Great Western Bank employee helping a customer at the Drive Thru window.

A Renewed Focus on Our Employees

We have always recognized that our employees are our greatest strength, and 2020 certainly solidified our belief. It was a year unlike any other, which meant normal practices were no longer good enough.

“In an abundance of caution” has become a coined phrase to describe today’s environment, but the relevance was further translated as we assessed how we live and work. In an abundance of caution, we looked for solutions to keep everyone safe: such as sending 50% (over 850) of our employees home to work remotely, equipping our team members with the resources necessary to continue providing outstanding customer service, taking a conservative approach to lobby traffic, and limiting in-person interactions to control the spread of COVID-19 while maintaining business operations. We were careful and deliberate in all decisions, continuously taking action to protect our employees.

However, we quickly recognized protecting our employees from a novel virus wasn’t the only issue we needed to address to better support their overall well-being. The civil unrest that our nation endured this year brought an audible cry – one that echoes a need for salient discussions for unification. In full transparency, we feared facing this topic. A fear of misstepping in constructing the right sentences or that the message would not effectively capture burdened emotions. The discussion around race relations is certainly not simple and proposing a simplified approach is not only insensitive but erodes the intentionality behind necessary change. And while we don’t have all the answers, we can emphasize the progress we’ve made toward our holistic vision for diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) as an employer. Here are a couple of the supportive actions we took this year:

  • We more than doubled the size of our Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Council to ensure we are championing a more diverse work environment and are better positioned to cultivate creativity, unique thinking, reciprocal respect, and improved decision-making through a more comprehensive worldview.

  • We gave all employees a Paid Volunteer Day to provide more opportunities to become immersed in a new environment, where involvement would create a positive impact toward the movement of change.

We have a strong commitment to enhanced employee engagement, through nurturing a diverse work environment. Are we exactly where we want to be in relation to our holistic DEI vision? No – but we are making concerted efforts to advance our objectives. With the inherent promise to build on fairness and equity, and a commitment to embrace the rich differences of those around us, we can and will cultivate meaningful change. This year we simply worked to be just a little better each and every day, and invited our employees to continuously look for areas of opportunity. In building upon and enhancing our culture this year, we fortified our team – one that had already shown incredible strength and unwavering perseverance, and proved it over and over again.

On August 10, 2020, Iowa and other parts of the Midwest were hit with a devastating derecho storm. This rare in-land hurricane brought 110 mph winds that flattened 10 million acres of crops, caused hundreds of thousands of residents to be without power for multiple days and left an overwhelming amount of damage. Iowa is not just a state in our footprint, it is home to many of our customers and home to 21% of our employees. As a member of these communities, we reached out to help lessen the burden and ease the struggles our employees faced as a result of this storm. Through an Employee Relief fund, we helped dozens of our team members with financial assistance to ensure they were safe and stable. Even more impactful than our corporate contributions was having employees from across our footprint extend their hands to offer assistance – be it financial with a donation or physical with volunteerism, the support (especially amid a pandemic) was inspiring.

As individuals within our organization, we have a shared accountability to create an inclusive and supportive environment. As an employer, we have an obligation to provide a safe environment. And this year, we had a renewed focus to help us accomplish these priorities.

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