“If our culture is not right for you, here is my offer,” says Carson Utecht, senior vice president of people at First Commerce. “Please take it and use it to find your next job.”
CU QUICK FACTS
First Commerce Credit Union
HQ: Tallahassee, FL
Data as of 12.31.17
12-MO SHARE GROWTH: 10.0%
12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 2.6%
Here, Utecht talks about why the credit union implemented the payout, what it achieves, and whether any hires have taken advantage.
What does First Commerce want to accomplish by offering new hires money to quit?
Carson Utecht: I have seen and worked for organizations that I felt were a cult, and if after the first few days, they are having any “this is a cult” feelings, they need to not be here.
It’s not new. Zappos has done it for years in its Las Vegas call center. It offers more than we do, but if you would be swayed away for $5,000 or even $1,000, then you need to go.
Carson Utecht, Senior Vice President of People, First Commerce Credit Union
I would rather not invest the time in training. We’re member-focused. Our service scores are high, and we work hard to keep it that way. We expect a lot from our team, and we know that kind of culture is not for everybody.
How long is orientation? When would new hires know the credit union is not for them?
CU: Our orientation period is five days followed by teller training. In that period new hires have 15 different culture conversations about who we are and what we expect. They’ll know by Friday.
If it doesn’t work for you in your first five days, it’s never going to get better.
Does it surprise them when you lay out this offer? Has anyone taken you up on it?
CU: They’re always shocked by it. But they also say, “Wow, you care that much?”
We’ve had one person take us up on it. He went to the person who oversees new hire orientation and said, “If you had made it $2,500, I would have taken it.”
Based on that, we said he needed to take the money because he wouldn’t be here very long. He was absolutely not right for our culture.
Is it really simple as finding the right fit to ultimately save time and money?
CU: It’s that simple. It’s not a test. It’s an honest offer.
I had a job once where no one on my team knew I was starting. By the end of the first week I thought it was horrible. By the third week I was sitting in the human resources’ office saying “I’m not right. I’m miserable. My team is miserable.” I left.
It’s the same thing. It takes us six months to get a lender up and running. If they don’t want to be here after one week, then we’d rather cut them. Ultimately, it will save us money.
Have you identified best practices or lessons learned?
CU: Because of my style — which is casual, almost snarky — this way works for me. I cut to the chase. Another HR department might want to make the offer on paper and hand over a fake dollar bill like Zappos does.
I think to give exceptional member service your culture needs to be cult-like. And you need to buy into what I’m saying and what I’m doing to do that.
In the 1990s I lived in Bentonville, AR, where Walmart is headquartered. Every day before the store opened those workers would do a cheer, wiggle down to the floor and back up. How do you get people to do that?
It’s important we communicate openly and clearly because a culture is a living, breathing thing. Every organization has one, whether you believe it or not, and this is a crazy idea. But I think it works.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
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