Learning to Adapt: Looking Back on 2020

2020 was the year of learning to adapt.

It’s been an extraordinary year for so many reasons. There’s no better time than now, as we’re winding down the year, to pause and reflect on exactly how we’ve adapted in the last 12 months, and what that means for us going forward.

This year, COVID was one of the most significant forces behind our decision-making at Quontic, and helping our current workforce adapt to this brand new remote environment and digital frontier was essential. We were forced to embrace new technologies, like Zoom and other online meeting programs. It was an all-encompassing change. Being able to transact without being face-to-face poses a whole set of challenges that business leaders and employees had to deal with. 

So how did we do it? By having a firm understanding of our company’s culture and our people. Employees need the ability to buy into, not to mention fully understand, Quontic’s mission. Employees need a feedback loop so that they can know that the work they’re doing is consistent with what they are supposed to be doing. We knew we wanted to steer clear from situations like, for example, senior leaders sitting in pockets of the country not knowing what people are doing, or employees not understanding how they fit in. By nurturing a culture where people feel valued, included, and a part of something that’s real even while working remotely, we gave people room to adapt in the ways that our “new normal” requires of them.

Let’s break down what went into nurturing this culture. It’s all about adaptability at every level of the company. 

With our current employees who had to adapt to working from home, we created a line of honest communication. We’ve done a number of anonymous surveys to check in where we ask probing and personal questions like:

      Are you scared to ride public transportation?
       How has COVID impacted your childcare?
      Would you rather be in an office? 
       Do you feel productive working from home?
       Do you have a home environment that feels conducive to work?

We know WFH isn’t always what people signed up for. We know not everyone has a private room in their house to conduct business. But we found that our people are candid and honest when we ask. And when you cull from that information to find trends, you can then make policy changes and strategic decisions based on the real needs of your employees.

Taking the time to interview people one-on-one is also essential. Make sure they are confident with their role requirements; make sure they know how their success is actually measured, and that your managers have quantifiable ways of measuring success. There should be a process for training, including building out a training library that is constantly being updated. Then, make sure your compensation plans are competitive in the marketplace.

And that brings me to adaptability at the recruitment level. You can read a resume and see that a person has the greatest skills, right? But nine times out of ten, you never effectively measure if it’s a personality fit or if the people will adapt to your culture. Well, we’ve implemented management interviewing training so that managers can understand how to recruit. Teach a person to fish… You get the idea.

We’ve started doing some cool things during our interviews, too. We’ve asked candidates to make a TikTok video, for example. You might wonder, “Why would you ask a mortgage underwriter candidate to do a TikTok video?” It’s to test if they’re comfortable doing something outside of their comfort zone, to try new things. We’re seeking to match the right personalities with the right job. Then we build a compensation package for them that’s measured on reportable, actionable data.

Cue our evolution of leadership. Unlike most banks, we’ve hired a Chief People Officer, Mike Lantz. We still have a head of HR, but our CPO is something entirely different. It’s a role for a seasoned executive who helps us build a culture around the people, starting in the weeds with new hires. He’s the person who is intensely focused on matching recruits with the right roles. Our CPO was critical to our ability to adapt to this new remote workforce. 

During the pandemic, we also appointed a Chief Empowerment Officer (CEPO), Casey Christopher. And Casey really embodies what we’re trying to accomplish: a smart, dynamic employee whose sole purpose is to make sure everyone feels seen and empowered, whether it’s through benefits, events, communication, or coming up with other ways people will feel appreciated. 

To be frank, we’re still figuring out exactly what the CEPO role means. But that’s Quontic—we try things on. We know our goal. We remind each other that what matters is progress, not perfection. And we say cheese—because of course we’re going to mess some of this up, but we smile. We tried, and it’s not the end of the world. That’s what it means to evolve from a traditional brick and mortar community bank to an adaptive, digital bank that has a best in class customer service. 

That said, we became the adaptive digital bank before COVID forced us to. The idea behind it was, if we can adapt to the needs of our customers, adapt to tech changes, adapt to trends in the marketplace, and build innovative products and services that are reflective of that, we can empower our customers AND our employees, and ultimately break the system for financial empowerment. 

While these things were in progress, COVID catalyzed them for sure. Now, we have never had a more cohesive team or a stronger culture. And that’s what we’re bringing into 2021.

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