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PeoplesBank culture engages employees and community

  • PeoplesBank Senior Vice President of Human Resources Janice Mazzallo is shown in the bank's Holyoke headquarters.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    PeoplesBank Senior Vice President of Human Resources Janice Mazzallo is shown in the bank's Holyoke headquarters.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • PeoplesBank, based in Holyoke, has been named by the Boston Globe as one of the 2012 top places to work.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    PeoplesBank, based in Holyoke, has been named by the Boston Globe as one of the 2012 top places to work.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • PeoplesBank, based in Holyoke, has been named by the Boston Globe as one of the 2012 top places to work.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    PeoplesBank, based in Holyoke, has been named by the Boston Globe as one of the 2012 top places to work.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • PeoplesBank President and CEO Douglas Bowen and Senior Vice President of Human Resources Janice Mazzallo were interviewed at the bank's headquarters in Holyoke about PeoplesBank being named by the Boston Globe as one of the 2012 top places to work.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    PeoplesBank President and CEO Douglas Bowen and Senior Vice President of Human Resources Janice Mazzallo were interviewed at the bank's headquarters in Holyoke about PeoplesBank being named by the Boston Globe as one of the 2012 top places to work.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • PeoplesBank President and CEO Douglas Bowen and Senior Vice President of Human Resources Janice Mazzallo were interviewed at the bank's headquarters in Holyoke about PeoplesBank being named by the Boston Globe as one of the 2012 top places to work.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    PeoplesBank President and CEO Douglas Bowen and Senior Vice President of Human Resources Janice Mazzallo were interviewed at the bank's headquarters in Holyoke about PeoplesBank being named by the Boston Globe as one of the 2012 top places to work.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • PeoplesBank President and CEO Douglas Bowen and Senior Vice President of Human Resources Janice Mazzallo were interviewed at the bank's headquarters in Holyoke about PeoplesBank being named by the Boston Globe as one of the 2012 top places to work.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    PeoplesBank President and CEO Douglas Bowen and Senior Vice President of Human Resources Janice Mazzallo were interviewed at the bank's headquarters in Holyoke about PeoplesBank being named by the Boston Globe as one of the 2012 top places to work.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • PeoplesBank President and CEO Douglas Bowen is shown in the bank's Holyoke headquarters.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    PeoplesBank President and CEO Douglas Bowen is shown in the bank's Holyoke headquarters.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • PeoplesBank, based in Holyoke, has been named by the Boston Globe as one of the 2012 top places to work.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    PeoplesBank, based in Holyoke, has been named by the Boston Globe as one of the 2012 top places to work.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • PeoplesBank Senior Vice President of Human Resources Janice Mazzallo is shown in the bank's Holyoke headquarters.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • PeoplesBank, based in Holyoke, has been named by the Boston Globe as one of the 2012 top places to work.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • PeoplesBank, based in Holyoke, has been named by the Boston Globe as one of the 2012 top places to work.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • PeoplesBank President and CEO Douglas Bowen and Senior Vice President of Human Resources Janice Mazzallo were interviewed at the bank's headquarters in Holyoke about PeoplesBank being named by the Boston Globe as one of the 2012 top places to work.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • PeoplesBank President and CEO Douglas Bowen and Senior Vice President of Human Resources Janice Mazzallo were interviewed at the bank's headquarters in Holyoke about PeoplesBank being named by the Boston Globe as one of the 2012 top places to work.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • PeoplesBank President and CEO Douglas Bowen and Senior Vice President of Human Resources Janice Mazzallo were interviewed at the bank's headquarters in Holyoke about PeoplesBank being named by the Boston Globe as one of the 2012 top places to work.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • PeoplesBank President and CEO Douglas Bowen is shown in the bank's Holyoke headquarters.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • PeoplesBank, based in Holyoke, has been named by the Boston Globe as one of the 2012 top places to work.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

At the time, the largest community bank in western Massachusetts was a “good bank with a wonderful historical legacy” but the goal was to “make it a great bank,” said Douglas Bowen, president and chief executive officer of PeoplesBank. The effort drew on “Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap … and Others Don’t,” a management book by James C. Collins that became a best-seller.

“The bank had been progressing well financially and we wanted to add this culture piece based on our values of community engagement, environmental sustainability and employee engagement,” Bowen said. “It seems pretty straightforward and not overly complicated but the execution is very thoughtful.”

PeoplesBank had a banner year in 2012. The organization’s efforts earned it the distinction of being named as a Boston Globe Top Place to Work, based on a survey conducted by independent researcher Workplace Dynamics of Exton, Pa., which asked employees about leadership, communication, training and growth development and workplace environment among other categories.

