A little paperwork—well, plenty, actually—could not tarnish Monica Baker’s relentless enthusiasm for making PyraMax Bank a great place to work. As chief brand officer, Baker was responsible for completing the lengthy and involved application to the Wellness Council of Wisconsin. The council, a division of the Wellness Council of America (WELCOA), recognized PyraMax as a Platinum Well Workplace, the highest level of an award that names the healthiest workplaces in the United States. For the bank based in Greenfield, Wisconsin, the award came as the capstone of a well-prepared wellness philosophy.
For Baker, this latest distinction is especially meaningful. “It’s like a stamp of approval for doing all the right things,” she says, describing it as a high point in her career. In the application, Baker cited the bank’s implementation of healthful eating practices and workplace exercise. She tackled the strict requirements head-on, which fueled her desire to see the company honored. “The margin for error is next to nothing,” she says. Yet it was also PyraMax Bank’s participatory culture that secured its WELCOA recognition.
The health-minded spirit is contagious, according to Baker. “People are actively engaged in eating right and staying healthy,” she says. “You can’t even bring in donuts now, everyone watches.” The company also conducts an annual employee run, and it’s expected that employees swap the elevators for the stairs.
Yet PyraMax Bank places just as much emphasis on the quality of its workforce as it does on its wellness initiatives. Baker resists making hires simply to fill openings. Instead, she continually looks for beneficial additions to the company’s staff. “When you find that gem that you don’t have a position for, you create one,” Baker says, adding that the company looks at the big picture, not just immediate needs. “Sometimes you get some great hires by doing that, rather than just reacting to the need to make a hire because of a position that’s open at the moment.”
“When you find that gem that you don’t have a position for, you create one. Sometimes you get some great hires by doing that, rather than just reacting to the need to make a hire because of a position that’s open.”
How does she define that ideal candidate? “I look for people that have a broad base of knowledge and aren’t pigeonholed,” Baker explains, describing the drawbacks of a finite position or background. “I like people who aren’t afraid of help,” she adds, emphasizing the need for staff to feel challenged. A willingness to reach beyond the comfort zone is essential to success.
PyraMax Bank enacts Baker’s philosophy by promoting an atmosphere conducive to lifelong learning. That way, employees feel motivated and interested in the company’s goals. “When people don’t network, don’t continue to evolve, and don’t go out and learn different things, they put themselves behind the eight ball,” she says. The company recognizes that employees need to keep up their skill sets to stay competitive in the evolving industry.
Personal development activities encourage employees to invest in themselves, Baker says. PyraMax Bank offers career enrichment opportunities, such as on-site and off-site classes, as well as seminars. The company values work satisfaction, and Baker says that employees can find opportunities to match their ambitions at any level.
The company’s success also depends on its communication, which doesn’t only apply to effectively promoting wellness initiatives. PyraMax Bank considers proactive issues management a priority to maintain a healthy business. “If something needs to be started, changed, or stopped, we can turn on a dime—not a lot of companies can,” Baker says. She appreciates being able to talk to the vice president about an issue and seeing it addressed the same day.
Swift action like that is ideal to Baker, in light of her role overseeing human resources, marketing, and retail lending. “In a bank, you’re often reactive, whether it’s because you’re reacting to fees or rates going up or down,” she says, noting that she actively avoids letting problems fester. “With a proactive approach, your business model changes significantly, because you’re always anticipating and staying ahead of the curve rather than at the tail end where you stop changing and evolving,” she adds.
By the same token, PyraMax Bank never stops thinking about how it can impact the community outside of the office. Its employees make numerous contributions within the communities served by its headquarters and branches, Baker says, working with nonprofit organizations such as Habitat for Humanity and Boys & Girls Clubs. PyraMax Bank donates more than $100,000 to various charities annually, while employees volunteer and donate to their charities of choice.
The company also works with the Wisconsin Housing and Economic Development Authority (WHEDA) to create affordable housing programs for low-income families throughout southeastern Wisconsin. PyraMax Bank is a partner in WHEDA’s Tax Advantage program, which was introduced in 2013. The company also holds an annual fundraiser for the United Way of Wisconsin, Baker says, adding that every year employees also participate in blood drives for the Blood Center of Wisconsin.
This face-to-face time with communities fosters a similar engagement within the workplace. PyraMax Bank addresses the questions or concerns of its customers just as much as it listens to its employees, Baker says. “Whether customers send an e-mail or text alert, they reach someone at the top,” Baker says. “It’s not as if they’re going through layers of people; the top hears and responds to everything.”
For both Baker and PyraMax Bank, the definition of a healthy company culture encompasses much more than food and exercise. An active workforce, open communication, and community engagement all support the company’s well-being.