Clear communication from management made the changes palatable to employees, McCausland says.
“We went out for open enrollment and it was the best year we’ve ever had,” she says. “The HR department communicated everything we knew. Then we realized our success was because we communicated so well.”
Communication is an invaluable tool, Soltis agrees, particularly in tough economic times. “You don’t want employees wondering why there are no raises or why benefits are changing,” she says. “If they’re not getting a lot of communication, they’ll dream up something and it’s usually worse than reality.”
At TruMark Financial, employees have plenty of opportunities to ask questions and get candid answers from management. Roundtable question-and-answer sessions give staff live access to executives, says McCausland, while anonymous employee surveys provide opportunities to weigh in on credit union management, morale, and other key areas along with compensation and benefits.
The surveys, administered by a third-party consultant, also contain open-ended questions that vary from year to year. Management then assesses the results and responds to any criticisms that emerge.
The results confirm McCausland’s high regard for TruMark Financial. “We invest a lot in our employees and we want to keep the talented employees in the credit union,” she says, noting that TruMark Financial provides leadership development and tuition reimbursement along with an employee recognition gala, service awards, and other events and programs designed to honor, develop, and retain staff.
“I’m not going to tell you we haven’t let people go, but it’s rare,” she says. “They’re our greatest asset and we treat them that way. People stay here, and they’re banging on the door to be a part of this organization.”
America’s First Federal also shows staff appreciation with lunches, team-building retreats, and other friendly games and prizes to foster a collegial environment.
A popular event, “blue jean day,” allows employees to pay $5 or $10 to wear jeans. And all the money goes to nonprofits or community causes, such as tornado relief.
Employees appreciate the opportunity to dress down and to raise money for good causes, says Connor. During a recent blue jean day, the atmosphere at branches was so festive, he says, “you’d have thought I’d walked around handing out hundred-dollar bills.”
Treating employees as assets is an investment that TruMark Financial’s management team believes brings a solid return. “Our philosophy here is keeping the lines of communication open and providing employees with the tools and resources they need,” McCausland says.
Other credit unions, particularly those that continue to stall on wage increases despite relatively healthy operations, should take heed, suggests Soltis. Rewards don’t have to be excessive, and enrichment programming can reflect the current economic situation with lunch seminars on work-life balance or time-management lessons. Work environment, corporate leadership, and effective communication, she explains, can all help maintain morale and engagement levels.
If credit unions don’t remain aware of morale levels and act when morale declines, says Soltis, “they’re definitely going to start losing people when other industries start hiring. A lot of employees are watching and waiting. But credit unions that aren’t ready to reward employees in dollars do have other options.”