According to SECU Senior Sales Manager, Joseli Wright, “Better banking, better service” was the new tagline SECU ($1.45 billion, 240,000 members) adopted to aim high in serving its members. More than a simple tagline, this philosophy became a motivational factor for the Linthicum, Md.-based credit union to refocus its efforts in the face of larger competitors.
As Wright described, “To fulfill our goals and play with the big guys, we needed an organization working together at optimum levels.” To make this goal a reality, SECU found it necessary to make its in-house operations more efficient.
Early last year SECU implemented an innovative online management automation tool in order to better compete with larger financial service organizations. This software solution, a CUNA Technology Council 2004 BAI “Best of Show” recipient, makes new product and project promotion management easier. It streamlines the process by clearly defining team member responsibilities and tracking tasks, thus mitigating employee confusion. This process builds teamwork and trust within a financial institution’s executive team by better aligning employees with their job responsibilities and keeping projects on track through individual accountability.
Wright has stated the enhanced management automation tool has allowed SECU to compete with bigger financial institutions by enabling its management staff to communicate more effectively. Internal operations – whether a major project or simple task – flow better because of improved team communication and allow for the organization to provide a high level of service to its members.
When SECU first implemented this program, many credit union staffers, Wright included, thought it was simply a project management tool. But as the staff became more knowledgeable of its capabilities, Wright quickly realized that it was a great coaching tool as well.
“It’s interesting to watch people as they get oriented to a new program,” Wright explains. “They start out thinking, ‘This is going to make more work for me.’ But they end up realizing that it actually saves them work in the long run.”
“I don’t have to ask my staff, ‘Where are you with this? What’s happening with that?’” she adds. “This tool allows me to check the status myself.” SECU employees no longer have to issue reports. Each employee can see all the current information, whenever they want it. If an employee would like to know where the credit union is as an organization with critical measures and project deadlines they can simply go online. It’s all there for them.
As a manager, Wright now notices employees taking the lead in solving problems. She notes that the staff has become results-oriented because they are aware of the goals they are working toward and what kind of progress they’re making.
Initially, to understand where the credit union’s operational gaps were, SECU conducted a staff survey using the BAI Organizational Climate Survey. The credit union administered the Climate Survey in February 2004, re-administered later that year in September, and again in February 2005. One year after implementing this software, the credit union’s scores jumped in the following categories:
- Service Climate – up 7%
- Work Processes – up 3%
- Communication – up 13%
- Teamwork and Collaboration – up 13%
- Core Values Strength – up 11%
“This automates project management, which enables us to meet our strategic and functional goals,” Wright adds. “This is a huge benefit for our organization. It has also really helped everyone focus on their own professional development by automating the people management piece of our business.”
According to Wright, in every dialog between the boss and the employee, it’s not just the manager using the browser-based solution and discussing the issues. The employee sets the agenda. Employees lead the discussion about what they’re doing, how they can make the organization better, and how they can improve their own work so that they can contribute more meaningfully to the credit union’s mission.
“It’s easily implemented and, if properly done, you can see tremendous results,” Wright states. “I give full credit to our CEO, Rod Staatz. He used Cardwell Group’s Connections Online in his previous position and he really lives, breathes, and believes in it. When you have that kind of commitment at the top of your organization, implementing meaningful change is much easier.”
For more information about Connections Online, call (800) 395-1410 or visit www.connectionsonline.net .