Greenleaf Trust Invests in the Right People

Photo By
Hannah Ziegeler

Kalamazoo, MI

In the wealth management field, where clients’ assets are passed from generation to generation, relationships matter.

“We’re like doctors in a way,” says Kimberly Dudley, human resource specialist at Greenleaf Trust. “Our clients are sharing deep, personal details about their finances with us, and that’s not something you disclose to just anybody.” To combat the rampant turnover common to the field and keep relationships strong through the years, Greenleaf Trust decided to make a huge investment in its most valuable asset: its team.

One aspect of Greenleaf Trust’s strategy has been to keep team members engaged, but Dudley believes the wealth management firm’s exceptional hiring and onboarding practices have garnered the biggest returns. “We spend an incredible amount of time to find the right people to bring on board—it can take [several months]” she says. “But once you hire someone, they’re part of the family, so we want to make sure they’re a perfect fit.”

The search for candidates begins with pre-screening calls conducted by Greenleaf Trust’s in-house recruiter. The company doesn’t outsource this job because it selects for values first and skills second. Only someone who works at Greenleaf would know its culture deeply enough to be qualified to make this determination.

Then, candidates complete competency and strengths assessments that are designed to determine if their abilities meet the needs of the particular team they would join. By this point, Dudley estimates that only two or three candidates would remain, and all that’s left is the final test: The team-fit interview. “We bring them in to meet five people they would be working closely alongside,” she says. “There needs to be a consensus. Everybody needs to feel good about the decision.”

When the search is over, the onboarding process begins. “You have this window of opportunity when somebody starts [in a position] to really bring them in,” says Dudley. “If you miss that, it’s tough to go back.” First, an introductory email is sent out to the whole Greenleaf Trust team, welcoming the lucky new-hire who made it over the hiring hurdles. Along with that, the firm sends a welcome plant, and—if a new family member is relocating—meals, baked goods, and a few helping hands to unload the moving truck.

On their first day of work, every new team member is greeted with warm smiles and a goody bag filled with their favorite treats. Also on their desks is an agenda for their first weeks. Though every agenda is tailored to the individual—no matter which location they call home—each begins with a meeting with the firm’s President, Mike Odar, who will walk them through the company’s history.
“In the past, when we were particularly busy, we tried putting off the onboarding process until things settled down,” says Dudley. “It didn’t end well. Our new team members need that time to get to know everyone, build relationships, and learn about our culture. We have an amazing process.”

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