From left: Charlene Henson, Sound Credit Union; Laura Eblen, Mazuma Credit Union; and Jonathan Brouse, Mountain America Credit Union.

Re-engage your frontline staff

Shifting branch environment requires leaders to reconnect with employees.

September 26, 2022

The pandemic led to widespread employee burnout, and the uncertain economy is creating further anxiety among both staff and members. This makes it crucial to re-engage with employees and focus even more heavily on the member experience. 

“The biggest thing we can do is communicate, communicate, communicate,” says Jonathan Brouse, vice president of member service at Mountain America Credit Union in Sandy, Utah. “Ask how people are doing. People need regular communication, and the need leaders to have an optimistic outlook.” 

Brouse took part in a panel discussion that examined strategies to engage branch employees and improve the member experience. Other panelists were Charlene Henson, senior vice president/chief retail officer at Sound Credit Union in Tacoma, Wash., and Laura Eblen, vice president of member engagement and governmental affairs at Mazuma Credit Union in Overland Park, Kan. 

The branch environment has changed since the pandemic, Henson says. “People have much less tolerance, and there are a lot of escalated situations. We train staff to de-escalate these situations, and we rely on leaders to address this issue.” 

There also are new norms about work-life balance, and leaders need to dig into what employees need. “People want transparency, to feel safe, and to know we value their input,” she says. We’re navigating these areas. 

 It’s tempting to make quick changes to address the needs of employees and the credit union, Eblen says. But Mazuma takes an intentional approach when it implements changes affecting staff and members. 

“Clearly define who you are as an organization and build everything around that,” she says. “When you make changes with intention, it makes all the difference to your team.” 

Communication is a big part of that intentionality. That’s why Mazuma tailors its communication with frontline staff. “It’s hard to check email when you’re looking at a teller screen,” Eblen says. “We ask how we can make sure our messages fit with what they look at. They’ll have 30 seconds between members, so we let them know if they should open a message right away or if it can wait.” 

Sound Credit Union implemented different layers of communication throughout the organization. “It starts at the branch level with branch managers, and our regional vice presidents also meet with branch staff,” Henson says. “I work with smaller groups to get feedback, and we hold roundtables where staff can submit questions. Our CEO also does videos, where he talks about the economy and other issues. It helps staff have conversations with members.” 

Other strategies for engaging with branch staff: 

  • Find the right tools. Shift, a plug-in for Microsoft Teams, allows staff to trade shifts in case they have appointments. Mountain America created an app that ties into shift to allow employees to adjust their work schedules with two clicks on their phones. “In the past, they’d have to ask their manager, and it was a stressful situation,” Brouse says. “People don’t want to leave their teammates short, and this simplifies the process.” 
  • Hold role-playing exercises so staff can improve their skills and match members with the right products and services. 
  • Find ways to reward staff that don’t involve money, such as unique experiences.  * Provide regular training. “This shows that we care and are investing in them,” Eblen says. 

This article is part of  Tech22, CUNA News’ special focus on innovations and developments in technology. Follow the conversation on Twitter via #Tech22.