Words are just as important as the numbers at Greenleaf Trust, a privately held wealth management firm with specialized disciplines in asset management, trust administration, and retirement planning services.
GREENLEAF TRUST; KALAMAZOO, MI | For a business that deals with people’s livelihoods and the volatility of financial markets, this is a place where team engagement and communication are must-have assets.
“Twelve years ago, Greenleaf Trust formed the Communications and Culture Workgroup to meet monthly to focus on nurturing and continuously improving the way we engender workplace culture,” says Vice President, Director of Marketing Sarah Johansson. Workgroup members are selected from all divisions across the 120-employee company which is spread across five locations. “We are privately held and therefore focused on our clients first, followed closely by teammates, and then shareholders. The efforts of the workgroup make it possible for each Greenleaf Trust teammate to raise their hand each day and say, ‘I was able to do the right thing for our clients.’”
“We have social events, we have wellness events, we have traditions, things that we have done every year,” explains Gabrielle Contesti, business information analyst and a workgroup participant. “For example, the Fall Festival celebrates Halloween with a children’s fashion show and [encourages] our employees to come and see our families grow up every single year.”
There are multiple activities throughout the year—35 last year—for employees to connect. There’s something for everyone—from adult recess, when employees play chalked-out sidewalk games while enjoying a snow cone, to a tailgate featuring Western Michigan University Coach Tim Lester to get everyone excited for the upcoming football season. Employees are encouraged to wear yellow ribbons on Veterans Day and write notes of appreciation to each other on Valentine’s Day. Come the holidays, the team’s sense of philanthropic giving takes over as they purchase and wrap gifts for multiple foster families and culminates in a sit-down holiday dinner for all, “plus one.”
At locations outside of the corporate headquarters, a culture ambassador is responsible for coordinating similar events and initiatives that are meaningful to team members who work there. And there’s cross-location connectivity too, as one wellness initiative staked out a simulated walking trail linking all five locations; for 12 weeks, employees trekked on foot, virtually, to each one.
Johansson is quick to credit Chairman William (Bill) D. Johnston with setting the vision for the culture: “Bill always reminds me: ‘Don’t ever take your eyes off the culture. It’s the most important thing.’”