ORLANDO, Fla. – In legends, King Arthur created a roundtable to symbolize that his knights could discuss issues regarding the kingdom as equals. Central Florida Educators’ Federal Credit Union is borrowing a page from lore with its Employee Roundtable program, which was designed to improve communication and create a forum for employees to discuss ideas and any concerns with senior management directly. “There was a definite need to improve communications and I felt we needed to get people together in an environment they would feel comfortable to express themselves so that meant no management could be involved,” said CFEFCU HR Generalist/Trainer Frances Perez. “Just me and our President/CEO Joe Melbourne are in the room and we assure participants of confidentiality.” Structured to include 12 randomly selected representatives from all areas of the credit union, the roundtables are made up of an equal mix of tellers, member service representatives, call center representatives and other operations staff. Roundtables are held monthly in three two-hour sessions. Prior to the first scheduled meeting those randomly selected complete a list of topics, which is then prioritized by Perez. The first session outlines the program “ground rules”. “I think it is important to set the rules right at the beginning that way participants know what is expected of them and what the expectations of the meeting are,” said Perez. “We wanted to make sure this would not turn into just a gripe session so discussions generally deal with operations. If someone has an issue with a manager or personal issue then they ask to remain after the session to discuss it with us.” All issues are addressed and discussions are not limited just to the list says Perez. Minutes are prepared for each meeting and it is Perez’ job to follow up and keep employees updated via newsletters about the status of any carryover issues that are not immediately resolved and give an approximate timeframe for resolution. “The feedback has been great,” said Perez. “Employees stop me in the hall to ask when it will be their turn to participate. And the managers are much more relaxed now than when we first started the program two years ago. But a few still want to know what goes on at the roundtable and some get upset if one of their employees isn’t selected as a roundtable participant.” According to Melbourne, the roundtables help him “feel the pulse of the organization.” Meeting with more than 50 employees a year Melbourne is able to get a real snapshot of how employees are feeling, the problems they face on a daily basis and if there is cooperation within and between departments while employees also have a chance to get to know him better. “This program has a positive impact in many other areas besides just improving communications,” said Perez. “From an employee motivation and empowerment standpoint the program works in real-time. Employees feel that their suggestions regarding organizational improvements are being acknowledged and implemented as appropriate and they see the changes their discussions have brought about and they feel responsible for those positive changes.” -mbourjolly@cutimes.com