Happy Boss, Happy Office

People Perspectives LLC

5 minutes

What Blue Federal Credit Union 'gets' about employee engagement.

We have a unique culture in which we are first a family,” says Stacy Maatman, VP/human resources and learning development at $800 million/70,000-member Blue Federal Credit Union, Cheyenne, Wyo. Based on the CU’s employee engagement and satisfaction surveys, it’s a happy family atmosphere.

The CU is the result of a merger between $590 million Warren Federal Credit Union and $230 million Community Financial Credit Union, Broomfield, Colo. It has 179 employees and was selected as a People Perspectives Distinguished Credit Union of the Year because it had the second highest overall average for both satisfaction and engagement, and had the highest dimension averages on job satisfaction and supervisory satisfaction.

Given that supervisory satisfaction has an especially strong correlation to employee engagement, we will look at what, in particular, Blue FCU has done to build its effective supervisory staff, thereby enhancing its employees’ engagement and satisfaction.

Grooming the Next Generation

To start, all new supervisors attend leadership development training, which is a nine-month program developed in-house at Blue FCU. Supervisors attend one, four-hour class each month, based upon a leadership concept that has been recognized at the credit union. For example, leaders learn not only adaptive leadership skills to more effectively communicate with staff, but also skills to identify dysfunctions with the team dynamics. The human resources team works side by side with these leaders to foster and promote these skills.

In grooming employees for future leadership positions at the credit union, Blue FCU focuses heavily on in-house training. Not only are interested employees encouraged to attend the leadership program above, but the HR department developed an employee toolkit for staff to hone in on effective leadership skills.

For example, employees are directed to practice new skills after each leadership development training class with their peers, which teaches them to stand out as a leader in their current role.

Blue FCU Takeaways for Other Credit Unions

  • It all starts at the top. The culture is only as effective as the leaders.
  • The CEO’s empowerment and direction creates the culture.
  • Accountability. Employees watch to see if others are being held accountable.  You have to have a plan that identifies how employees and leaders will be held accountable for their actions and stick with it.
  • Recognize and reward. Blue FCU has a formal rewards and recognition program.  The credit union ensures employees are recognized for their successes by all levels of the credit union.
  • Coach. Create an environment that supports coaching throughout all levels of leadership and hold leaders accountable for this.
  • Promote open communication. Create an environment in which employees are not afraid to speak honestly while being respectful of others.

Human resources also works with each of these employees and their manager to identify their strengths and leadership imperatives. Moreover, these future leaders are required to lead a volunteer program either within the community or credit union to put their new skills to the test.

Typically, the credit union takes between three and nine employees into this program per year, based on manager recommendations.

Once in leadership positions, supervisors are held accountable for being effective leaders at all levels. Coaching is especially emphasized at Blue FCU.  “Our CEO, [CUES member] Stephanie Teubner, CSE, believes in a culture in which employees are seen as more than just a number, but as our greatest asset,” says Maatman.

“Therefore, she sets the expectation of coaching employees to success,” Maatman continues. “She makes sure the executives are discussing this at all meetings and reviewing all terminations to make sure that coaching the employee was not a problem. This trickles down at every level.”

 The credit union is so committed to this concept that if a manager is not coaching their staff and living up to the CU’s culture, it can lead to termination. This is determined through exit interviews with staff, skip level meetings (where a manager’s manager meets with employees to talk about department concerns, challenges, etc.), the employee engagement and satisfaction survey, and employees being empowered to tell their executive or HR if they are not being coached.

One of the coaching directives, for example, is having managers ask employees for their opinions regarding a problem, rather than giving them the answers. This shows employees their opinions are valued, while coaching them to take ownership of a situation.

Family First

In addition to the high averages on supervisory satisfaction, Blue FCU had the second highest overall averages, for both overall satisfaction and engagement, of all our clients last year.

According to Maatman, “Whether it is with our members, the communities in which we serve, or our staff, we believe in building long-lasting relationships.”

Blue FCU welcomes new employees into the CU family prior to their start date, when the credit union sends them a gift card to a local restaurant to celebrate their new career with their own families. Then on their first day, new employees are delivered their favorite Starbucks drink by a credit union executive.

“Our goal is to make this more than a job, but a place they are happy to call their family and where they want to achieve a long career. Our supervisors are taught to lead with love and trust through our leadership training initiatives,” says Maatman.

Kerry Liberman is president of People Perspectives LLC, a consulting firm that specializes in conducting employee engagement and satisfaction surveys for credit unions. She can be reached at or 206.451.4218. Follow People Perspectives on Facebook.

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