A people strategy

A people strategy

Direct Federal Credit Union’s ‘Culture Crew’ champions achievement-based collaboration.

August 1, 2019

Direct Federal Credit Union in Needham, Mass., formed an internal team to give employees a voice in the direction, planning, and engagement of talent.

The team’s mission: Serve the credit union’s “people strategy,” one pillar of its strategic planning process.

The “Culture Crew” aims to improve communication throughout the credit union, ensuring all employees are supported in their day-to-day work. It also acts as a liaison among stakeholders to ensure the organization’s mission and core values become second nature.

“When our CEO, Joe Walsh, took over in 2014, he was committed to making Direct Federal one the best places to work in our area--a place where people work until they retire,” says Erin Proulx, training and development manager for the $686 million asset credit union. “To do that, he needed to find the pulse of the organization.”

Despite several programs and initiatives, Direct Federal had never scored above the 70th percentile in the employee engagement category on its employee surveys.

“Employees didn’t feel empowered,” Proulx says. “To move us forward toward our common goals we moved toward what Joe called ‘achievement-based collaboration’—one team working collaboratively toward a common goal with employees serving as our champions.”

Following an application process, Walsh and Mary Ann Boari, Direct Federal’s vice president of culture and alignment, selected nine Culture Crew members.

The group identified seven focus areas:

1. Communication. It implemented monthly town hall meetings with Walsh to share and discuss progress on strategic goals and current events. It also introduced a monthly newsletter highlighting collaboration successes.

2. Recognition. Reintroduced the “Direct Difference Reward Program” that recognized employees for exhibiting 12 behavior “norms” that serve six organizational values (“Six key values”).

The credit union also designed a “Flash Reward” program to recognize employees who have gone above and beyond expectations and introduced a Member Services Appreciation Week.

3. Collaboration. Implemented interdepartmental breakfast meetings to exchange knowledge and information, and offered team-building events throughout the year.

4. Empowerment. Opened a “Fostering Open Communication” workshop required for leadership to all employees.

5. Measurement. Developed an internal employee engagement survey.

6. Orientation and training. Implemented a buddy system and a branded welcome package for new hires.

7. Social climate. Introduced a weekly snack cart.

The Culture Crew has made a big difference at Direct Federal. Employee engagement scores are now above the 90th percentile.

“Employees feel like they are really driving our organization forward,” says Proulx.

She notes that change required courage on management’s part.

“They had to be willing to give up some control,” Proulx says. “That’s not easy. It requires a lot of trust. It takes a real commitment from everyone in the organization. That’s what made this work. Everyone's a stakeholder now."

Six key values

Direct Federal Credit Union identified six values and 18 behavioral norms in defining its employee culture.

Value Norm
Drive Be proactive. Be bold. Achieve goals.
Integrity Do the right thing. Be honest. Honor commitments.
Resilience Stay calm. Be creative. Never quit.
Engangement Talk. Listen. Be open-minded.
Competency Take ownership. Build knowledge. Improve the work.
Teamwork Be selfless. Be supportive. Collaborate and celebrate.