The bank, which has 18 locations in western Massachusetts, 250 employees and annual gross revenue of $78 million, was ranked 39th of the 40 medium-sized companies in Massachusetts recognized by the Globe. Medium workplaces were defined as having between 100 and 250 employees. The Globe also surveyed companies designated as small, large and largest.

The Globe honor was particularly significant and validating because it came from a third-party conducting a survey of bank employees, Bowen said. PeoplesBank is the only one of the 125 employers recognized by the Globe with its headquarters in western Massachusetts.

“It’s nice to have this seal of approval,” Bowen added. “Very few businesses in western Massachusetts get this kind of acknowledgement.”

Besides the Globe designation, within a three-month span PeoplesBank was also named the Massachusetts Chamber of Commerce Employer of the Year and the Boston Business Journal’s Top Corporate Charitable Contributor in 2012.

Employee involvement

As part of establishing the inviting culture, the bank formed several “think tanks” and involved employees from all levels to pick apart the strategic initiatives and come back with recommendations that would later be put in place, said Janice Mazzallo, senior vice president of human resources at PeoplesBank.

“It helped build relationships across the bank with people who normally wouldn’t get to work with individuals from different lines of business,” Mazzallo said. “It also gave people who were under the radar screen an opportunity to present to senior officers and feel really good that their ideas would actually be heard.”

Karen Buell, assistant vice president eChannel officer at PeoplesBank, oversees its website strategy, social media and mobile electronic banking products and services. She joined the bank in 2006 as part of its management development program, which rotates employees in different departments over a six- to 12-month period to learn all aspects of the operation.

“I got a real understanding of how a financial institution works. It’s one way that PeoplesBank really tries to grow and develop their people,” she said.

Buell has also served on a number of the bank’s think tanks, most recently leading one for online banking with employees from a variety of departments. The think tanks show that the bank’s management are serious about employee involvement in growing the bank and moving it forward, she said.

“Getting other employees’ perspective is a real eye-opener,” said Buell, who works at the company’s headquarters at 330 Whitney Ave. “You can get bogged down in the day-to-day nitty-gritty that you can kind of forget what an outsider may see.”

The bank’s efforts at communicating its vision for overall strategy to employees makes her job easier, Buell said. “When you understand the vision it’s a lot easier to work toward something and you see that what you’re doing makes a difference.”

Since bank officials believe happy employees make for happy customers, they are taking a first-time step at fostering good customer service by bringing in a leadership team from the Ritz-Carlton to train all 250 employees on the hotel’s legendary service, Mazzallo said. She underwent the training as a test six months ago.

In May, bank managers will undergo a full day of training while all other employees will participate in a three-hour session with the Ritz-Carlton trainers.

“The Ritz-Carlton is known for its superior service and that can translate into any environment because it’s all about things each employee can do to recognize customers and make them feel special,” Mazzallo said. “It’s a huge investment in both time and dollars but we feel it’s critical that everyone understand why we feel this is important.”

Another piece of the high-performance culture involves the bank’s commitment to community, Bowen said. For several years PeoplesBank has excelled in the number of hours its employees spent volunteering for about 250 programs and organizations in the Pioneer Valley, chalking up 6,000 hours per year. As part of that volunteerism, PeoplesBank employees are represented on 130 nonprofit boards in the area.

And the bank makes charitable donations to community organizations totaling between $700,000 and $1 million annually, Bowen said.

Environmental impact

And green doesn’t just mean money. PeoplesBank makes positive impacts on the environment a part of its culture by following the recommendations of an employees’ environmental committee, Mazzallo said. Workers donated time on local cleanup projects, while the bank educated staff about environmental issues by bringing in outsiders to teach them about creating more sustainable home and work settings.

Fresh produce is sold during the summer at a farmers’ market at the bank’s headquarters at 330 Whitney Ave.

PeoplesBank has also constructed environmentally sustainable branches, including one in Springfield and another in West Springfield, Bowen said. A new branch with even more green building is scheduled to open this summer at the corner of King and Barrett streets in Northampton, according to Susan B. Wilson, vice president of the bank.

The bank’s lending practices also include more than $60 million to help establish wind, hydro-electric and solar facilities locally and across the state, Bowen said.

“It’s meaningful to our customers and employees and also extends to our core business,” he added. “We settled on this niche of sustainable energy financing and we think it does well for the communities we serve.”

Each year, PeoplesBank conducts a survey of its employees and shares the results with workers “good, bad or otherwise,” Mazzallo said.

“We’re always looking for where did we miss the mark and what can we do to improve,” she said.

Bowen believes the bank’s improvements in many areas highlighted by the Globe’s designation start with what is known as “corporate conversation,” which means keeping all employees informed about plans and how they fit into the larger picture.

“We talk about communication here and it’s communicate, communicate, communicate. That’s been the big reason for success in our culture,” he said. “We communicate our values and objectives and then we recognize success when that happens and then celebrate.”

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