Employee Turnover can be a problem for many banks, but when you have 188,000 employees and your turnover rate reaches 48 percent, the situation takes on significant proportions.

That was the case at Bank of America when it set out in 2001 to improve employee satisfaction and retention with an ongoing corporatewide annual integrated recognition program consisting of several key programs. (See box below.) Its first step was to create a customized Web site portal with extensive help from its vendor partner, Maritz. Once the structure was in place, all associates were encouraged to start practicing basic recognition by thanking others for a job well done with an online card or note card known as the Spirit Celebration Card. The company made it clear that they expected 100 percent participation in this level of recognition.

Managers were asked to reinforce the recognition culture by beginning each team meeting by thanking associates, acknowledging recipients and senders of Spirit Celebration Cards, and reminding people of other various recognition options. Senior leaders added their support by encouraging people to nominate their peers and by selecting the “best of the best” for an annual Award of Excellence incentive trip — the most coveted reward. This spring, these honored employees will be feted during 10 trips to such locations as the Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego and the Fairmont Mayakoba in Riviera Maya, Mexico.

All employees, from the top down, are encouraged to use recognition in a timely manner, to recognize associates at all levels, and to make their recognition public. The results? Employee satisfaction scores increased from 50 percent to 85 percent, and turnover was cut in half, to 24 percent. Now those are numbers to bank on.

Bob Nelson, PhD, is president of Nelson Motivation Inc.; a frequent presenter to management teams and conferences; and a best-selling author of several books, including 1001 Ways to Reward Employees and The Management Bible. www.nelson-motivation.com

Bank of America's Spirit Program


  1. SPIRIT CELEBRATION CARDS recognize individuals or teams for behaviors exemplifying The Bank of America Spirit — the company's core values. These can be awarded by anyone to anyone, either by sending an online or hard-copy card. The company expects all employees to use this tool.

  2. SPIRIT REWARDS are for associates who go above and beyond. Spirit Rewards points (1 point = 5 cents) are awarded by managers and leadership teams and can be redeemed for merchandise on the company's Web site. The average award is $250.

  3. SPIRIT AWARD OF EXCELLENCE is the bank's most prestigious honor, given for significant results and productivity gains achieved over the year. Associates are selected by each division's business leadership team and recognized during a four-day event at different tropical resorts. All associates are eligible for this award; only about the top 1 percent win.