Tucson (Ariz.) Federal Credit Union Chief Culture Officer Trish Kordas leads a session Tuesday at the 2023 CUNA HR & Organizational Development Council Conference in San Diego.

Engagement critical to attracting talent

Conference deep dive considers best practices, ‘defending the spend.’

April 26, 2023

Employee engagement and an organization’s ability to attract and maintain top talent are directly connected.

“If we don’t engage our people, they’re going to leave us,” says Trish Kordas, chief culture officer at  $677 million asset Tucson (Ariz.) Federal Credit Union, who led a “deep dive” session Tuesday at the 2023 CUNA HR & Organizational Development Council Conference in San Diego. “Without engagement, we have unhappy employees and, of course, unhappy members. We are all trying to attract top talent and keep the people we have.”

From an HR perspective, engagement starts with tracking and measurement, according to Kordas.

Common metrics used to measure engagement include:

  • Surveys
  • Employee referrals
  • Employee error rates
  • Absenteeism
  • Performance appraisals
  • Member satisfaction scores

Kordas believes it's also important to keep in mind that some metrics don’t measure engagement, such as demographics.

“Demographics tell what your employee makeup is; it doesn’t tell you about their level of engagement,” Kordas says, adding that the time-to-hire metric "doesn’t tell us how engaged people are when they are at your credit union.”

Strategies to elevate engagement include internal leadership programs, total rewards strategies, community outreach initiatives, focus groups, and innovation and idea committees.

Many of these ideas don’t require a huge budget. Credit unions with lower budgets can establish employee resource groups, book clubs, and internal leadership and mentor programs, including programs for employees who don’t necessarily want to manage people.

Kordas says HR leaders must learn how to “defend the spend” by making a strong business case for their investments in engagement initiatives. Building that case includes the following components:

  • A problem statement, with compelling questions and answers to solve the problem.
  • Objective facts, data, and metrics.
  • Powerful visuals, charts, and infographics, using data and metrics.
  • Return on investment (ROI), including costs and benefits.
  • Risk analysis: What happens if you don’t get the money?

Tucson Federal's chief financial officer built a tool that measures the ROI of each initiative, allowing Kordas to "pop in a few numbers and share ROI in a quick way.”

Attendees of Tuesday's session offered engagement ideas from their own credit unions, including:

  • Flex hours for frontline employees who can’t work remotely.
  • The credit union CEO reads one peer-to-peer recognition at the monthly board meeting.
  • Massage chairs for stressed-out employees.
  • A fun committee to plan events that are, of course, fun.
  • Interview preparation with a trainer for employees with internal interviews.
  • An internal young professionals group (older employees are welcome to join).
  • Providing employees up to 16 hours of mental health time off annually.
  • Free Door Dash for employees.
  • A personal concierge to run personal errands for employees.
  • Annual financial wellness events that include employees’ family members.