In order to foster innovation in the industry, leaders agreed teams need to feel comfortable speaking up and voicing their opinions – that’s the upshot from some executives in the auto finance sector. Whether that means collaborating on a whiteboard, establishing a healthy work-life balance, or not punishing inventive ideas that ultimately fell short, companies are actively encouraging creative conditions for their employees in order to stay ahead of the curve.
Auto Finance News asked five executives, “How do you foster a more creative or dynamic work environment?” The following are edited experts from their responses.
— Katherine Adkins, Group Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary at Toyota Financial Services:
“At Toyota Financial Services, we’re fortunate to attract and retain some of the best minds in the industry. But like any company, it’s always important to remain mindful of opportunities for, what we call, kaizen, or ‘continuous improvement.’ We look to encourage and recognize innovation throughout the company in ways that are fun and engaging. For several years, we’ve held an Innovation Fair, which we’ve modeled after the old-fashioned high school science fair, and we’ve had hundreds of innovative projects and ideas submitted and then voted on by team members. It allows us to acknowledge that innovation can come from any part of the company, often from overlooked areas or even seemingly mundane routines, that when reevaluated, can have a profound impact to work efficiency, employee satisfaction, and customer service.”
— Casey Harmon, SVP of Corporate Development at Westlake Financial Services Inc.:
“There are two important things we do at Westlake to create a dynamic work environment where we can innovate. First, we empower people to ‘own’ their jobs and the results they produce. It is much easier to confidently make changes when you know the process, role, or activity backward and forward. Second, we don’t punish so-called ‘failures’ if the ideas and processes that led to them were born out of smart thinking. When we try a change to address a problem (an issue with funding, for instance) and it doesn’t quite work, at least we tried, and we are probably a lot closer to knowing what will work to address the issue. Failures are just steps toward the ultimate solution if you keep your eyes on the objective. That perspective comes from the top of our organization, and it filters on down.”
— Jeff Vander Linden, Chief Lending Officer for AAA Bank:
“We encourage meeting without handouts or paper, and spend time on the whiteboard and/or in conversation. We invite all parties to the table to work on the strategy or goal, and we value all opinions and ideas.”
— Joe Pendergast, Assistant Vice President of Consumer Lending at Navy Federal Credit Union:
“Navy Federal is a place where employees are empowered to make business decisions and provide honest feedback. In an effort to serve our members well, any team member, regardless of position, is encouraged to bring new ideas and questions to the table. Additionally, our leadership consistently communicates corporate results and successes to employees. We’ve found employees are more engaged if they are shown the fruits or their labor. We’ve also implemented a flexible work environment that includes a focus on a healthy worklife balance. All of these things boost creativity and increase employee satisfaction in the workplace.”
— Richard Porrello, Group Director at Huntington National Bank Inc.:
“If appropriate, whenever making a major business decision, I involve a diverse group of organizational peers in evaluating the impact — from both the lens of our customers and colleagues. The result is a dynamic, often deep, dialogue that can bring the team together and enhance our performance. ”
— Tim Russi, President of Auto Finance at Ally Financial Inc.:
“We have a very strong culture at Ally, and that provides the foundation for us to be agile and innovative. Across the company, we have implemented technology and tools to help colleagues and teams share information, and have designed a largely flat organizational structure that promotes collaboration and access to subject matter experts. We also deeply value individual perspectives at all levels of the company, and encourage teammates to share their thoughts, ideas, and knowledge.”
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