Tattoos, cellphones and volunteerism: The way to millennials' hearts

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Sarah Rosley always aspired to pursue a career in the financial services industry, and the New Hampshire native set her sights on working for Savings Bank of Walpole after following its social media accounts while in college.

The $415 million-asset bank uses Facebook and Instagram to highlight its sponsorship of local events, such as a garden tour and a Fourth of July fireworks display. One summer post touts how bank employees have spent 1,440 hours helping local organizations. There are also pictures of employees dressed up as black cats for a trick-or-treating event in July.

It was content like this that charmed Rosley, so much so that the bank was the "first and only place I applied to" after graduating from Keene State College in 2016 with a degree in management, she said.

"I think that was just something that I really wanted to be part of ... giving back and having an institution that would support and really encourage that," said Rosley, who is now 22 and works as a mortgage loan officer at Savings Bank of Walpole.

Rosley is like a lot of millennials. And though her demographic group is known for wanting to work for companies that focus on people as much as profit, it is a sentiment that other age groups increasingly express as well.

Savings Bank of Walpole has embraced this, ramping up its community involvement and social media efforts and tweaking internal policies to better appeal to current and prospective employees.

"We know that millennials are really interested in making a difference," said Mark Bodin, who had been the bank's chief financial officer for eight years before becoming president in July. "We found the ability to go beyond just being a workplace, but to also kind of connect with what's important in people's lives. I think it matters more and more to young people."

Attracting younger workers has always been important to the bank, but it has been more purposeful about demonstrating this in recent years by rethinking some longstanding rules that feel outdated, Bodin said.

For instance, last year the bank started letting employees use cellphones in branches when no customers were around. It also changed its policy on tattoos last year, allowing small ones to be visible during the workday.

"A lot of young people have tattoos," Bodin said. After noticing some employees struggling to comply with a prior policy to keep their ink covered while they worked, "we just realized that it wasn't realistic anymore."

A social media committee was formed about a year ago, after executives asked a team of younger employees to help the bank strategize ways to improve in that area. One of the new tactics it hopes will help it reach a larger audience is posting employee spotlights, promotions and anniversaries on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.

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This summer, the bank's Facebook followers tripled, to more than 1,800, after it made changes like creating a community event calendar.

In a recent move to appeal to millennials, Savings Bank of Walpole created the position of community engagement coordinator. One aspect of the job will be to determine the types of volunteer activities employees want to participate in. For instance, most of the bank's community service efforts have involved helping youth organizations. That could expand because some employees have expressed an interest in serving the elderly, Bodin said.

"We believe that working for an employer that not only does good for the community, but aligns with your own values and gives you opportunities to volunteer is a strong retention tool," Bodin said. "And we have low turnover."

The community engagement coordinator, who will also head the social media committee, will take on a bigger role in coming few years as the bank expands the organizations it supports, he said.

Bodin's hope is that Savings Bank of Walpole continues to attract more young people like Rosley.

"You bring in the right people. You have the right path and opportunities for them. They become your leaders," he said.

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