Using Poets and Hayrides to Advance Employee Engagement
Credit unions were likely not around during William Shakespeare’s time but that hasn’t stopped Member One Federal Credit Union from using his poems and plays to reach out to its employees.
The $599 million credit union in Roanoke, Va., developed “Using the Humanities to Give Business Training a Soul” program, which includes a diverse offering of courses related to sales, soft skills, economics and leadership that are business related with a humanities-based theme.
By bringing in other areas of the humanities, such as economics, history, and even philosophy and political science, participants find a rewarding environment that helps them to better understand the financial environment and climate in which they work, said Scott Crawford, professional development director for Member One.
Employees at Member One Federal Credit Union visited the Museum of Frontier Culture to get a taste of frontier life and take lessons about teamwork back to the credit union.
“We explore contemporary issues, from local to global events, from an historical, economic, and socio-political context, thus widening participants’ views and understandings about issues directly coming to bear on our credit union,” Crawford said.
Eight credit unions were recent winners of the CUNA Human Resources and Training and Development Council's 2013 Excellence Awards for implementing projects that have advanced employee engagement, health and wellness programs, online training and strategic leadership.
Member One’s program, which involves music, dance, fine arts, poetry, literature and the works of Francesco Petrarch and William Shakespeare, took home one of the awards for employee engagement.
“We recognized that all training simply had to be engaging and fun,” Crawford said. “We wanted to make sure that training classes would provide an environment that sparked discussion and that would take people somewhat out of their comfort zones.”
Crawford and his team also wanted to create a learning environment that would encourage innovation and creativity.
“Research related to the creative process clearly indicates that associating seemingly unrelated disciplines with each other leads to innovative insights, so we wanted to expose participants to diverse content areas,” he said.
Employees at Member One embarked went on an interesting field trip to the American Shakespeare Center in Staunton, Va., in order to explore Shakespeare from a perspective related to business.
“A follow-up activity I designed involved the group breaking into groups of three and identifying one Shakespeare character from a play and then analyzing the character using the DISC assessment,” Crawford explained.
Created in the 1920s, Crawford said the DISC assessment identifies an individual as having one, or possibly two, dominant personality types. Based on the type, the person communicates a certain way and prefers people to communicate with him or her in a certain manner.
“They then had to discuss how that character communicated and would want people to communicate with him or her,” Crawford said. “They then had to identify a business or leadership theme found within the play and associate it with our credit union.”
Crawford said that the cost for this imaginative program is relatively non-existent beyond salaries. Member One’s human resources department consists of three employees who focus on the seminars and academies while one employee conducts one-on-one training sessions that focus on soft skills such as communication, etiquette, being able to resolve conflict and learning how to be empathetic. The supplies to conduct the program are minimal, costing in the low $100s annually, he stated.
“Much of what we do involves simply copying images and excerpts to examine or simply displaying images or excerpts through PowerPoint,” Crawford said. “Again, the primary expense is employing the people to conduct the training sessions; and yes, the cost is justified based on improved member engagement and overall product penetration.”
Town & Country FCU's Employee Experience Team volunteered their time to help execute various employee-centered activities and events that created camaraderie and helped boost productivity.
Playwrights from the 14th century don’t make an appearance in the employee engagement program designed by the $234 million Town & Country Federal Credit Union in South Portland, Maine. However, the end result of employees having fun on and off the job has translated into improved production at the credit union. The program was also honored with one of the CUNA HR and Training and Development Council’s 2013 Excellence Awards.
Town & Country’s Employee Experience Team, led by HR and a group of employees who volunteered their time to help execute various employee-centered activities and events that were reflective of the needs and desires of the staff, combined health and wellness, sports and parties.
“People spend more time at work than they do at home so we wanted to make sure the experience is a positive one,” said Nicole Sears, chief people officer at Town & Country. “After we implemented this program we found we had a higher production rate and people wanting to come into work.”
Sears said the program cost is minimal and worth every extra dollar. Planning exercise events, potlucks, zip line adventures and hayrides are ways that management can see what hidden talents their employees might have that may not show up during regular work hours.
To give it more authenticity, Member One FCU's Chief Financial Officer Alan Wade dressed as the Duke of Orange during a Battle of Waterloo exercise.
“Our programs are 100% volunteer and sometimes we are surprised at who takes charge,” said David Libby, president/CEO of Town & Country. “Often, being in charge of one of our teams can open doors to new positions at the credit union.”
Sears said that with this type of staff experience the employees often become friends at all levels in the credit union.“If the work environment is a pleasant one then we have stronger employees,” he explained. “It becomes more than just a job.”
Crawford said in tracking success in these types of programs,the return on investment of training is almost impossible to measure. Instead, the focus needs to be placed on the return on engagement, he noted.
“Circumstantial evidence clearly suggests that Member One's training program (is) having a positive effect, allowing for increased profit, sales penetration and morale.”