Callahan & Associates is a 100% employee-owned company. And as an employee of Callahan, it feels good to say that.
The company has operated under an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP) that gave employees partial ownership since 2003. But last year, as a benefit to associates and to better align with the ethos of the credit union industry, Callahan converted to full ESOP ownership.
An ESOP provides employees ownership interest in a company, thereby aligning interests around the good of the organization and empowering associates to think like owners. To boost employee engagement and to help associates understand how their day-to-day work impacts the bottom line, Callahan has been diligently working these past few months to implement open book management (OBM) practices.
As I learn more about OBM — which demands visibility across all hierarchical levels — I’m discovering deep parallels between this business model and the credit union one, specifically in regard to employee engagement and motivation. Here are five strategies that we’re looking to implement at Callahan & Associates to cultivate an engaged team. I bet more than a few would be useful for your shop as well.
No. 1: Start With Why
Can all your team members clearly state your organizations’ mission and vision?
Do your team members know what goals the credit union has and how they, individually, can help the credit union achieve those goals? Do they know what “winning” means for the credit union as an organization? For themselves as employees?
Mission and vision speak to why the credit union exists, so start there with the big picture and then show employees how they play an essential role in bringing those principles to fruition. How to do this might vary from credit union to credit union, but the movement is based on a shared foundation of enriching members lives, so don’t be afraid to reach out to others for inspiration on the best way to do it at your organization.
When BCU ($3.6B, Vernon Hills, IL) opened its Crystal Lake branch, one of the first tasks for the branch team was to answer the question: “Why are we doing what we are doing?” Once employees were clear on purpose, coming up with ideas on how to move the numbers in the right direction followed.
No. 2: Encourage Strategic Thinking At The Team Level
Jack Stack’s The Great Game of Business repeatedly reminds readers that “people support what they help create.”
Do your teams participate in department or team planning?
If your credit union’s strategic plan dictates a certain number or dollar amount of new auto loans, then help your team understand why this number is important for your members, the organization, and its employees.
Then, involve the entire team in figuring out how to best meet that goal. Your planning should not only recognize the targets you want to hit but also specify what behaviors will lead to success. When you involve your team in the planning process, you build buy-in from the beginning.
During the economic downturn of 2008, Numerica Credit Union ($2.3B, Spokane, WA) solicited employees for ways to reduce expenses and save money via its We All Can Make A Difference (WACMAD) campaign. Even though the credit union had an efficiency ratio that was nearly 6% better than peers with $1+ billion in assets, it new it could find savings in hard-to-spot places.
No. 3: Track Performance
Influential management consultant Peter Drucker is widely quoted as saying, “What's measured improves.”
So, after you and your team have determined your targets and success behaviors, you’ll want to track them in a visible, easy-to-understand way.
Break large goals down into monthly, weekly, or even daily targets. Then, review your results and share your successes … often. How often depends upon the target, but once a week is often advised.
As you track your goals, be sure to recognize the behaviors that help you succeed. For example, asking members if a debt consolidation loan would be beneficial for them is a behavior that could lead to thousands of dollars in closed loans.
Highlighting behaviors as well as results shows employees the link between their day-to-day behaviors and the success of their team.
No. 4: Reward
If you want to motivate your employees, then celebrate their successes.
Start by creating a success plan. And in the vein of No. 2 above, involve your employees in this. However, be ready to set parameters, such as limiting spending to no more than $20 per team member per month.
If you don’t want to give your employees carte blanche to create a success plan, then come up with a list of rewards you’re comfortable with and let the team select their top choices.
If you don’t have individual goals, and you don’t want to introduce them, then consider the power of the team reward. Everyone works together as a team, and when the team wins, everyone wins (hopefully a reward they all want).
If you’re not sure that cash incentives work for your organization, Community First Credit Union of Florida ($1.7B, Jacksonville, FL) is a great example of how rewarding teams with experiences is just as effective.
The bottom line here is: The more involved your team is in the rewards process, the more they’ll be driven to achieve their goals.
No. 5: Just Keep Swimming
Success begets more success, and you want to keep positive momentum going.
If your team is not successful in meeting its initial goal, don’t be discouraged. Remain positive, and keep going! This sends the message to your team that your goals are important and aren’t going away.
Come together to brainstorm different ways to reach your goals. And if you can, give your team more opportunities to reach their goals. More chances to succeed means a higher chance of success. This is good for the team, good for your organization, and good for your members.
An engaged team positively impacts the financials, members, and the overall satisfaction of the team. Finding meaningful ways to engage might take effort, but the rewards are worth it in the end.
What are you doing to engage your team? Let us know in the comments below.
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