Community Service

Walking in Members' Shoes

‘Everything we do or say is for the betterment of our members.’

October 23, 2013
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Machel Montano, a soca singer and songwriter, gives audiences high energy and fast-paced performances. That’s the type of energy Nancy Whittaker brings to her job as manager of member services and compliance for Cayman Islands Civil Service Cooperative Credit Union.

Whittaker uses it to motivate her team and provide members with services they need. Her dedication is evident in her 12 years with the organization, where she started as a member service representative. Thelma Badal, assistant manager, member services and compliance, believes Whittaker will be a CEO down the road.

But for now, Whittaker says her main goal is to assist members in meeting their financial goals. As a team leader, she empowers her staff to learn new ways to reach out to members and discover their needs. This involves giving staff the tools to serve members and to understand the credit union’s philosophy: Members helping members reach their financial goals.

“I’m a member of the credit union,” Whittaker explains. “Staff have to stay focused on what the credit union is about. We offer verything a retail bank offers, but we’re completely different. Everything we do or say is for the betterment of members.

“Staff place themselves in our members’ shoes,” she says. “They understand members’ needs first. For example, a member might want a short-term loan that would be difficult to repay. Instead, our staff might offer a longterm loan with more affordable monthly payments. We don’t want to just say no and push a member out the door. We’ll find a way to achieve our members’ financial goals and dreams.”

Members know Whittaker’s dedication, so they seek her out when they need help. She loves the interactions, which is critical to learning how to meet their financial goals.

“Sometimes you can learn what our members need just from a casual conversation,” Whittaker explains.“By seeing a member walking to work every day, we’ll go the extra mile to assist that member with a car loan.”

Those are the moments Whittaker finds personally rewarding. “It’s always nice to hear a member say we helped them purchase their first home, first piece of property, or first vehicle. We have a great group of members.”

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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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