Where Enthusiasm Reigns Supreme

Credit unions hold their own in rankings of best places to work by rewarding and recognizing employees.

 
 

When it comes to creating engaging workplaces, few credit unions can compete with the lavish perks that tech companies and multinational corporations bestow on their employees, whether it's the game rooms at Google — complete with table tennis, billiards, and foosball tables — or free stays for Four Seasons employees in any one of the company's 90 hotels in 36 countries. And yet, credit unions are no strangers to local or national surveys of best workplaces, whose rankings are based in part on employee responses to detailed questionnaires. Earlier this year, Fortune magazine listed Navy Federal ($51.6B, Merrifield, VA) in its ranking of the nation's 100 best places to work, and since 2009, Trumark Financial ($1.4B; Trevose, PA) has appeared not once but four times in Central Pennsylvania Business Journal's annual survey of best local employers. Each year, Trumark Financial steadily moved up in the rankings from 13th to its most recent fifth-place finish in 2012 for large companies.

Credit unions hold their own in these rankings because of the work culture they promote, one that invests in employee health and professional development even as it sets the stage for a fun, communal environment where employees feel rewarded and recognized. As a result, these employees are more involved in and enthusiastic about their work, which has positive ramifications for everything from the credit union's ability to recruit and retain top talent to the health of its bottom line.

It's no coincidence that many of the same credit unions that have been rated great places to work have also been growing like gangbusters. 

It's no coincidence that many of the same credit unions that have been rated as great places to work have also been growing like gangbusters. Spokane Teachers Credit Union ($1.7B; Spokane, WA), listed among Fortune's best small and medium workplaces in 2012, has been adding between 1,000 and 1,200 new members each month for at least the past year and a half, says Laura Wood, director of human resources. Although STCU has 500 employees, the turnover rate is less than 10%, and Wood has an easier time than many of her corporate counterparts filling vacant positions because roughly 40% of the credit union's new hires come from employee referrals.

In fact, for relatively little money, the payoff from creating engaging workplaces can be substantial. HR Manager Tracey Keffer attributes the 15% that Oregon Community ($1.1B; Eugene, OR) saved on employee health insurance premiums last year to the credit union's health and wellness program, which had a meager $10,000 budget. Other low- or no-cost programs, including one at BECU ($10.8B; Seattle, WA), to support and promote home-based employees, led to a startling discovery: Remote staff members are 30% less likely to call in sick than those who work on-site. As a result, many credit unions with employee engagement programs are finding they're not only producing happier, healthier employees but also improving productivity. Keffer summarizes her organization's employee engagement strategy this way: “It's not working longer. It's working smarter.”