Employee recognition program front and centre of major bank merger

Heritage Bank and People’s Choice Credit Union has launched an online values-based employee recognition program called Shine to some 1,900 staff nationwide.

10 May 2023

The opportunity for employees to recognise and praise each other is playing a crucial role in cementing a $23 billion bank merger.

The day that Heritage Bank and People’s Choice Credit Union came together, the merged organisation launched its new online values-based employee recognition program called Shine to some 1,900 staff nationwide.

And it was more than enthusiastically embraced.

In the first month there were 1,214 entries – averaging almost 40 per day. Already an incredible 41.5% of employees have engaged with the program, either by sending or receiving a recognition.

“A crucial, ongoing component of our merger is taking two businesses and forming one team with one positive culture,” said Darren Stephens, Chief People Officer of Heritage and People’s Choice.

“The cultural aspect of the merger was an absolute priority from the very beginning which is why we developed Shine and it has exceeded all expectations.

“It’s providing an online community where people can reach across the country and pat their new colleagues on the back. This makes everyone involved feel good and starts building relationships. Importantly it’s not management driven, it’s person to person – and the feedback has been very, very encouraging.”

Shine encourages employees to recognise their colleagues for outstanding service and strengthening risk culture and behaviours, based on the organisation’s values of passion, integrity, trust, care, authenticity and respect. 

They can either send an eCard to a colleague, acknowledging and celebrating their actions, or nominate a colleague or team for a Shine Award, which recognises people who go above and beyond expectations. The program also recognises length of service milestones and anniversaries.

“You can go into the system and read what people are saying and it’s really uplifting,” Mr Stephens said.

The merger of Heritage and People’s Choice was a major milestone in Australian banking, with the new organisation having 720,000 customers and assets of more than $23 billion.

“Mergers of this scale are incredibly complex, with many activities competing for priority, but for us recognising, celebrating and supporting the central role our people play in the success of our business is paramount,” Mr Stephens said. “Without our people doing a great job, we don’t have a business.”

Indeed, Shine is only one aspect of larger program to prioritise people through the merger.

“With both organisations being passionately customer-focused, the cultures and values of Heritage and People’s Choice were already closely aligned. That was a key driver of the merger and something that had to be sustained,” he said. 

All employees, who are all also customers, were engaged from the very start of the merger process, some 15 months before it was formally approved, with both organisations providing specialised communication programs, with openness and honesty paramount.

A unified, in-house Merger Champions program was also developed, with staff volunteering for additional training to better communicate with teammates and answer questions. 

Further, by ensuring all employees were very well informed about the rationale and benefits of the merger, staff then played an essential role in engaging customers in the lead-up to the final vote.

Regular employee surveys and other feedback systems were used to track staff attitudes and knowledge.

“One of our advantages as a customer-owned banking organisation is that we have an incredibly passionate and committed workforce, who care deeply about helping our customers to create a better future for themselves,” Mr Stephens said. 

“We want to bring all that positive energy, from both sides of the merger, into one and Shine is definitely helping. Through simple acts of appreciation, it’s building connections and fostering a sense of One Team.”

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