Human Resources

Compensation Caution

CUs continue to be cautious with their salary, benefits, and hiring strategies.

August 09, 2011
KEYWORDS management , staff , wages
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Candid communication

Clear communication from management made the changes palatable to employees, McCausland says.

“We went out for open enrollment and it was the best year we’ve ever had,” she says. “The HR department communicated everything we knew. Then we realized our success was because we communicated so well.”

Communication is an invaluable tool, Soltis agrees, particularly in tough economic times. “You don’t want employees wondering why there are no raises or why benefits are changing,” she says. “If they’re not getting a lot of communication, they’ll dream up something and it’s usually worse than reality.”

At TruMark Financial, employees have plenty of opportunities to ask questions and get candid answers from management. Roundtable question-and-answer sessions give staff live access to executives, says McCausland, while anonymous employee surveys provide opportunities to weigh in on credit union management, morale, and other key areas along with compensation and benefits.

The surveys, administered by a third-party consultant, also contain open-ended questions that vary from year to year. Management then assesses the results and responds to any criticisms that emerge.

The results confirm McCausland’s high regard for TruMark Financial. “We invest a lot in our employees and we want to keep the talented employees in the credit union,” she says, noting that TruMark Financial provides leadership development and tuition reimbursement along with an employee recognition gala, service awards, and other events and programs designed to honor, develop, and retain staff.

“I’m not going to tell you we haven’t let people go, but it’s rare,” she says. “They’re our greatest asset and we treat them that way. People stay here, and they’re banging on the door to be a part of this organization.”

America’s First Federal also shows staff appre­ciation with lunches, team-building retreats, and other friendly games and prizes to foster a collegial environment.

A popular event, “blue jean day,” allows employees to pay $5 or $10 to wear jeans. And all the money goes to nonprofits or community causes, such as tornado relief.

Employees appreciate the opportunity to dress down and to raise money for good causes, says Connor. During a recent blue jean day, the atmosphere at branches was so festive, he says, “you’d have thought I’d walked around handing out hundred-dollar bills.”

Treating employees as assets is an investment that TruMark Financial’s management team believes brings a solid return. “Our philosophy here is keeping the lines of communication open and providing employees with the tools and resources they need,” McCausland says.

Other credit unions, particularly those that continue to stall on wage increases despite relatively healthy operations, should take heed, suggests Soltis. Rewards don’t have to be excessive, and enrichment programming can reflect the current economic situation with lunch seminars on work-life balance or time-management lessons. Work environment, corporate leadership, and effective communication, she explains, can all help maintain morale and engagement levels.

If credit unions don’t remain aware of morale levels and act when morale declines, says Soltis, “they’re definitely going to start losing people when other industries start hiring. A lot of employees are watching and waiting. But credit unions that aren’t ready to reward employees in dollars do have other options.” 


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Great article! Unfortunately, most employees don’t feel valued or appreciated by their supervisors or employers. In fact, research has shown that the predominant reason team members quit their jobs is because they don’t feel valued. This is in spite of the fact that employee recognition programs have proliferated in the workplace – over 90% of all organizations in the U.S. has some form of employee recognition activities in place. But most employee recognition programs are viewed with skepticism and cynicism – because they aren’t viewed as being genuine in their communication of appreciation. Getting the “employee of the month” award, receiving a certificate of recognition, or a “Way to go, team!” email just don’t get the job done. How do you communicate authentic appreciation? We have found people have different ways that they want to be shown appreciation, and if you don’t communicate in the language of appreciation important to them, you essentially “miss the mark”. Additionally, employees need to receive recognition more than once a year at their performance review. Otherwise, they view the praise as “going through the motions”. A third component of authentic appreciation is that the communication has to be about them personally – not the department, not their group, but something they did. Finally, they have to believe that you mean what you say. How you treat them has to match the words you use. If you are not sure how your team members want to be shown appreciation, the Motivating By Appreciation Inventory ( will identify the language of appreciation and specific actions preferred by each employee. You then can create a group profile for your team, so everyone knows how to encourage one another. Remember, employees want to know that they are valued for what they contribute to the success of the organization. And communicating authentic appreciation in the ways they desire it can make the difference between keeping your quality team members or having a negative work environment that everyone wants to leave. Paul White, Ph.D., is the co-author of The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace with Dr. Gary Chapman.

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