CU Makes Staff’s Financial Wellness ‘A Core Focus’

Employees who are financially secure have less stress and are more productive.

May 11, 2014

Employees who know how to manage their own finances are better equipped to help members do so. In turn, they’re better at building member relationships.

That’s a big reason why McGraw-Hill Federal Credit Union places a strong emphasis on ensuring staff’s financial wellness, says Shawn Gilfedder, president/CEO of the $310 million asset credit union based in East Windsor, N.J.

“We have made improving the financial health and wellness of our membership base a core focus at McGraw-Hill Federal Credit Union,” he says. “In order to accomplish this, first and foremost there must be a clear understanding of the process by those who serve members—our employees.”

All credit union employees participate in some level of financial wellness training, from financial management fundamentals up to a formal personal financial counseling certification.

Shawn Gilfedder
McGraw-Hill FCU CEO Shawn Gilfedder addressed several hundred HR executives during the Human Capital Institute’s 2014 Workforce Planning and Analytics Conference in Alexandria, Va.

“Informed employees are better able to plan and manage their own finances, as well as use what they have experienced and learned to guide members along the proper path for their financial wellness,” Gilfedder says. “With this knowledge they can easily relate to and engage in conversations with members. This permits them to identify opportunities and connect members with resources.

“The experiential learning that is associated with the education is important,” he continues. “It is easier to speak to somebody about buying a car or a mortgage if they have been through the process themselves.”

The training has both improved employer/employee relationships and deepened staff’s ties with members, Gilfedder says.

He recently discussed with Credit Union Magazine how promoting employees' financial wellness benefits staff, members, and the credit union as a whole.

CU Mag: What effect have these efforts had on employees’ financial health?

Gilfedder: We encourage employees to use the products our credit union offers because we want them to understand how our products work and how they benefit our membership base.

We can clearly see in most cases an improvement in an employee’s financial knowledge. We don’t measure individual employee financial performance, but it is clear that the process by which they engage with members has an impact.

The stories they share with us in how they promote financial health and wellness demonstrates that they understand credit union savings opportunities within the interest-rate environment on debt and helping individuals consolidate their debt.

CU Mag: Why is it important to help staff in this way?

Gilfedder: It is much easier to live the mission of an organization and its core values if the individual is personally aligned with them. Providing resources to our employees as part of that process helps set their course and put them in the right financial direction.

When employees are financially secure they experience less stress and are more productive. This creates a win-win environment for both the employee and our organization.

CU Mag: How has your CU benefited as a result of these efforts?

Gilfedder: Our mission statement is focused on providing financial health and wellness in the workplace because we serve both employer- and association-based organizations. Taking this approach has helped us change our value proposition in the marketplace beyond the transaction to providing financial solutions to meet members’ needs.

Results have come in the way that we interact with our market. When employees are personally in line with the culture of the organization, “sales” are not sales. Sales are more related to servicing relationships.

Through this process, a relationship develops between employee and the employer, as well as the employee and our membership base. We spend time servicing relationships, which results in sales, as opposed to seeking out sales in hopes that they turn into relationships.

Our members understand that as a financial cooperative our interest is to improve their financial health and wellness, and not to sell them additional products and services. This process works, and provides us with opportunities for expansion.

Internally, it is clear that our employees recognize that we are committed to them. This understanding translates into a more productive relationship between employer and employee.

CU Mag: How else does your CU support employees?

Gilfedder: We offer free financial planning for employees. This is important to us because we are able to look at the lifestyle that an employee would like to live and better understand how they can plan for it.

In terms of health and wellness programs, we offer several supportive programs to our employees. To help remove stress, we offer chair massages quarterly.

We also partner up individuals into teams where they work collectively towards common weight loss and other health goals. We find that through these efforts we bring healthy breaks in the normal course of their day.

These efforts increase energy, improve moods, and enhance the alertness of employees when they are on the job.

The process of understanding our employees’ needs begins when they are hired. For each new hire we utilize an independent firm to conduct a survey to determine their specific needs. The data is examined and, based on the results, certain actions are implemented.

Understanding the needs of individuals who work for our credit union, as well as the programs we offer, are part of our core culture of helping employees enjoy coming to work.

I learned a long time ago in sales that people have to feel whole first in order to be successful. At McGraw-Hill Federal Credit Union we are not selling, we are servicing relationships.

When we help the individuals who work for us and share in our mission feel good about themselves, this translates into quality engagements with members.

CU Mag: What can happen to an organization when the executive team doesn’t support staff properly?

Gilfedder: I feel sorry for organizations where the executive team does not properly support staff because they are dismissing the importance of culture. These organizations ignore or forget the fact that employees are the ones who directly interact with customers, deliver products, or provide services.

Simply looking at employees as a commodity or as an expense to the organization is shortsighted. In this case an executive team is sending the wrong message to both employees as well as the marketplace.

Instead, they should consider employees as an asset on their balance sheets and recognize the value that they provide.

There should never be a disconnect between management and employees. It is typically the staff that brings solutions to management.

When employers figure out how to better engage the needs of their employees, they will be surprised with the results they will achieve.