Internal service at Georgia’s Own Credit Union ($1.9B, Atlanta, GA) is vertical, horizontal, inclusive, and intentional.
The credit union has put into place multiple policies and programs to take care of the people who take care of members, says Adam Marlowe, the Atlanta institution’s vice president of member impact and delivery.
“It’s important that we take care of the people who take care of our members,” says Marlowe, who is responsible for approximately 200 of the nearly 400-person workforce at Georgia’s Own. “Just as we invest in technology and infrastructure as it relates to branches and equipment, we invest in our people. It’s one of our core values — you can’t just hire top talent and then not do anything to develop them.”
That investment takes many forms, formal and informal. For example, vertically, the credit union’s senior managers participate in an Adopt-a-Branch program in which they spend a set amount of time each month at a designated branch. Although the primary intent is to create open lines of communication with front-line staff, the branch is often near the manager’s home, which makes community involvement easier, too.
Read more about Georgia's Own Adopt-A-Branch program on CreditUnions.com.
Horizontally, Georgia’s Own encourages employees to partner in friendly wellness competitions such as how many steps teams can record on their Fitbits and Apple Watches. The wellness program also includes free, confidential screenings for blood pressure, cholesterol, allergy, and more.
Adam Marlowe, Vice President of Member Impact and Delivery, Georgia’s Own Credit Union
“A lot of people in this country don’t even realize they have these issues,” Marlowe says. “We want our people to know. We also know that wellness extends beyond physical health. That’s why we have tuition reimbursement for those who want to further their education and why we work to make sure all our people know what financial products and services we have, so they can take advantage of them, too.”
That kind of internal service often happens informally yet takes the form of real help in times of real need.
“I’ve had employees come to me whose spouse had lost their jobs and they didn’t know how they were going to pay their bills or survive, for all intents and purposes,” Marlowe says. “Through our HR, lending, and other departments, we restructured a lot of their debt so it would be more affordable on one person’s salary.”
The result is an employee not worried about paying a water bill or losing a home. And when the spouse is again employed, an employee now able to save money for retirement or the next rainy day, Marlowe says.
Inclusivity is another aspect of internal service at Georgia’s Own. For example, the credit union groups diverse managers together to meet monthly. They read books that might have nothing to do with the financial industry but helps them think in innovative new ways, and then they compete by offering up new ideas.
One recent idea that recently came to fruition is to offer a place to store documents of any kind securely and electronically to members and employees, Marlowe says. The credit union is putting that idea into place through the Virtual Strongbox Inc. solution.
Great Ideas Pay Off
There’s potential for these ideas to pay off financially, too.
“We’ve just launched a program called Own Up that allows employees to suggest improvements in processes, products, and services,” Marlowe says. “If we can show positive impact for the credit union, we can reward them. Say we can show an idea saves the credit union $10,000, we can give that employee well deserved recognition and a cash reward as well. Remember, the credit union won’t be out that money because we wouldn’t have had that money if the employee hadn’t had that good idea in the first place.”
The idea now is to create service agreements like we would have with any provider of critical services, only these will be with our own people.
Such a rewards program communicates intent, and that’s another linchpin in Marlowe’s approach to maximize internal service at his credit union.
The Georgia’s Own executive is an advocate of the ideas of Randy Gregg, an organizational behavior and personal growth expert who Marlowe once worked with at another credit union. Gregg is now a Ph.D. consultant and author of a new book titled “The Intentional Communicator: How Effective Leaders Communicate.”
“You have to be focused and intentional in your communications,” Marlow says. “For instance, don’t send out 500 emails about 500 different things and then have a meeting to discuss 25 different topics. There’s just not enough time and mental bandwidth to take that all in.”
CU QUICK FACTS
Georgia's own Credit union
Data as of 06.30.15
HQ: Atlanta, GA
12-MO SHARE GROWTH: 2.16%
12-MO LOAN GROWTH: -0.19%
Instead, Marlow suggests drilling down on a topic at the right time for the right audience. For example, Georgia’s Own is undergoing a core processing system conversion. That’s a big deal in a credit union big or small, and it affects everyone.
“We wanted to be intentional about important items in this process,” Marlow says. “We developed a well thought-out, structured, internal communication plan. Instead of a group email, my teams had area meetings with our branches — three meetings with seven or eight branches at a time — and FaceTime sessions where I could tell them how I, as their representative, made decisions that affect our branch operations in this process.
“And they could ask me why I made the decisions I did and how it was going to work out,” Marlowe continues. “The communications were intentional and focused.”
Although Georgia’s Own is enjoying many successes, strategies for improving internal service remain a work in progress.
“We just finished our strategic planning meeting for the year,” Marlowe says of he and his C-level colleagues. “The idea now is to create service agreements like we would have with any provider of critical services, only these will be with our own people. That will be another way to make sure we have great internal service that will then help us provide great external service. You can’t have one without the other.”