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NEW ORLEANS – Orange County Teachers Federal Credit Union in Santa Ana., Calif.; Digital Federal Credit Union in Marlborough, Mass.; and City-County Federal Credit Union in Brooklyn Center, Minn.; rank among the best small and medium companies to work for in America. The three credit unions were chosen as part of the first-of-its-kind rankings released recently by the Society for Human Resource Management during its 56th annual conference in New Orleans. The companies were selected and ranked by the Great Place to Workr Institute. “These organizations are outstanding examples of companies that value their employees and have worked hard to create a positive, productive organizational culture,” said Susan Meisinger, SHRM president and CEO. “All of these organizations stress respect, honesty and communication to keep their employees engaged and excited with their jobs. These smart people practices make the difference between good companies and great companies.” A common thread seems to connect the three credit unions: They want their employees to be happy. But something else is at work here, too. “There’s an ulterior motive behind all the wonderful things we offer our employees,” says Dean Nelson, president of City-County, which ranks 14th among the best 25 small companies. “The happier the employees, the more productive they are and the less turnover you have so you save much more than all of these benefits cost. If more companies would realize that, there would be a lot happier workplaces out there. “For example, one of the things we offer is a $400-a-year wellness benefit. People can use it for things specifically related to wellness like stopping smoking or health clubs or such esoteric things as a vacation flight, trips or plays. We’ve had a couple of people become certified scuba divers using the wellness benefit. They love it.” City-County also offers a $200-a-year clothing allowance and reimburses tuition on development. “We have 7 MBAs working here because we have sponsored them at various colleges here … I figure I owe them the ability to prepare for anything that might come their way, even if it means we lose them.” But this credit union doesn’t lose many of its 160 full and part-time employees other than for the typical turnover: spouse’s job transfer, decision to have children. The credit union pays market-rate salaries, says Nelson, and $50,000 a month in employee incentives. For example, says Katie Kern, vice president of human resources, the back-office staff can earn up to $100 each just by being nice and providing timely, accurate information to front-line staff. Concern for employees is nothing new. According to Nelson, the mission statement put together 18 years ago includes a goal of taking good care of employees. “You take good care of the people and you get good results. We’ve grown 15% a year for the last 15 years and we don’t even have any growth goals. When I took over in 1986, we were $45 million. Now we are $430 million with 52,000 members.” Nelson admits he was cynical at first about the program. “I see some things where you kind of buy your way into awards but this wasn’t one of them.” Ranked third among best medium companies, Orange County Teachers Federal Credit Union was singled out for its diversity, noting that 57% of its executives or senior managers are women and 20 percent are minorities. The credit union with $4.7 billion in assets and nearly 800 employees serves more than 300,000 members at 15 branch locations. Lisa Otomo, Marketing Director, says OCTFCU is such a great place to work because of “the positive attitude our team members radiate in providing service, both externally to our members and internally to each other. Additionally, our team members create a culture of caring by donating their time, money and energy to good causes, as well as helping and recognizing each other. This has a tremendous impact on the working environment at OCTFCU.” According to Otomo, the credit union provides 100% paid medical/dental benefits for team members and dependents, tuition reimbursement, team member referral bonuses, vision care discounts and gym membership discounts. In addition, each quarter, the president takes 40 team members to the Bellagio in Las Vegas for a team-building and strategy-development event. In addition, an “All Team Committee” hosts such company-sponsored activities as an annual picnic and Dream Team Conference that celebrates the achievements of the company and team members. She says the honor will help the credit union attract talented people with the same qualities that exist at the company. At Digital Federal Credit Union, which ranks 12th among the 25 best medium companies, Tim Garner, vice president of marketing and strategic planning, says that “for us to give the quality service we want our members to get, our employees have to be happy. So we pay a lot of attention to treating them with respect, giving them adequate communications, giving them meaningful challenging work.” From subsidizing the vending machines to a goal-based incentive that lets all employees earn bonuses, the credit union shares the rewards. With more than 500 employees and just under $2.3 billion in assets, Digital serves 230,000 members from 12 branches. “We have very competitive benefits and salaries but we know that’s only what you need to attract people. What gets them to stay is how you treat them when they are here. In the last employee survey, more than one of the new hires said, `When I came here for the interview, I saw people smiling and I didn’t see that anywhere else I went.’ “We pay attention to how friendly people are. If we needed a VP for an area and it came down to someone who was extremely technical and proficient and somebody who wasn’t quite as technical but had a much nicer personality and would walk through the halls and smile at people and say hello, we’d pick the one who would smile and say hello. That’s the culture we’ve tried to build.” -

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