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With anxieties about the economy, increased consumer scrutiny of financial institutions and staffers wondering if their jobs are secure, experts say now is the time to boost employee morale.According to studies, maintaining a positive corporate culture in downtimes can not only boost employee loyalty in the long run but also translates to greater productivity. While the instinct may be to cut back on such programs, with a little creativity, some credit unions are proving that fun can be cost efficient.At San Jose, Calif.-based Technology Credit Union, the “Recking Crew” has been hard at work to ensure staffers enjoy at least one fun event a month. In May, senior executives delivered churros for Cinco de Mayo and in June, to celebrate Pilipino Independence Day, volunteer staffers cooked and served some signature dishes to their co-workers. In addition, employees are gearing up for an upcoming stress-relieving ping-pong tournament.“It is easy to say we want to do what we can to boost employee morale and have some fun, but without a resource dedicated to just that, it is hard to make it happen,” said Tech CU Human Resources Senior Vice President LeeAnne Giblin.For six years, the Recking Crew, a team of 10 employees from various departments and branches, has been responsible for creating a little fun at Tech CU. Giblin said the team represents a true cross section of the credit union and has been a great help to HR. Team members must be employees in good standing and should have the time to attend monthly brainstorming sessions. In addition to food events, the HR department is providing training events aimed at wellness, such as classes on stress management and a reading series on change management. Once a month, staffers can also head to the training room for a Wii break.“With this challenging economy, we do all we can to keep the mood light and our employees informed. Even at our management meetings, we’re talking about ways to build morale,” said Giblin. “It is something we value, and it doesn’t have to cost much. Recruit a small group of employees throughout the organization to get together and plan events. Even if you can focus your efforts on the morale of your managers, if they are staying strong and positive, that will trickle down to the front-line employees.”At USA Federal Credit Union, its bring your dog to work Fridays have been an innovative way to keep spirits high, and Human Resources Director Kim Van Fleet said implementing casual wear everyday at the corporate office is also a big hit with staffers. Another fun event that has staffers buzzing is the first annual USA Fed olympics, which will be held in the parking lot at credit union headquarters later this month.The credit union also has a member service excellence group, called MSX for short, that meets, plans and organizes such events as bowling night and the delivery of St. Patrick’s Day cookies to all departments and all California branches, said Van Fleet.In Burnsville, Minn., US Federal Credit Union’s human resources department is also doing its part to make sure employees feel valued.In appreciation of its staffers’ dedication and hard work, the credit union has been surprising them periodically by celebrating days like National Popsicle Day, Strawberry Sundae Day and International Banana Day.“We were brainstorming for an original idea to do something fun and surprising for USFCU employees,” said USFCU Senior HR Generalist Melissa Pease. “We really wanted to put together events that were fun for us to do and showed employees that we appreciate them and their hard work. So far just doing a little something to brighten their day has resulted in outstanding feedback from our employees.”A little Hollywood glam was the key to Philadelphia Federal Credit Union’s employee appreciation barbeque.From Pinocchio and Napoleon Dynamite to a movie director, PFCU staffers dressed the part for their employee picnic where the human resources department served hamburgers, hot dogs, grilled chicken and assorted salads.Employees were encouraged to dress according to the theme and participate in the festivities, including games like “Whose Line Is It Anyway” and “Name That Celebrity.” Different departments even collaborated to reenact various movie scenes from The Wizard of Oz and Forrest Gump, complete with handmade props.–[email protected]

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