviors shed light on the employee experience. We’re an operational group, so we use a lot of data. It provides valuable insight for our communications planning and can influence operational changes, as well.”

Employees Weigh in on Benefits

“We know what our peer companies are doing in terms of benefits packages,” said Alan Duffy, Human Resources Director of Compensation & Benefits. “But the idea of trying to understand what’s important to our workforce, what makes it unique, and then tailor benefits packages to our teammates’ wants and needs… I think that’s much more compelling.”

A case in point: “When Key fielded a qualitative survey to employees recently, we captured employee preference at the individual level, and then we’re able to look at it across every demographic,” said Duffy. “So, after that particular survey, we were able to calibrate and communicate our benefits sooner and understand how they were going to affect each demographic.

“We used employee feedback and data to focus on delivering what you might call ‘micro-benefits’—programs that target relatively small groups of employees but are disproportionately valued by them. These include things like a generous parental leave policy, support for caregivers or individual disability insurance, but also programs we introduced during the pandemic to reimburse our essential employees for childcare costs or for internet services and computers to support distance learning, among other things,” explained Duffy.

The Heart of the Matter

Katie Ladd, Human Resources Director of Employee Relations and HR Compliance, who manages Key’s engagement survey, points out: “What we do is more around the heart. It’s not about, ‘Oh, I feel like I’m paid enough’ or ‘I’m satisfied with our benefits.’ It’s more about that emotional connection to the company. That’s what we really need to understand. Feedback from employee studies consistently shows that the higher the level of employee engagement, the higher the company performs.”

Beyond benefits, Key’s feedback mechanisms strive to understand employee perceptions of dozens of other factors, ranging from autonomy and leadership to collaboration, commitment and diversity. “When we understand perceptions of all these drivers, and determine what is most important to engagement, we’re able to design action plans that are tailored precisely to Key employees at this moment in time,” noted Ladd.

As with VOE, an important aspect of Key’s employee engagement survey is the two-way loop, Ladd emphasized. “We’re gathering information from the employees, but it’s really important to go back to employees and say, ‘This is what we heard. This is what we’re interpreting; confirm that with us.’ It’s an interactive process.”

Ladd’s group fielded two short, targeted surveys during the first several months of the COVID-19 pandemic to gauge how employees were feeling and if the company was supporting them enough. “We wanted to know if they felt they could be productive from home, if they had what they needed, what their preferences were going forward,” said Ladd. “We also asked employees to tell us what we were doing well and what we could be doing better. It helped us as we were planning what a return to office would be like.”

Based on this input, Key created a Stay Healthy Playbook and video to address employees’ specific questions about changes in operations and procedures, as well as health and safety concerns. “In the video, we feature people working from home, people working in a branch, and people working in an office so everyone could see what all three experiences were like,” Ladd said.

“Another outcome of our continuous employee feedback during the pandemic was a change in vacation policy,” Ladd added. “We heard through numerous channels that people weren’t able to use their vacation, so we were able to take quick action and change our policy to allow for vacation to carry over into the next year.”