How To Manage Morale During Social Distancing

Virtual sessions heavy on professional support as well as entertainment helps to build authentic relationships at five credit unions across the United States.

 
 

Top-Level Takeaways

  • To take care of employees, credit unions have ramped up usage of intranets and office-wide events. Zoom parties have replaced most in-person gatherings, but the pizza is real.
  • Credit unions are also holding digital meetings for groups as well as single-person sessions.

As the coronavirus pandemic drags into the winter months in America, credit unions are doing what they can to take care of employees whose support and camaraderie members have come to depend upon.

Staff members today find themselves either working in an office surrounded by new protocols to keep themselves and members safe, or working at home surrounded by personal pressures as they try to fulfill their professional responsibilities.

When credit unions had to close locations and send staff home this past spring, many did what they could to support and incent workers; however, it’s not easy to replicate the social engagement that accompanies in-person work environments.

That hasn’t stopped them from trying.

Here, five credit unions from New Hampshire to California share how they are engaging staff on a professional as well as personal level.

Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union

Approximately 250 of the 530 or so employees of Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union ($3.0B, St. Paul, MN) have been working off-site since mid-March. But the Twin Cities cooperative has no fear. What it does have is Dairy Queen.

Julie Cosgrove, Chief Talent Officer, Affinity Plus FCU

“We have a Dairy Queen in every one of the 29 communities in which we have branches,” says Julie Cosgrove, chief talent officer at Affinity Plus. “So, we sent every employee a gift card to have a treat night with their families.”

That gesture is just one of many the credit union has extended to its staff, whose work-at-home teams have been told to expect things to stay that way until at least next April 1.

“It’s an unpredictable time,” Cosgrove says. “Taking one step at a time is the best approach for us and our team members.”

To help ease the anxiety that accompanies unpredictability, the company has sent gift cards and credit union swag to staffers’ homes as well as celebrated employee appreciation week with a drive-thru gift parade in which the leadership team lined the parking lot and handed out blenders for making smoothies and milkshakes at home.

“Many drove through with kids in the back seat, spouses up front, and dogs’ heads sticking out the windows,” Cosgrove says. “It created a break, a moment of joy, and an opportunity to connect and recognize our team members.

Although Affinity Plus employs many tactics, it has a singular goal.

“Our culture is built on a foundation of care, connection, and gratitude,” Cosgrove says. “We’ve sought ways to demonstrate this to our employees over the past six months. We’ve focused on showcasing our care for them, our desire to connect, and our genuine appreciation of their hard work and heart that they bring to the credit union.”



KeyPoint Credit Union

KeyPoint Credit Union ($1.4B, Santa Clara, CA) is relying on digital channels to help its workforce of 175 people make it through these trying times.

The credit union offers a robust resources page on its intranet as well as joint sessions such as a parent support group.

LeeAnne Giblin, Chief Human Resources Officer, KeyPoint Credit Union

“In this tough environment of having kids at home doing remote schoolwork, we’ve tried to find how we can support working parents,” says LeeAnne Giblin, chief human resources officer at the Silicon Valley cooperative. “We’ve hosted three different virtual sessions for parents to share ideas on what’s working and what tools they have found helpful. Some staff have expressed this support group helps them know they’re not alone.”

Their dogs aren’t alone either — as evidenced by the “Hug Your Dog Day” photo collage. That was among the lighter engagement activities that fill the credit union’s intranet calendar. KeyPoint’s CEO, Brad Canfield, also has chipped in with more than a dozen virtual chats with small groups since May.

“They can ask him questions and he can ask them questions and get a first-hand pulse on how everyone is doing,” Giblin says. “These have proven to be beneficial.”

Logix Federal Credit Union

Logix Federal Credit Union ($7.6B, Burbank, CA) currently is at 95% remote for its workforce of 770 people, including the entire contact center

When the pandemic coast is clear, flexible work arrangements are being considered, including having a mix of remote and on-site work by rotating team members in and out of the office, says Natalie Crosby, vice president of the cooperative’s Member Service Center.

