4 Fabulous Onboarding Practices

HR leaders at cooperatives big and small share how they welcome new hires, from breaking bread to explaining the credit union difference.

 
 

Leaders in human resources are among the most open and sharing about what they do and how they do it.

Time and again, these leaders demonstrate a willingness to share insights, experiences, and even data. Callahan & Associates sees that in our Executive Roundtables, in our interviews for CreditUnions.com, and in our recent outreach to solicit responses for our benefits and compensation survey.

Callahan’s analyst team is crunching the numbers from the more than 200 responses to that survey, and we’ll have results soon. In the meantime, I went back and asked respondents for their favorite employee onboarding tips.

There were too many to list all of them here, but I do want to share some takeaways and a few best practices for making new hires feel right at home. I also want to thank these leaders again, although I’m not surprised we got such a great response. HR people are “people” people, after all.

Getting To Know All About You

Some of our respondents shared onboarding practices that are similar to what we do here at Callahan, such as sharing fun facts about the newbie to help colleagues get to know them better and welcome them to the work family.

That’s the deal at MembersAlliance Credit Union ($232.8M, Rockford, IL). There, new hires complete an “about me” form the credit union posts on the intranet. HR director Jeaneil Lanza says she uses that intel to put something personal in the employee’s welcome goodie bag, a credit-union branded fabric bag that includes a water bottle, note pad, pens, and “other cool items we currently have on hand.”

“They appreciate the items and feel connected to MACU right away,” Lanza says.

SafeAmerica Credit Union ($512.8M, Pleasanton, CA) also uses its intranet to post welcome messages. According to Stefany Chadbon-Hooke, vice president of human resources and facilities at SafeAmerica, the credit union sends new hires a note like the one here to get to know them better.

Hi [new employee],

We have an intranet feed that keeps our staff up to date on news and events as well as connects our people. We always like to celebrate our newbies and ‘The Hub’ allows this celebration to be more interactive!

That said, I would love it if you can indulge me by answering the following questions (and/or any other questions/comments you can think of to help us get to know you better)!

  1. What is your preferred name/nick name and pronouns?
  2. When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
  3. What’s something — big or small — that you’re really good at?
  4. What’s your guilty pleasure?
  5. If you could choose a superpower, what would it be?
  6. Last book you read?
  7. What’s the best/most memorable trip you have taken?
  8. Anything else you want to share to help us to know you better?

Thank you in advance for sharing a little bit about you! We are all looking forward to your first day at SafeAmerica!

SafeAmerica then invites all colleagues to send their own welcome messages through the portal.

Lunch Is On The House

There is such a thing as a free lunch, at least for new employees at many credit unions, and the midday meal takes various forms. New employees dine with the CEO and senior staff, with HR people, with their immediate supervisors, and with their immediate colleagues.

“We do our best to provide a great experience for our new hires, especially during the pandemic,” says Olivia Thurmond, vice president of HR at Advancial Federal Credit Union ($1.8B, Dallas, TX).

Advancial gives newbies a backpack full of office stuff like a water bottle, note pads, a phone charging station, and more.

“When we’re in the office, we take them out to lunch,” Thurmond says. When they’re not in the office, there’s Grubhub.

Sometimes, the onboarding lunch ritual can double as an incentive to take care of first-day obligations.

“It’s rough for a new hire to get through all the paperwork and computer entry necessary to get them into the payroll system and activate their benefits,” says Vicki Garbutt, vice president of human resources at Alpine Credit Union ($260.8, Orem, UT). “That’s a lot to cover before they start their actual job. But once they get all that completed, we give them a fast-food gift card so they can go out and celebrate.”

Other times, the lunch takes a longer view.

“We have a lunch date with our executive team for each new hire to discuss their one- to five-year plan,” says Terry Hampton, chief administrative officer at RVA Financial Federal Credit Union ($74.1M, Richmond, VA). “It’s relaxing and all about them. We learn a lot during this lunch meeting.”

Walk The Talk

Serving members means serving the community beyond simple finances. That’s why some credit unions include public service in their onboarding program.

“New employees deliver Meals on Wheels with a co-worker to help them get involved quickly,” says Susan Minotti, director of HR at Reliant Federal Credit Union ($164.9M, Casper, WY).

That small act allows the credit union to demonstrate the great things it does for its community and employees and show how it lives up to its mission and vision.

In non-pandemic times, Wright-Patt Credit Union ($6.2B, Beavercreek, OH) schedules time on the new hire’s first day to volunteer with other new hires at a local community organization.

“We don’t reveal this activity to them in advance, though,” says HR director Josh Hayes. “We just tell them to wear comfortable clothing.”

Bottom Line: Share Culture And Core Behaviors

Several credit unions underscored the importance of ensuring the onboarding process educates new hires about the mission and culture of their new employer.

EECU ($2.9B, Fort Worth, TX) shows a video that traces the cooperative’s journey from its founding to where it is today. Kelly Davis, EECU’s director of learning and development, says that among all onboarding tools is what garners the most comments from new hires.

“Every new hire wants to feel they made the right choice in choosing their place of employment,” Davis says. “They want to feel like they belong and have opportunities to make a difference. Sharing this video during onboarding creates this foundation for us. It sets the stage for understanding our culture and our drive to serve our members.”

At Park Community Credit Union ($1.1B, Louisville, KY), new hire orientation includes a 30-minute session with CEO Jim Spradlin, which garners positive reaction.

“He talks about the credit union’s mission and describes our core behaviors,” says Sharon Williams, senior vice president of human resources. “And, he reminds them why they were selected to be part of our credit union team.”

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