CUNA is now America's Credit Unions.
A stronger voice to advance the credit union industry.
What does it take for employees to fully engage in the workplace?
In a nutshell, they need to feel cared about, says Ashley Keegan, vice president of people at $232 million asset Electro Savings Credit Union in St. Louis.
“They want to work in an environment where they feel that their employer has their best interests at heart and in mind,” Keegan says. “They want to be encouraged to use their voice, making them feel valued and heard. They also want meaningful work.”
Companies can show they care about employees by having a fully supportive and authentic culture, with strategies and policies to back that up, she says.
Electro Savings received a CUNA HR and Organizational Development Council Excellence Award in 2022 for its “Culture and COVID” program, recognizing the credit union’s efforts to engage employees during the pandemic.
“We centered our focus on creating and implementing programs to improve recognition, work-life balance, self-care and engagement,” Keegan says.
One of Electro Savings’ most notable accomplishments within the program was its launch of a digital peer-to-peer recognition platform, “Power of Applause,” a name chosen by employees. Within the platform, employees send accolades to each other and receive points they can redeem for cash through payroll, gift cards, products, events, or donations to charity.
“They can say things like, ‘Thanks for helping me out with this project’ and send that employee 100 points,” Keegan says. “Staff also gets points for certain activities.”
For work-life balance, they can take a walk and receive 50 points or read a book for 100 points, she says. If they want to come to work two hours later or leave early, they can do so by redeeming 2,000 points.
“The site provides me with data on how often employees are recognizing each other, which tells me something about their engagement levels,” Keegan says.
Employees are consistently using the Power of Applause platform, with an average of 103 peer-to-peer recognitions being sent per month.
Powered by WorkTango, the dedicated site can be customized and integrated with Slack, a communication tool that feeds into a mobile app. Because the peer-to-peer platform is integrated into Slack, employees get a notification on their cell phone in real time when someone recognizes them and gives them points.
The site has a feed where employees can see all the recognition that’s being sent.
“They can even ‘high five’ the post, which sends the employee who received the recognition an extra five points,” she says. “This recognition hub puts it on display for all staff to see, and employees love that global recognition.”
Other aspects of Electro Savings’ “Culture and COVID” program included the implementation of a flexible work arrangement: 59% of credit union positions are now fully remote and 92% are hybrid capable.
“To prevent employee burnout that surfaced from the impact of the pandemic, we set parameters for when emailing and meetings were to occur,” Keegan says. “This allows us to stay true to our culture, and it provides employees with a better work-life balance.”
The credit union’s employee engagement committee, Hype, kept the environment “light and fun” during the pandemic by hosting events and activities to boost staff morale, she says. Employees have also enjoyed “meeting free” Fridays, which sets a positive tone for them going into the weekend.
“Our efforts proved successful as we made the St. Louis Post-Dispatch’s list of top workplaces and recorded our lowest turnover rate in seven years,” Keegan says.
Her advice for leaders challenged with engagement issues: Be creative and unafraid to develop progressive programs that challenge norms.
“Foster an environment that encourages employee input and feedback,” Keegan says. “Most importantly, be accepting of the feedback—use it for a source of good to improve your company. Look at all business decisions through the lens of your culture. If it's not serving your culture positively, should the company be doing it?”