Karen Shannon, VP of Business Consulting/CHRO for Ollis/Akers/ Arney has been in the banking and human resources game for over 30 years. She and her team work with worldwide clients on key business and HR strategies which have resulted in cost savings upward of $7 million.
A key component of Ollis/Akers/ Arney’s business consulting division is human resources services but according to Shannon, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
“A lot of community banks and financial services organizations that are smaller in size don’t have that corporate HR structure behind their businesses and that’s where we come in,” said Shannon. “We work with many community banks in rural Missouri, Kansas and Nebraska where it doesn’t make sense to have an in-house HR person every single day. We come in and use our strategic experience to help them manage unique things that come up.”
The Ollis/Akers/Arney business consulting division, not only provides human resources services but also helps develop a consistent client experience, design leadership development programs, develop diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, and strategic planning to help clients focus on objectives for the coming year, which is especially important during COVID.
Shannon mentions that the business consulting team at Ollis/Akers/Arney has become much busier with the onset of COVID. “We have been helping our clients during the life cycle of COVID.” Initially, that help consisted of crafting business continuity plans so the banks, which were deemed essential businesses, could remain open while most other businesses were shuttered. “We helped determine how they would safely provide those services to their clients.”
Shannon is currently doing monthly leadership trainings for several banks, though COVID has necessitated the change from in person training to live webinars. “It hasn’t changed our ability to deliver a great training program,” said Shannon. “They know we’re still right here for them when they need us.”
The necessitated shift to remote work proved another challenge for banks and financial institutions. But the Ollis/Akers/Arney team helped them navigate the transition smoothly.
“Many smaller banks didn’t have the technology set up for people to be able to work from home. They’d never had to think about it,” said Shannon. “We helped them get those systems in place quickly so that people who were able to work remotely, could.”
But preconceived notions about the mere possibility of remote work for bank employees was the bigger issue and the first that had to be tackled. “There are many positions within banks that, with the right technology and security, can be performed remotely.” She mentioned loan origination as one example. “It’s been really exciting to see how innovative and open-minded people have been to make that work.”
Though COVID has created some unforeseen challenges, Shannon says it hasn’t changed the focus that she and her team have always had. “My passion is developing organizations and developing people. It’s all about putting strategies in place to help the organization grow and develop but it’s also developing the people within that organization. If we can accomplish those two things, that is how we’re able to add tremendous value for our clients.”