Natalie Crosby, VP of Member Service, Logix FCU

In the meantime, engagement is kept up through virtual team meetings as well as one-on-one sessions between managers and each of their team members to discuss their individual contributions as well as their level of engagement, Crosby says. But it’s not all work.

“Fun is part of our culture and greatly valued within our organization. We work very hard but we play hard, too, to help balance it out,” Crosby says, adding, “It’s much harder to celebrate successes on the same scale we used to.”

But they give it a go, indeed. For instance, they celebrated National Customer Service Week in early October by, among multiple activities, playing virtual bingo (with transaction types as the squares), hosting a virtual (non-alcohol) lounge during a lunch hour, a selfie day that drew pics of babies, dogs, cats, and amusing filters, and a Mad Hatter Day.

Participation was encouraged with raffle drawings that featured staffers’ kids pulling out the winning names, while a Grub Hub account was opened to “to help motivate our team members in the fashion we’ve always been so great at: breaking bread and sharing food,” Crosby says.

It seems to be working. “We’ve received a lot of appreciative emails from team members,” the Logix vice president says. “They loved seeing each other’s faces again and loved that it was not just work-related, but for fun.”

And, when it’s over: “One thing I know for sure, is that once it’s safe to do so,” she says, “I’m sure Logix will have a very big family reunion!”

Service Credit Union

At Service Credit Union ($4.4B, Portsmouth, NH), approximately 80 of its 130 employees are still working remotely. This includes underwriters, call center representatives, and people with administrative duties, says Meghan Leach, assistant vice president of the contact center for the New Hampshire-based financial institution. And at this point, the credit union has no plans to change.

Meghan Leach, AVP/Contact Center, Service Credit Union

“We’re remaining in this mode at least until the end of the year,” Leach says.

Service distributes a newsletter to engage employees. It also has encouraged staffers to respond to questions such as what they like most about the fall, asked them to share baby pictures for a guessing contest, and sponsored spirit weeks in which employees selected the days.

Striking the right balance between getting the work done and catering to employee needs is the goal, Leach says. To that end, the credit union has surveyed its team to determine how people prefer communications and if leadership is communicating enough.

“We have some in-person representatives working with them as well,” Leach says. “Keeping things fair can be challenging at times.”

Teachers Federal Credit Union

Teachers Federal Credit Union ($8.2B, Smithtown, NY) has fully re-opened its 31-branch network in New York City and on Long Island, with modified staffing in the branches. The back office is working at 50% capacity in-house, says president and CEO Brad Calhoun, as the big cooperative follows state mandates and social distancing best practices.

Brad Calhoun, President and CEO, Teachers Federal Credit Union

To keep up morale among the workforce of nearly 740 people as they rotate in and out of the office or work full time at home, TFCU has deployed a range of tactics, including a new intranet that encourages social media-like interaction and multiple video conferences, including quarterly sessions for all employees to ensure they are up to date on their cooperative’s financials, initiatives, and internal news.

In-person activities have also continued. For example, the credit union sponsored a summer social with lunch, activities, and giveaways. A team of 30 team members also volunteered at a local food bank to help pack more than 800 boxes.

“Volunteerism can help people feel engaged and like they’re making a difference,” Calhoun says.

Earlier this year TFCU began using Energize, an internal recognition platform, to acknowledge, thank, and congratulate individuals for their contributions while sharing their stories across the enterprise, Calhoun says.

“It’s been a great driver of morale, particularly when we’re not able to recognize one another in person,” the TFCU chief executive says.

According to Calhoun, during the height of the pandemic in New York, from late March through mid-June, nearly 2,000 recognition awards were given to the staff with 91% of its employees receiving one or more award. Such behaviors aligned with the credit union’s core organizational values of respect, teamwork, and member-focus.”

“On a personal level, I connect with each employee on their birthday,” Calhoun says. “It’s a way to individually recognize teammates and take a moment to say, “Thank you, your contributions are seen and appreciated.”

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