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SPOKANE, Wash. – Who says FISH can’t fly long distances? For the past five years Spokane Teachers Credit Union has been living the FISH! Philosophy and one of the results includes the CU recently being named one of the “Best Places to Work” by Washington CEO Magazine. “We have a unique opportunity at this credit union to have fun at work and be in a place where everyone is competent and you like them,” said STCU President/CEO Steve Dahlstrom. “The key is hiring the right people and just letting them do the job.” Dahlstrom says he “manages by wondering about,” so he wonders about this or that and then tries to find the answers from members, the board and employees. Since everyone’s input matters, it helps add to what Dahlstrom says is a warm, friendly inviting atmosphere. Made famous by the Pike Street Fish Market in Seattle, the FISH! principles of Play, Make their day, Be there and Choose your attitude are not a way to fix morale problems. “When we first launched this we viewed it as an opportunity to create a more intentional culture and made sure that we had all the tools in place to support what we were saying,” said Ev Hopkins, STCU director of training . “The more we lived it the more bottom line results we could show. So the meaning is the message. In fact when we surveyed our employees, 80% believed FISH! was vital to our overall success as a credit union.” Hopkins says that STCU’s commitment to employee career development is one of the best examples of its passion for staffers and annual training expenses run approximately $1,080 per employee. Charged with maintaining best practices Hopkins and the training team of seven spend about 15% of their time making sure they stay on top of not just the credit union industry but also the training environment. Each position within the credit union has a standard training path. Employees also have unlimited access to STCU’s “Learning Library” which includes self-study books, videos and audio tapes to support education tracks ranging from fundamental teller and member service skills, and loan underwriting, to security and credit union financial management. In addition, STCU focuses on continued development of a general leadership “talent pool.” “We wanted to create an environment where you don’t have to move to a leadership position just to make more money,” said Hopkins. “The challenge is how do we know what the skills needed will be 10 years from now. So the answer was don’t set a specific succession plan for each person but rather develop a talent pool of people to take a variety of positions. It is a very different approach.” STCU also creates cross-functional project teams to give employees a chance to experience opportunities prior to accepting a position. While many have jumped on the e-learning train, STCU still delivers 90% of training via the classroom. E-learning is only used for compliance, orientation to credit unions, shared branching basics, and basic fundamental knowledge. The training team focuses on creating brief 15-minute themed e-vignettes that are lighthearted while still including a test/assessment element. Some 80% of STCU new hires have come through employee referrals, and Human Resources Director Laura Wood says it makes her job easy. Employees here total 260 of which 42 are part-timers. During the first quarter of 2003 STCU’s turnover rate was 1.5% and in 2002 it averaged about 10%. Wood sees the HR team of four’s role as a conduit between senior management, strategic issues and employee issues. “In employees we look for people who love to work with people and that believe service is their path in life -the skills part is secondary,” said Wood. If truly you have that relationship with members the skills will come.” Benefits here include covering all medical and dental expenses even for part-timers, tuition reimbursement, various recognition programs and incentive programs based on meeting credit union wide goals. Wood says HR is constantly checking the pulse of its employees through information gathering “smarter” surveys that don’t ask the same questions year after year. In addition HR pays close attention to exit interviews to check areas of improvement. Wood says the best is when people come back to the credit union. “We’ve rehired about 10-12 people and that is really nice,” said Wood. “We’d rather have someone work here for two years and give 150% than stay for 10 years and by the eighth year have them questioning what am I doing or why am I here.” [email protected]

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