October 20th, 2021
Way back in February of 2020 (a lifetime ago), we posted a first-person credit union report on How CUs Are Coping with the Challenges of Skilled Staffed Shortages & Cost of Living. Five credit unions in vastly different regions shared their pain points and what they are doing to overcome these challenges. At the time, staffing and cost of living was high on the list of burdens credit unions faced, now, with a pandemic crisis nearing it’s half-year mark, not as much.
We reached out to these credit unions again to see how they are doing. What has changed since February? What are their challenges now? How were their staff impacted by the pandemic? Their responses paint a picture of how different operational strategy has become and how priorities have been blown across the table and reshuffled.
Marianne Scarzello, HR Director
Tucson Old Pueblo CU, Tucson AZ, $152M assets
Aux: Are your employees more loyal to your institution now?
Since we last spoke I have completed a “compensation training”. A presentation that explained the “why behind your pay” to employees as if I were training them to take over the compensation strategy. I had a lot of positive feedback from employees and the transparency seems to have improved employees’ opinions about the company and shown that we really do care about their pay. The real test will be when our engagement survey comes out in January. The restructure and training programs also seemed to have a positive impact on our employees now that the initial roadblocks have been removed (there will always be hurdles you don’t expect). Loyalty is difficult to measure in the space of 6 months, I would say that the turnover speaks for itself so far, however, there could be a number of factors for that.
Have you experienced turnover?
So far this year, our turnover is at 3%. Throughout this difficult time we have worked hard to ensure job security for everyone and I think that has helped in retaining our talent. Though the uncertainty of the job market is likely having an impact and preventing some turnover.
How did you handle working conditions during the worst of the pandemic in the Spring?
Oh my goodness, the pandemic has really taken a toll on everyone’s mental health! It has been very hard on all of our employees as we are an essential business so need to still offer our services. We formed a committee to have a core group that could answer questions and work on the project – HR, CEO, Member Service, IT and Marketing. We made sure to continuously survey the staff and use their information to help in our decision making. As soon as the pandemic was announced, our IT team began ensuring that we had the capabilities whilst maintaining security levels for working from home. Any decisions that were made were communicated with the “why” behind it to our employees.
I created an internal intranet page that had all communications, forms and news articles along with a wellness page so our employees had easy access to see what was happening and have access to as much information as possible. This also had a timeline of our decisions and events so that people could see when decisions were made and what we were doing to make that happen. Our supervisors each volunteered their time to monitor the lobby traffic so we could reduce the number of people in the lobby. Due to the composition of our members, we opted not to close the lobby, just to limit traffic.
We sent people to work from home – prioritizing those that are considered high risk, and if someone displayed symptoms they were sent home as a precaution. We implemented a cleaning schedule to ensure that work areas were kept sanitized and had a plan for a number of situations. Our employees knew when teams would be required to work in shifts, when people would be sent to work from home, who could work from home and when the deep cleaning was being completed by our janitor company. The surveys showed that we had a positive response rate to our constant communication and actions. We continue to monitor the situation, and make decisions based upon the information available from the CDC and AZDHS (I personally find that it is important to get facts directly from reputable sources to reduce the panic levels). We offered options for a remote all-staff meeting where I was able to continue recognizing employees and give in-person updates.
Finally, we started “Vern’s World”, a weekly video update from our CEO where employees could send over questions (with an anonymous option) that would be answered that week.
What are you doing to bolster morale?
We have a wonderful Marketing Manager who has spent time creating little competitions for our team with prizes. It gives everyone a break from the norm for a few minutes and the ability to focus on something lighthearted. We have had lunches for our employees in the office, offered flexible work options when possible, added an additional 3 days of PTO (5 for the tellers due to the nature of their position) that can be used for mental health days.
We had a Hawaiian day where each branch had local slushy drinks, leis, a photo booth, decorated lunch room, desk decorating competitions, and Hawaiian BBQ for lunch. I continue to recognize as many people as possible in our all staff meetings so they know we appreciate all their work during this time. Finally, being as flexible as possible and showing empathy. This is a difficult time for everyone and showing our employees that we want to work with them to overcome challenges helps them understand that they aren’t alone. We have an amazing team that also looks after each other, people will jump in and make sure work is completed if someone is struggling. They really are the heart of the morale and culture here, without them our efforts would fall flat.
Christine Petro, President/CEO, Chabot FCU, Silicon Valley, CA $70M assets
Are your employees more loyal to your institution now? Probably no difference. We responded quickly but not as severely as other CUs to COVID-19. We didn’t shut down, lock the doors, shorten hours, or go to appointments only. Our call volume increased significantly so the staff feels overwhelmed with calls. One employee went 99% remote due to childcare issues and that increased the burden on the rest.
Have you experienced turnover? Yes – the same employee who went remote resigned when she knew schools would not open as usual. It’s been quite a challenge absorbing the extra work.
Have you had an easier time hiring now that the economy has taken a blow? We have two open positions and had more qualified candidates than is typical. Several banks in the area cut back, so the candidates are primarily bankers but most have at least some CU experience.
How did you handle working conditions during the worst of the pandemic in the Spring? The biggest issue was the one employee who went remote then resigned. However, most on the team have been negatively impacted by cancelled plans, and some COVID-19 deaths among extended friends and family. I sense a little depression and loneliness in most. The long lines and shortages at the beginning also negatively impacted morale. Folks were anxious and misinformed too about the virus spread.
What are you doing to bolster morale? We’ve had a few after hours wine, chips and cheese parties. I also gave everyone an hour per week off with pay to make errands easier to manage. We bought and shared some fun masks and enjoy celebrating the little things and sharing sources and ideas.
We’d like to thank TOPCU and Chabot FCU for taking the time to respond. How has your credit union been impacted? What are you doing to bolster morale? Contact us via the form below if you have a story to share.