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Happiness Month at BB&T has ended, but company officials said the mindset of appreciating staff and ensuring employees are happy is an everyday mission for the bank with roots in Wilson.
“Obviously the client experience of distinction is what we’re going for, and you can’t have that without a great associate experience,” said Dontá Wilson, BB&T chief client experience officer. “How you treat your associates correlates to how they’ll treat the clients, and we try to treat them well, so if we can provide our associates the skills and experiences for authentic happiness, it will transfer to every client conversation.”
August was the second annual happiness month for the chain after CEO Kelly King decided in 2016 to incorporate Seligman’s theoretical model of happiness — positive emotion, engagement, relationships, meaning and accomplishments, or PERMA — to the company’s 3,600 employees. BB&T incorporated the mindset into training, launched a website full of tools for employees and debuted Happiness Month.
“I’ve heard different stories from teams that have done scavenger hunts, cornhole tournaments, hula hoop contests and ping-pong tournaments. They’ve had different outings with their teams outside of work,” said BB&T Market President and Senior Vice President Wes Berry. “One team had a spirit week where they were encouraged to wear clothing from their favorite teams. One of the members is a former soccer standout, so he wore his old Barton jersey he used to wear in games years ago.”
The employee breakroom on the seventh floor of the BB&T towers on Nash Street has had a ping-pong table all summer long, and Berry said the addition will stick around.
“Part of our vision is for employees to learn and grow and be fulfilled in their work, and happiness is a core element of being fulfilled in work,” Berry said. “When we’re happy, we’re more productive. When our associates are happy and fulfilled in their work, they are going to do a better job — not only for our clients, but serving the community.”
Berry has been with BB&T for 18 years, including five years as the market president in Wilson, while Dontá Wilson has 20 years with the company. Both said having the encouragement and support to foster happy employees from the executive level down has been a blessing.
“If you look at the science and study PERMA, associate well-being is associated with people who are more optimistic, more creative, more productive and better at problem-solving,” Wilson said. “Happy associates live longer, and studies show that if you’re optimistic, you have a better chance at any health issues you’re facing. The science with a fun environment is what we’re targeting, but getting the word out beyond BB&T to other companies is part of our goal because we want to improve our overall communities.”
Berry said it’s obvious the emphasis on happiness has reduced associates’ stress.
“It is a great feeling to see everyone laughing, smiling and having a good time together,” he said. “We take our work seriously and we’re committed to our clients and the community, but to be able to take a few minutes to enjoy each other in a fun atmosphere is great. And it is really rewarding to see the look on the associates’ faces when they get the chance to do something a little bit out of the ordinary.”