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How does an organization create an employee-focused culture? It requires being values-driven and having the values of the organization match the values of those working for you. The corporate values must be operationalized into daily systems and rewards given for the right performance. NIFCU’s culture demonstrates binding corporate values reflected by the acronym CLASSIQ: Communication, Leadership, Accountability, Service, Symbolism, Integrity and Quality. The first two values are particularly important. Communication, which provides open channels for top-down, bottom-up input, and Leadership, which promotes teamwork and accountability that results in inspired loyalty and trust among employees. The remaining values also help define NIFCU’s leadership, culture and brand. For example, NIFCU values celebration and recognition of achievement – visible “symbols” of the culture demonstrated in daily action. Operationalizing the Culture The values are operationalized into the culture in a host a ways. They emphasize keeping employees well-informed, and actively participating in their own development and the success of the credit union. Some of the most visible ways include: * The PACE (Planning, Accountability, Coaching and Evaluation) process -NIFCU’s comprehensive performance management system. PACE is an opportunity for a supervisor and employee to review performance, assess strengths, provide recognition and discuss necessary improvements on a quarterly basis. They collaborate on a specific program of plans and goals for the employee, as well as formulate a clear understanding of performance accountabilities and expected results. The resulting plan or “accountability map” is intended to improve job performance and promote future development. The totality of the PACE process supports NIFCU’s corporate philosophy and business goals by fostering optimal workplace performance through coaching and communication. * The Excellence in Service Program (ESP) is NIFCU’s hallmark recognition plan. ESP is an incentive bonus program that rewards employees based on individual performance and team participation in relation to predetermined goals. Generally, these goals are weighted for member service scores and CU growth…measures that are controllable by the front line. Through ESP gainsharing, a portion of overall compensation for all employees is at risk and is offered as a team bonus. This is in addition to all employees’ merit raises, which are directly related to the attainment of individual goals based on corporate priorities. * The Let’s Make Waves Program represents an especially strong example of how employees enhance the value of the organization by participating with their ideas. It moves empowerment to those who most closely deal with member issues. An individual or a team may submit an application for approval for further research of an idea. If approved, the originator(s) are given access to an array of NIFCU resources to implement their suggestion. An employee’s successful demonstration of a suggestion’s business impact will be rewarded with a 50 percent payment (or up to $5,000 for an individual and up to $15,000 for a team) of the first year’s savings or revenue generated by the idea. Since 1999, 141 ideas have been submitted with 17 approved and implemented (13% approval) and several more “pending/could be approved” but held due to timing issues with other plans. Total expense savings and/or revenue enhancement from these 17 projects has generated $2.217 million for NIFCU. Employees submitting ideas that are not accepted still receive free movie passes and have their names included in program drawings to encourage continued active idea generation. * NIFCU recognizes the importance of balancing work and family with a Flexible Work Environment. Based on departmental business needs, flexible schedules (compressed work weeks, job sharing or telecommuting) are available to all employees. * Safety and Wellness Committee makes safety recommendations and supports mind and body well-being through self-improvement seminars, an on-site fitness center and commercial fitness center discounts. Self-improvement topics have included Weight Watchers sessions, “writing for impact,” and PC skills. Saturday seminars through San Diego State University include “Getting Along with Others” and “Communicating More Effectively.” About 40% of the employee base takes advantage of the fitness center benefits. An employee-pay massage therapist comes on site twice a month with appointments booked through HRD. The sessions are offered in 15-minute and 30-minute increments over four hours covering lunch periods and are always booked. * Human Resources/Staff Committee offers ideas for improvement in employee areas such as work environment, benefits and communications. Changes that have been made as a result of discussions from this group include allowing bonus checks to be deposited directly to 401K accounts, a vacation buy-back program, and allowing vacation “advance of paid time” up to 40 hours per year. * Employee Activities Committee plans and coordinate a variety of extracurricular events including picnics, holiday parties, field trips, raffles, contests and sports leagues. The aggressive approach of NIFCU management toward benefits and services supports the core CLASSIQ values and creates a better worklife environment. This `people-first” philosophy is inherent to the NIFCU culture and requires the credit union to continually focus on employees as their most valuable asset. Does it work? NIFCU employs a staff of 320 who work in the credit union’s 11 branches and support departments. NIFCU has received the Ken Blanchard Award for Best Companies to Work for in San Diego; the Society of Human Resource Workplace Excellence Award in San Diego (three times); the Peter Baron Stark Workplace Excellence Award (two times) and the Arthur Andersen Global Best Practice Award for Motivating and Retaining Employees.

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