Jason Ford, chief operating officer of Harvester Financial Credit Union in Indianapolis, knows he’s in the right role every morning.
“I wake up and say, ‘I get to go to work today,’” Ford says. “Every day I get to come to work and try to figure out how to help people live a better life.”
Ford believes in investing in employees so they gain the same feeling about work. Funds are tight at the $54 million asset credit union, so Harvester Financial helps employees find scholarships to support participation in off-site events. More than 60% of staff have attended a conference or multiple-day off-site training.
Investing in people and ideas also led to the creation of “Jason’s Library,” which consists of Ford’s collection of books on personal and professional development. Employees can use Harvester Financial’s intranet to check out the books.
“It’s easy to say, ‘I’ll go to a conference,’ but this identifies who wants to develop themselves,” he says. “We fast-track those people for additional training.”
Ford actively encourages staff to share what they learn from personal development and networking. Among the employee ideas that turned into a credit union product is the “no credit check” holiday loan offered to people who have been Harvester Financial members for at least 12 months. The loan program, which won the 2018 Louise Herring Philosophy-in-Action Award from the Indiana Credit Union League, breaks even financially but pays off with deeper member relationships.
“We had a grandmother who was crying when she got the loan, because this let her buy Christmas for her grandkids,” Ford says. “She’d never been able to do it before.”
Ford is enthusiastic about finding solutions, solving problems, and helping employees find reasons to laugh and smile at work. High on his list of simple successes is a picnic table purchased for $75 that sits on green space outside a branch. The table is now a gathering site for yoga, meals, and activities.
“We created more happiness with employees than when you put money into major investments,” he says.
Ford’s wife, Tanya, coordinates their church’s involvement with a local food pantry, where several family members volunteer. He sees that as a natural extension of “people helping people.”
“We’re both passionate about food insecurity for families,” Ford says. “When your work core values and your personal core values align that closely, it’s not hard to balance them.”