Four things to do now and an opportunity to learn more
CUES is a pioneer in offering flexible and remote work options—we’ve had “telecommuters” since the late 1990s.
Our first telecommuter—as remote and hybrid workers were called back then—asked for and received the go-ahead to work from home a couple of days a week so she could be in the rotation with her siblings who were taking care of their mother during her final illness.
Our first full-time remote worker was a valuable employee who left the company when she moved away from Madison, Wisconsin, where CUES is headquartered. We were glad to be able to hire her back.
CUES quickly discovered many unexpected benefits of having telecommuters. For example, we could leverage staff working in different time zones to hand off elements of a project being completed on a deadline. In addition, having geographically dispersed employees meant an Internet outage in one region no longer took down the whole team.
Pretty soon, CUES set up the technology required for every employee to be able to work from home at least some of the time. And that meant that when a big blizzard hit headquarters, staff would get an email saying, “Due to the inclement weather, the office is closed today. You can take PTO or work from home. Stay safe!”
When the pandemic hit, having two decades of experience with remote work was incredibly helpful, and we also stepped up our game. We made it a point to have cameras on whenever possible so that we could see each other, and our “Fun and Staff Recognition” team has planned hugely popular online staff events.
Soon enough, we were downsizing the CUES headquarters significantly. Today staff still has a place to gather when they need or want to, but we have also created a significant cost-savings for the organization by having a smaller office.
In all, “telecommuting” and now “remote work” and “hybrid work” have enabled CUES to be more productive and cost-effective as we serve our members to the best of our ability. A key part of our success was evolving our talent strategy.
Update Your Talent Management Strategy for Hybrid Work
The top thing to do as you evolve your talent strategy to embrace remote and hybrid work is to really understand your people as individuals. We knew how much our first telecommuter would value being able to spend time with her mother at that tender time—and that she’d deliver on her responsibilities to CUES fully. Similarly, we trusted our first full-time remote employee to deliver at the same high level as she had when she had been working in our office. She has now worked for us from three states over more than 20 years. CUES continues to strive to understand and respond to individual employee needs as we constantly refine our talent strategy.
Another important step is to develop a remote/hybrid work policy. Interestingly, CUES’ “work from home” policy has come full circle. It’s now a “work from the office” policy that states: “An outcome of the COVID19 pandemic is that all staff will work from home full time unless the position requires the individual to come in and work at the office on a periodic basis.”
I realize that most credit unions will need to have at least some team members in their branches every business day, but as you craft your remote/hybrid work policy, keep in mind that some employees are choosing to change jobs rather than be required to work in an office. This means your credit union will benefit from being judicious about who it says must come back in person. In addition, you’ll probably get ahead by including in your policy flexible work options of some kind even for employees you absolutely must have working in person in the branch or office.
Our talent strategy in this remote and hybrid work world also drove us to update HR processes. Today every piece of our hiring process—recruitment, interviewing, onboarding and retention—can be done remotely. Our talent pool is greatly expanded since we can hire people from any location. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that the fact that remote and hybrid work is so ingrained in our culture is hugely appealing to candidates.
Finally, a key element of our talent strategy that we build on every day is training our supervisors in how to effectively manage a remote team. For example, communication—even overcommunication—is key. Also, things like empathy, ensuring tech tools are working properly, giving special attention to new staff members and continuously building trust are likewise essential.
Don’t Go It Alone
Brad Bell is an expert in adjusting leadership and management approaches, managing group culture and productivity, and establishing consistent and deliberate communication and collaboration norms in today’s remote and hybrid work world. Professor of HR and director of the Center for Advanced HR Studies at Cornell University, Bell will present at our TalentNEXT event in Savannah, Georgia, in September. Come hear what Bell has to say, and then talk it over with top talent strategists from the credit union industry. I hope to see you there.
Jerry Saalsaa is interim CEO of CUES. Since joining the team in 1997, he has led CUES’ finance, technology, human resources and strategy teams, including serving as VP/finance and technology and, most recently, as SVP/chief administrative officer. Saalsaa’s leadership has built a foundation that has enabled CUES to become a more sales- and market-driven organization. He holds a B.S. in accounting from Upper Iowa University, has earned certificates in negotiation from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and has attended all three segments of CUES’ CEO Institute.