One of the oldest and toughest challenges facing credit union front-line managers and human resources professionals is this: how to quickly fill both short- and long-term openings in critical member-service positions, especially during periods of high turnover.
Wright-Patt Credit Union ($3.3B, Beavercreek, OH) takes an innovative approach to solving this problem. It has created two distinct roaming staff teams or “pools,” which are available and waiting to fill in where needed, on a moment’s notice.
Wright-Patt Credit Union was founded in 1932 to serve government workers at Wright Field in Dayton, OH, the future location of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. Over time, the cooperative grew to $3.3 billion in assets and now serves nearly 325,000 members through 31 branches, known as “member centers,” in southwest and central Ohio. With nearly 750 employees spread across a wide geographic area, the credit union has faced a challenge of how to maintain consistency across its branch footprint, exacerbated by turnover in member-facing roles.
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A Staffing Approach That Serves All Stakeholders
WPCU executives take great pride in the cooperative’s vision statement: "We will be the best organization our member-owners have ever experienced and the best place our partner-employees have ever worked!"
For Amy Reilly, vice president, human resources at WPCU, this vision is reflected in the organization’s approach to decision-making at every level.
“We have a three stakeholder model that we use in all decision-making,” Reilly says. “That’s the credit union, our members, and our employees. As we’re making decisions, whether strategic or process-oriented, we always take those three groups of stakeholders into consideration. In addition, as part of our model, we understand the importance of taking great care of our employees, so they in turn take great care of our members. That’s a driving force in our staffing approach.”
CU QUICK FACTS
Wright-Patt Credit Union
HQ: Beavercreek, OH
Data as of 06.30.16
12-MO SHARE GROWTH: 6.9%
12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 6.4%
Back in 2011, WPCU’s executive team realized it needed to take a fresh look at how to manage both the seasonality of the business, including summer vacations and recurring employee turnover, as well as the daily ebbs and flows of member-facing positions.
“It was all about having the right number of staff ready to go when positions became available,” Reilly says. “There’s such a learning curve when you join the credit union from the outside. Basically, it was all about creative workforce planning, how can we shrink the timeframe so people were ready to go as soon as we needed them.”
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To address these recurring challenges, WPCU created a floater pool to cover short-term staffing shortages in member-facing positions at its member centers. The team is made up of seasoned financial coaches — WPCU’s term for employees who help members choose and manage their products and services — and member experience representatives — WPCU’s term for tellers.
Dedicated teams of three floaters each cover the credit union’s three metropolitan areas and the member contact phone center.
In 2013, WPCU built on the roaming team concept and created a pipeline pool to tackle longer-term staffing needs. The pipeline pool consists of three teams made up of approximately four full-time and two part-time employees each. Each team covers one of three geographic areas.
Amy Reilly, VP Human Resources, Wright-Patt Credit Union
Pipeline pool employees, who are typically brand new to the organization, undergo a week-and-a-half orientation at the WPCU’s main headquarters, followed by two to four weeks of detailed training at a branch. Once fully trained, pipeline staffers are eligible for placement when the need arises.
“Our goal for the pipeline pool is to place them in a permanent position,” Reilly says. “In normal situations, they are only in the pipeline for three or four months before they fill a permanent role.”
Some financial institutions use summer interns or temporary agency employees to provide coverage during the summer months, a coveted time for staff vacations and when employee turnover tends to spike. According to Reilly, the pipeline pool is a better solution.
“Temporary workers or summer interns just wouldn’t work in this environment because of the complexity,” Reilly says. “When people come in for a short period of time, you can’t get them up to speed fast enough in terms of learning about our brand, which is what sets us apart from everyone else, along with our products, processes, and systems.”
Easing The Burden Of Constant Recruiting
With more than 500 employees in the branches alone, Reilly’s HR team is continuously recruiting for new blood. Front-line member-facing positions are the most challenging to keep filled, due to higher turnover rates and the demanding nature of the roles. For these reasons, WPCU recruits both for open positions at specific branches as well as for spots in the pipeline.
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During the recruitment process, the credit union tells candidates they are being considered for the pipeline pool and what to expect in that role. Applicants understand they might be assigned one week in a specific facility and then spend the following three weeks in another. According to Reilly, the roaming teams are not a fit for everyone.
“We have some individuals who love the floater pool,” Reilly says. “They love going from center to center and working out of different environments. For others, their goal is to work in the floater pool for a while and then get assigned.
On the heels of its success at the branches, WPCU has piloted a pipeline pool within its member contact center and might consider future deployment to other front-line areas as well.
Have an understanding of the seasonality of your business. It is important to be able to trend your numbers appropriately to ensure effective workforce planning.
Key Takeaways From The Deep End Of The Pool
WPCU can now draw on five years of experience with the floating pool concept. Reilly is eager to share key learnings with those considering establishing a roaming team at their credit union.
“No. 1, have an understanding of the seasonality of your business,” Reilly says. “It is important to be able to trend your numbers appropriately to ensure effective workforce planning. Also, consider using both full-time and part-time staff for maximum efficiency.”
Reilly also urges credit unions to focus on establishing consistency in service and operational standards across all member-facing areas.
“If there are subtle differences around process among your facilities, it stands out when a floater moves from one area to another,” Reilly says.
Lastly, Reilly emphasizes the importance of developing people in the floater and pipeline pools and not letting these team members slip through the cracks.
“We’re considering now whether we need an assistant manager who just manages the pools,” Reilly says. “It’s critical to have a disciplined process around how you are developing that talent.”