Hooked on CUs From Day One

‘The people made it easy to get involved, learn, and grow.’

December 24, 2013
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John Parks has had a major impact on Sioux Valley Community Credit Union’s operations, but perhaps his greatest contribution is his effect on staff.

“I can’t imagine working with someone other than John Parks,” says Katie Johnson, director of operations. “He’s a great coach and mentor, and his positive personality is addictive.”

In 2011, Sioux Valley Community—which serves a 12-county area of Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota—lost its CEO, who was killed in a roadside accident. The economy was weak, and a large meat-packing employer had closed and laid off 1,400 workers.

Membership was in decline, lending was slow, and investment earnings were next to nothing. "That made it tough trying to keep three branches running,” recalls Johnson.

Parks arrived in March 2012, having previously served as branch manager for two other area credit unions. His accomplishments since then are impressive.

He added a debit card program, which helped the credit union bring back previous members and gain new ones. Next came user-friendly online banking with free bill pay. He increased advertising to communicate the credit union’s willingness to lend.

Parks completely rewrote loan policies, allowing greater flexibility to lend to those who qualify or need a second chance. Sioux Valley’s delinquency rate has stayed under 0.5%, and the credit union now promotes buy-down interest rates for loans financed elsewhere. Sioux Valley’s loan portfolio increased from $5.3 million to $9 million between March 2012 and August 2013.

“Our board and staff are engaged in the community, working with local schools and businesses,” he says. “Our staff does an excellent job researching needs and implementing their findings. Our board helps with everything from joining parades to celebrating staff victories.”

The credit union has partnered with Siouxland Community Action Agency to offer individual development accounts with matching funds from the Iowa Credit Union Foundation.

Parks is in his fourth year as president of the Northwest Iowa Chapter of Credit Unions.

His passion for credit unions has grown with his involvement, starting with his first visit to a credit union shortly after college. “I opened an account and was hooked because of the great service,” he recalls.

“Working for credit unions, I’ve received tremendous support from directors, staff, and professionals at all levels,” says Parks. "The people have made it easy to get involved, to learn, and to grow.”

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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 (www.appreciationatwork.com/assess) 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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