Playing The Long Game In Culture Cultivation

Grow Financial Federal Credit Union learned several lessons during the decade it spent refining its culture and achieving its current level of employee engagement.

 
 

Florida-based MacDill Federal Credit Union rebranded as Grow Financial Federal Credit Union in 2007 as part of a larger strategy to revamp its community-facing presence and revitalize its internal culture.

In the nearly five years since, the organization has grown from $1.6 billion to $2 billion in assets. It has more than 175,000 members and approximately 565 employees.

Its strategy — the Grow Natural Approach (GNA) touches everything from hiring and career development to employee events and recognition programs. GNA has helped the credit union earn recognition from the Tampa Bay Times Top Workplaces as the best large employer two of the past three years.

Here, Kimberly Woollard, the credit union’s chief human resources officer, describes what this transition required from an HR perspective.

Who We Hire

As MacDill Federal Credit Union, we had been banking the same way since the late 1800s, save for a few technology upgrades here and there. Our hiring practices prioritized experience on a resume over enthusiasm and willingness to learn.

Our hiring strategy is simpler now. We choose interesting and fun people so we will be an interesting and fun company that others will want to do business with.

Fourteen year ago we started using a personality assessment tool from Omnia Group during our interviews. We continue that practice today because it helps us look at personality traits without presenting them as negative or positive. All candidates for all positions complete the assessment. The content is the same for everyone, but different positions require people with different behavior or personality characteristics. For example, our member services representatives need to be comfortable doing sales, asking members questions, taking risks, and performing teller duties.

Because the personality profiles remain stable over time, we can also use this information for team member coaching. It’s especially useful for things like understanding what motivates individuals or how to give people feedback.

The Right Recruiting Channels

Following the rebrand in 2007, we started reaching out to all academic majors, from the traditional business community to liberal arts and beyond. We also got involved in diversity and military programs throughout the community. All of our hiring information is now accessible via smartphone and we’ve even started engaging candidates through social media platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook.

We’ve also redesigned our job descriptions and created a tiered role called the relationship specialist (RS), which goes from RS I to RS IV. The role is designed to allow a person to enter our organization with no experience and advance quickly as they learn and become proficient in the necessary skills.

Onboarding And Training 

Grow Financial looks first for attitude and second for skill. The goal of the first three days is to introduce new hires to our guiding principles; the Grow natural approach, or GNA; and our mantra — Be Bold, Be Great, and Have Fun. We also acquaint new team members with our senior team. This inspires new hires to get involved and feel more comfortable giving feedback to the final decision-makers.

Once we've introduced new team members to the Grow way and they've begun to master their on-the-job skills, it’s time for them to dig deeper into self-development.

In 2013, Grow Financial introduced its summit programs. These range from entry-level training sessions on goal setting, empowerment, professionalism, and communication to executive training and coaching for those leading the organization.

The courses include both in-house and outsourced instruction and extend beyond the classroom to include self-study, e-learning, team projects, fundraising, leadership simulations, and executive networking.

The programs range from three months up to one year and graduates can join an alumni group for sustainability and continued exposure to the organization.

Ladders To Leadership

Our people development group has a program called Step Up To Leadership that allows team members not currently in a leadership role to receive all the training necessary to advance.

The objectives of the program are:

  • Empower and retain top performers within the organization.
  • Create career development.
  • Increase department communication and ownership across the organization.
  • Develop team members by creating goals outside comfort zones and coaching to these goals.
  • Build team member trust and engagement.
  • Partnership with a coach/mentor within the organization.

This type of internal leadership program is crucial to Grow's success. It boosts morale as well as creativity and sparks the transfer of good ideas. The cultivation of in-house talent also helps ease the chain of succession and makes team members feel more connected to the business. 

Team Member Recognition 

In addition to our company mantra, in 2013 we added six guiding principles we call our Team Member Value Proposition. They are:

  1. Create And Collaborate: We work together. We try new things. We're willing to take risks and be leaders.
  2. Keep The Lines Open: We speak openly and honestly for the good of the credit union.
  3. Don't Do Boring: We believe having fun is the way to inspire passionate performance and service.
  4. Be Accountable: We all play a critical role in living our values and in helping each other do the same.
  5. Grow Forward: We have high expectations of you and you can expect opportunities for learning and advancement.
  6. Grow The Greater Good: We're socially responsible for giving back to our community. 

Creating these six principles was a huge first step, but we needed to reshape our existing recognition programs around them.

One solution was to allow any team member to recognize their peers for actions that match any or all of those ideals. They do that by submitting a DROP — doing it right on purpose — nomination.

Team members are able to view their DROPs on our intranet at any time and we hold a quarterly awards program — called the GNAs — at our headquarters in Tampa. The ceremony recognizes team members with the most drops per category as well as one overall GNA winner, and they receive a trophy and personal day off.

Avoiding The “All Work And No Play” Mentality

Our organization participates in a variety of team member events held during working hours as well as on weekends.

For the past three years we have hosted an all-team member meeting in the fall. We are able to hold this event with not only our staff in Florida but also in South Carolina through videoconference.

Last year we hosted a spring family fun event at our headquarters, complete with bounce houses, face painting, and many kid-friendly activities. Since starting these events, we’ve have had almost 100% participation at every one. 

In addition to our larger-scale get-togethers, we also host other activities throughout the year, including health and wellness events, diversity luncheons, American Heart Association fundraisers, and team member appreciation days. All of these are optional to attend and team members can participate by signing up via our company intranet.