About U.S. Bank

U.S. Bancorp (NYSE: USB), with $371 billion in assets as of March 31, 2014, is the parent company of U.S. Bank National Association, the fifth largest commercial bank in the United States. The company operates 3,083 banking offices in twenty-five states and 4,878 ATMs and provides a comprehensive line of banking, brokerage, insurance, investment, mortgage, trust, and payment services products to consumers, businesses, and institutions.
When it comes to financial institutions, having a reputation for thoughtful investments, smart strategies, and cost management means everything. It's how you're able to continue more than 150 years of service excellence. It's why you confidently come out of the recent financial crisis stronger than ever—without significant layoffs or business shut downs. And it translates into the pride felt by 67,000 employees across eleven countries who work at U.S. Bank.

How does this leading organization bring its brand promise of “All of US Serving You” to life? It leads with the core belief that everyone is capable of remarkable work. And everyone should feel celebrated and appreciated for the difference they make.

“Why is high school or college seen as one of the last times you're awarded for your efforts? As adults we don't have experiences where you stop to reflect and celebrate,” points out Richard Davis, U.S. Bank's Chairman, President, and Chief Executive Officer. “But that's what recognition provides. There’s not a work environment that isn’t better because of recognition.”

In fact, from all levels of the executive team and beyond, recognition is seen as a fundamental part of building deeper relationships and driving client satisfaction.

from left, Cynthenia Potts-High, Outbound Sales Rep, Elavon; Danielle Rodgers, Outbound Sales Rep, Elavon

“This is an organization that wants to do the right thing, all the way from the top,” says Kelly Osterbauer, Vice President, Corporate Audit Services. “You feel respected, valued, and recognized for your efforts, and that means everything.”

“People at U.S. Bank are very attached to the people they work with and the commitment they have to serving our customers,” explains Stephanie Hoffman, Senior Vice President, Director of Recognition. “These are all personal relationships. Recognition helps us foster a culture that appreciates what people bring and offer every day.”

A framework for success

Heartfelt appreciation has always been an integral part of U.S. Bank's culture. But before a formalized solution, the experience consisted of fifteen lines of business delivering recognition in many different ways. Homegrown solutions included U.S. Bank-branded eCards, spot awards with checks, and a Visa Rewards® card program. Tools that were viewed as cumbersome to use and disconnected from U.S. Bank's service values.

In 2010, a major event called for several lines of business to come together and quickly find a resolution. When U.S. Bank's leadership team wanted to recognize all involved, it became clear they had no easy way to show their appreciation for the great work completed. This raised the question: what would it take to create an integrated recognition solution?

Hoffman explains the specifics of what needed to be met: the right program mix offered through a simple, integrated platform; consistency and fairness across all business lines; global capabilities; robust reporting and budgeting functionality; and a clear tie to U.S. Bank's service values.

“But most of all,” she reinforces, “in a world of spreadsheets and data, it needed to not only allow, but encourage, employees to have fun with the experience.”

According to Kerry Capwell, Vice President, Program Manager for The Best in US, meeting all these needs is why O.C. Tanner was selected as U.S. Bank's recognition partner. “You showed us creative ways to celebrate. Not only through the unique designs of eThanks, but at every touch point.”

Buy-in from all parties

In developing the solution, a working committee was formed with representatives from each line of business. These representatives were empowered to ensure that the unique objectives of each group would be met, deepening their own investment in the program's success.

Working closely with O.C. Tanner's solution designers, creative strategists, and research team, the committee incorporated all stakeholder needs into a blueprint. Feedback was also captured from employee focus groups and surveys to further ensure successful adoption and use. From there The Best in US program was created and launched in February 2012.

At launch, Davis reinforced why recognition and the program was important to him personally, the company, and the culture overall. Manager training further supported the rollout and instilled recognition best practices with a call to leaders to participate within the first ninety days.

from left, COSE winners: Ilias Gerontidis, Catherine Bintner, Bradley Reuvers, Leo Sex, John Richardson, Anastasia Young, and John Lee

“If you have champions within the business lines, you've spread the ownership. With ownership comes investment, and the drive to make it successful.”
—Thom Braswell, Vice President, Creative Manager for The Best in US

A rally cry was created to capture the essence of U.S. Bank's recognition culture. While a broad communication plan supported the launch, recognition continues to be kept top of mind with contests and campaign initiatives—and more than sixty recognition ambassadors help promote recognition practices in their various business units.

