The "Culture Club" at Machias Savings Bank is not a group of '80s music fans.

It's a committee — made up mainly of people who work in its human resources and marketing departments — that oversees the bank's employee engagement initiatives, including its new Culture Champion program.

Through an open nomination process, everyone at the bank votes to recognize employees who stand out based on their attitude, the exceptional customer experiences they offer, their community involvement and their passion for Machias.

After the votes are tallied, 10 to 12 employees are invited to join the president and chief executive, Lawrence Barker, at an offsite retreat, where they can share their ideas on how to improve the bank's culture. The inaugural event took place last year at the Hilton Garden Inn in downtown Portland, Maine. It included a half-day meeting, a cruise of the Portland harbor, dinner and an overnight stay.

The $1.2 billion-asset bank, based in Machias, Maine, took the feedback it received seriously, which is one of the reasons it ranks among the Best Banks to Work For.

"Employees brought up areas for improvement on a few of our internal processes and initiatives, which made its way into our business planning for 2016," said Danielle Caricofe, the head of human resources.

Time off proved to be a topic of interest at the retreat, and Machias ended up doubling the amount of flex time it gives employees to 16 hours this year as a result. The bank also added to its maternity and paternity leave for new parents.

Machias offers its flex time as a way to help employees maintain better work-life balance, Caricofe said. Employees can use this paid time off — which is separate from the usual vacation and sick days — for when they need to miss work for, say, a family gathering.

Dean Clark, a vice president in business banking at Machias, said he sometimes uses the flex time to watch his son compete in golf. He is among the culture champions expected to be at the second annual retreat that was to take place in August this year, so his suggestions might influence changes meant to make the bank an even better place to work going forward.

In all, 11 employees were invited to join Barker and Caricofe at the New England Outdoor Center in Millinocket, Maine, for an itinerary of meetings and white-water rafting.

Barker said it is important to Machias to keep employees satisfied, enthusiastic and loyal. "Our family-first philosophy is deep within our culture and has a huge impact on our employee engagement."

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