Key Factors for Reducing Turnover and Combatting the Great Resignation

smiling circle of employee team members put hands together to support each other
Rhonda Hall Photo
VP HR/Organizational Development
University Federal Credit Union

4 minutes

University FCU achieved record employee engagement and increased retention in 2021. Here’s how.

During the past two years, businesses and their employees have been struggling to keep up with the pace of change. The COVID-19 pandemic forced organizations to change entire business models virtually overnight. Employees had to keep up not only with organizational changes but with the drastic changes happening in their personal lives as well. Those employees lucky enough to be able to work from home during this time were suddenly spending 24/7 with a roommate, home-schooling children or feeling isolated if living alone. The amount of change employees experienced personally and professionally during 2020 and 2021 was astounding. As a result of these factors, coupled with baby-boomer retirements and a lack of childcare options, the United States is in the midst of “The Great Resignation”: Employers are seeing double-digit growth in their turnover rates as employees make different choices about their personal lives and careers.

During all this upheaval, University Federal Credit Union leaned in early to support its employees and stayed fully present with them throughout by spending time deeply listening to staff, meeting them where they were and leading with empathy, flexibility and understanding. As a result of strategic, specific planned actions led by our human resources and organizational development team and carried out by leadership, UFCU saw our highest employee engagement scores ever. These scores led the Gallup organization to honor UFCU with the Gallup’s Exceptional Workplace Award in 2021, which recognizes organizations with employee engagement scores in the top 2% worldwide.

If you find it challenging to get your credit union’s executive team enthused about employee engagement and understanding why it matters, then let’s talk about how it relates to turnover. During the same year of highest employee engagement scores on record, UFCU realized a 5% reduction in overall turnover. Looking deeper, some traditionally high-turnover departments saw as much as a 15% reduction. While most organizations were out scrambling to find new talent to fill their vacancies, UFCU took the approach of retaining the talent it had—and it worked, with tangible results.

Tactics for Increasing Employee Engagement

Here are some key tactics we employed to increase engagement at UFCU:

  • Communicate, communicate, communicate: We drafted a rolling communication plan looking 30 days out with specific targeted messages. Executive team members delivered those messages through a variety of channels each week, such as videos, vlogs, blogs, emails, walk-and-talks and town halls, and inserted just-in-time information as needed. These messages addressed employees’ feelings first and foremost. The executive team started and ended each message by acknowledging how employees were feeling and added operational information where appropriate.
  • Writing thank-you cards: Each senior leadership team member wrote five thank-you cards/cards of gratitude by hand per week and mailed them to employees’ homes. And in order to know who deserved or needed a card, senior leaders had to be out and about talking with employees.
  • Listening-in sessions in the call center: Senior leaders sat next to call center employees for 60 to 90 minutes a month listening to the types of calls they handled. By doing so, senior leaders began to understand the system limitations employees work with daily as well as member needs, and they discovered many of the calls members made to our contact center were because we caused a problem. This process uncovered many unknown challenges and allowed us to fix them—quickly!
  • Stay interviews: All people leaders conducted “stay interviews” at minimum two times a year with all employees.
  • New-hire wellness checks: Executive team members made targeted phone calls to new employees three to six months after hiring to check in on them—on their emotional state, their connectedness to the organization and how they felt.
  • Take five: We also dedicated time for employees to connect with their managers. Employees scheduled five-minute appointments to check in on how their manager was doing and what support the manager might need from front-line employees.
  • Community service projects: We built a home with Habitat for Humanity with volunteers from other local credit unions, assembled college dorm room baskets for first-generation college students, unloaded trucks for Food Bank Warehouse, walked dogs at animal shelters and shopped for holiday gifts for single moms living in shelters.
  • Branch visits: Even when most employees were working from home, 25% of the workforce was still going into a physical work location every day. Senior leadership visited branches and listened to these employees’ needs, fears and concerns. Even when branches were closed to members, senior leaders came through drive-thru lanes with signs, doing dances and sending notes of love and encouragement!
  • Dinner on us: When an employee was struggling emotionally or experiencing health issues, we sent them a $100 gift card to have a meal delivered to their home with a note that acknowledged the stresses they were under, and how we wanted to do this one small thing for them—have dinner on us.
  • Emotional well-being: UFCU partnered with amazing vendor Thrive360 and established two “zen rooms” in the corporate office, outfitting each one with virtual reality stress reduction. Also, through Thrive360, we provided a stress reduction app that employees could add to their phones to provide emotional well-being tools 24/7. We piloted this product in our contact center, saw amazing results and took it live. As a result of this initiative, we saw a 15% reduction in turnover in our contact center in 2021!

CUES member Rhonda Hall is VP HR/organizational development for $3.8 billion University FCU, Austin, Texas. 

New! Can’t-Miss Event

Learn new ways to strengthen your credit union’s people strategy at TalentNEXT, May 15-17 in Austin, Texas.
Register Now
Compass Subscription