Now, every employee has the opportunity to be recognized and understands how recognition is aligned to U.S. Bank's service values. Appreciating everyday effort is easy with fun, creative cards and buttons (available on and offline). The Thank-a-Banker program allows customers to send eButtons to employees for great service, and through a nomination process, individuals and teams get recognized for great work. The Teamwork at Its Best (TAB) award provides the opportunity for the top teams in the organization to be recognized. Finally, a best of the best, Circle of Service Excellence (COSE) program continues to run four times a year calling out the great work of eighty associates from across the business.

The result? Thousands of U.S. Bank employees are connecting and celebrating at any given time. “It starts to create a culture of happiness,” explains Capwell, “which just grows every year.”

Direct impact to the bottom line

But more than just feelings of goodwill are being spread. A recent analysis of recognition and customer service survey scores revealed that the more an employee was recognized, the higher the customer satisfaction survey scores. Another correlation found that the more recognition given and received at a business unit level, the lower the turnover.

Program success is being measured in other ways. Leaders talk extensively about how The Best in US capitalizes on technology while allowing for a personal touch.

“It's visual. It's immediate,” points out Caroline Fortmeyer, Vice President, Electronic Services. “And, it helps send the message ‘I recognize that what you just did was important and I liked what I saw.’ It helps keep people on track and builds up their confidence, which perpetuates even more great work.”

“You can’t be a good customer-focused employee if nobody's focusing on you,” explains Jeannie Fichtel. As the leader of 2,200 employees in 24-Hour Banking and Retail Support, Fichtel takes recognition seriously—and makes it a daily habit. Every day at 5 P.M., a reminder in her calendar pops up asking, “Who did you thank today?”

“The reason that we're in the position that we are in today is because we're continually doing the right thing in small ways and that just builds and builds.”
—Leo Sex, Securities Specialist, COSE Award Winner

The road ahead

While the program launched with deep leadership support, training, and communication outreach, the focus of the first year was on getting the message out and generating excitement. Now, it's moved to deepening the education on quality versus quantity of recognition, growing unique users, and continuing to encourage regular use of the platform.

Throughout, Hoffman and team remain committed to continuing and deepening the experience The Best in US creates. To that end, the team is headed out for a series of road shows. Starting with the major operation centers, their goal is to further educate and train on effective recognition practice.

“As we continue to give visibility to all the great things people do, I can’t wait to see our culture of appreciation continue to build,” says Thom Braswell, Vice President, Creative Manager for The Best in US.

For Davis, who started as a bank teller himself, it reinforces what he's always believed—giving appreciation is just as fun and affirming as receiving it.

“Recognition is first for the individual, a chance for them to be called out for doing something special. The best part though is for the person giving the recognition. You have the chance to take the moment, call out something special, present it, and celebrate it in front of other people.”

Best-in-class Communication Ideas

Continually finding new ways to keep recognition top of mind is where The Best in US team excels. Throughout the past two years, they've launched several targeted campaigns and used every opportunity to celebrate success. Braswell and Capwell share best practices that can be leveraged by any program owner.

from left, Kerry Capwell, Vice President, Program Manager for The Best in US; Stephanie Hoffman, Senior Vice President, Director of Recognition

Make It Count Challenge

For a set period, every employee was challenged weekly by the executive team to recognize their peers with a quality nomination or eThanks. Each month each employee who did this went into a drawing to receive 1,000 points. Power users and winners were also called out. This challenge was followed up with the Make Recognition Stick campaign, which provided fun videos and tools to reinforce the message of setting recognition goals to make it a habit.

Build a Button contest

All employees were invited to come up with a winning design that would be made available for every employee to appreciate great work. “We had hundreds of submissions ranging from buttons that featured pipe cleaners and construction paper to creations using Illustrator. “The best part,” explains Braswell, “is that it gave employees a hands-on experience that connected them to the program and brought to light the messages people wanted to hear.” The winning selections were added to the online program and then turned into physical buttons sent out organization-wide.

Celebrating the One Million Milestone

Leveraging reporting forecasting, Capwell was able to track when the one millionth eCard would be sent. That week, they identified the location (Minneapolis), team (Law Division), and the person who sent it and who received it. Then the surprise celebration began. “We sent balloons, flowers, and an assortment of sweet treats,” she explains. “A ‘Millionth eThanks’ banner was put up. Giant buttons that said [I Sent the Millionth eThanks’ were made, and CEO Richard Davis, along with James Chosy, EVP of the Law Division, arrived to help celebrate the accomplishment.”