Getting the Most from Staff Without Incentives

Motivating staff can be a challenge. With a focused program on hiring, training and coaching, Partners FCU is encouraging employees with minimal monetary incentives.


Motivating staff is a challenge for all credit unions. Many credit unions employ incentives to motivate their staff to service their members. However, a well-thought-out hiring process, training program, and regular coaching designed to reinforce a strong credit union culture can make monetary incentives unnecessary. One credit union that has developed an effective approach to motivating staff without sales incentives is Partners Federal Credit Union.

Case Study: Partners FCU

Partners FCU ($251 Million, Anaheim, CA) has established an organization and culture that is closely aligned with its sponsor, the Walt Disney Company. Partners’ employees are Cast Members and the HR department is named Cast Development, which reflects the nomenclature used by the Magic Kingdom.

While Partners does provide corporate-wide bonus incentives twice a year, there is no individual sales incentive plan in place. According to Wendy Danbury, director, cast development, “we pay our employees to do their jobs well; we do not feel it necessary to pay extra to encourage them to push a particular product or service.” Rather, Partners has developed an effective recruiting, training, and coaching process to ensure that staff conform to the credit union culture and behave in the desired manner.


Partner’s staffing strategy begins with an effective hiring process that clearly identifies the attributes they desire in a Cast Member. “We want a friendly, engaged, and polished front line,” says Ms. Danbury. “Our cast members should be enthusiastic and have interpersonal communication skills, in addition to their skills and experience in banking. We’re picky about selecting the right people to represent Partners.”


Once individuals are selected to become part of the Partners team based on their skills and personal attributes, Partners reinforces its ideals and culture through the Service Plus training program. Managers meet with their Cast Members individually every week to discuss service skills learned and used in member situations. “Backstage” departments are also trained on Service Plus, and bi-monthly mystery shops are tailored to individual departments.

Next year, relationship-building training will further enhance the skills and actions needed to strengthen Partners’ relationship with its members. Creatively using the name of the popular Disney character, Pluto, as an acronym, Partners’ training program will include practice sessions and videotaped feedback to reinforce the desired behavior. Trainees will be taught the concept of PLUTO (Personalize, Listen, Understand, Transition, and Offer), Partners’ approach to interacting with members.

Non-Monetary Incentives

Regular performance feedback is an important means of motivating staff at Partners. The most important feedback for which all managers are held accountable, is their coaching and conversations with each Cast Member based on observation and member feedback. Department-specific targets are set by managers and results are shared in staff meetings. Corporate goals and metrics are communicated every month, so that the staff can see where everyone stands in relation to the semi-annual bonus payout goals. According to Ms. Danbury, knowing where they stand in relation to the goals is very motivating to the staff.

Partners FCU is proud of their friendly, upbeat, and self-motivated staff. Their emphasis on hiring, training, and regular coaching has made it easier to exclude individual monetary incentives in their budget and maintain an employee culture that is strong, service-focused, and pleasing to their members.




Oct. 31, 2005


  • Vista to Partners: "All your base are belong to us!"
  • Partners has identified the key to consistent, universal, systemic performance... 1.) clear and concise performance expectations 2.) well defined, systemic culture 3.) talent, skills and knowledge = competence. Bravo!!
  • You need to remember that people are motivated in many ways. Some by praise or recognition, others by money, and others by prizes. I think this is a great system and great ideas, but incentives do motivate those who are motivated by cash. Just something to think about.
  • Partners FCU provides their employees encentives to do a good job in many ways. I would hope that any company that I would work for would try to build a good team right from the beginning during the hiring process. It makes working together much easier when the hiring process clearly identifies the attributes needed and selects accordingly. Also, it would also make me feel better about myself and my career if I knew my employer cared about developing my skills and abilities. I see that as a great incentive. I have seen employers wait to inform an employee at his/her yearly review about problems that would never have appeared on a review if coaching were provided on a regular basis. A good hiring process, effective training and coaching, 2 bonus incentives a year and a fair wage would make me a very happy employee.
  • My Mom is Wendy Danbury HI mom!
  • I craved such an environment and it really dosen't have to be about money