3 Ways To Build A Remote Workforce

Credit unions in Virginia, Montana, and Oklahoma talk about benefits, drawbacks, and strategies to accommodate a work force far from home.

 
 

Last year, 43% of employed Americans spent time working remotely, according to a Gallup survey. That’s a 4 percentage-point increase over 2012. Or, put another way, 10% more.

The work world is changing, and credit unions are keeping pace by offering flexible work hours as well as telecommuting opportunities.

Here, three credit unions dish on the benefits of remote work options, successful remote work strategies, and the jobs that best lend themselves to telecommuting.

How To Build A Department

CU QUICK FACTS

Arlington Community Credit Union
Data as of 03.31.17

HQ: Arlington, VA
ASSETS: $270.4M
MEMBERS: 20,518
BRANCHES: 3
12-MO SHARE GROWTH: 11.8%
12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 5.8%
ROA: 0.39%

The field of membership at Arlington Community Credit Union ($270.4M, Arlington, VA) skews urban, millennial, and tech savvy.

These members have big expectations for product, service delivery, and speed to market; unfortunately, the small credit union was often beholden to the timelines of third-party providers.

“Because we were smaller, we were on the end of their lists,” said Karen Rosales, the CEO of Arlington Community, during Callahan’s first quarter Trendwatch webinar. “We wanted a different level of agility.”

Karen Rosales, CEO, Arlington Community Credit Union

The credit union needed a structure and system to keep pace. However, it didn’t have the internal skills to manage the technological implementations.

But Rosales knew one place to find them.

The CEO called former employee Sara Hunter — who had moved to Allen Park, MI, on good terms with the credit union — and proposed Hunter return to the Arlington Community work force without physically returning to the office.

Hunter was interested.

After some negotiating, Hunter became the director of enterprise solutions at the Virginia-based credit union. She communicates with on-site employees using instant messaging, text, and FaceTime, for which the credit union has a dedicated iPad.

Sara Hunter, Director of Enterprise Solutions, Arlington Community Credit Union

“Sara lives in this iPad,” Rosales says. “As people carry her down the hallway you’ll hear people say, ‘Hey Sara, nice haircut.’ It’s as if she’s here.”

Initially, Hunter was a one-woman department, but as technological need expanded, so did the department. The credit union hired two programmers — one lives in Novi, MI, and the other lives in Front Royal, VA, which is more than 60 miles west of Arlington — and a business analyst, who works out of the credit union’s headquarters.

“None of these people live near one another,” Rosales says. “They have not spent one entire working day in the same building.”

Understandably, this distance has created some new challenges, specifically in regard to culture. For example, celebrating milestones with a cake tends to exclude remote team members, Hunter says. So, the credit union tries to be more creative in its recognition and plan ahead for execution.

Other challenges are work-specific. For example, determining how to work around a drained iPad or how to solicit fast feedback when there’s less face-to-face interaction.

 

 

 

“Accidental collaboration tends to happen in the hallways,” Hunter says. “Seeing someone and having it trigger a memory of needing to talk to them or learning over a cube wall can’t be minimized.”

But the benefits handily outweigh the challenges, Hunter says.

For example, team members work normal hours but have greater flexibility to handle their personal life schedules. If need be, they FaceTime at night to flesh out ideas. Plus, working from home eliminates traffic troubles.

“What we save in our commute we give back in our workday,” Hunter says. “We might miss out on little things, our commute is not one of them.”

None of these people live near one another. They have not spent one entire working day in the same building.

Karen Rosales, CEO, Arlington Community Credit Union

How To Inspire Trust

CU QUICK FACTS

Montana FCU
Data as of 03.31.17

HQ: Great Falls, MT
ASSETS: $238.9M
MEMBERS: 20,464
BRANCHES: 3
12-MO SHARE GROWTH: 6.1%
12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 8.6%
ROA: 0.09%

Two years ago, Montana Federal Credit Union ($239.0M, Great Falls, MT) ran out of space in its headquarter building. So, an internal auditor who had been working 10 miles down the road for the past 24 months, made remote work official.

“She’s responsible and self-motivated, so we gave it a try,” says credit union CEO Steve King. “It was a good test case.”

Today, the credit union has six remote employees hailing from several areas of the credit union, including an internal auditor, a compliance officer, two loan officers, and two quality control officers. Some live close to the credit union; others don’t. One of the quality control officers works from Japan.

“By the time I get to work, she has all the work done because she’s a day ahead of me,” King jokes.

Steve King, CEO, Montana FCU

Most of these remote workers had personal reasons to move, and rather than footing the bill for the acquisition and training of a new employee, King was open to the idea of remote work — especially for those who share certain traits.

“The successful workers require little supervision,” King says. “They know what their job is, and they are committed to our membership.”

The credit union’s internal auditor is on-site several days per week and will likely return once the institution adds to its headquarters. But the other remote workers can do the entirety of their jobs off-site. Loan officers, especially, can work from anywhere because the credit union does much of its loan business through indirect and online channels.

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With one exception, all of them were with the credit union for more than one year before going remote, which gave King confidence it could work.

“I probably wouldn’t have allowed the initial remote work if I didn’t have the level of confidence I had,” he says. “Now my confidence is growing. If you have the right people, you can trust them to work remotely.”

The successful workers require little supervision,” King says. “They know what their job is, and they are committed to our membership

Steve King, CEO, Montana FCU

How To Be A Remote Manager

CU QUICK FACTS

Truity Credit Union
Data as of 03.31.17

HQ: Bartlesville, OK
ASSETS: $796.8M
MEMBERS: 68,073
BRANCHES: 8
12-MO SHARE GROWTH: 1.7%
12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 9.0%
ROA: 0.31%

It was more than 10 years ago when a programmer at Truity Credit Union (796.8M, Bartlesville, OK) asked to work from home a few days per week to reduce the stress of his hour-long commute to and from the credit union’s headquarters.

Kelly Diven, the credit union’s CEO, considered it an experiment.

“The idea was we can always change the decision if it’s not working out,” he says.

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Today, the credit union has four employees who work remotely — though that has been as many as six. All worked in a credit union building and all had personal reasons to request a remote arrangement.

Kelly Diven, CEO, Truity Credit Union

Truity doesn’t have a teleworking policy and considers each request on a case-by-case basis to ensure it makes sense for the institution.

“It’s more expensive to hire and train an employee than keep the one we’ve got,” Diven says. “We don’t want to lose somebody just because they have a change in their life. We want to accommodate them.”

In addition to the programmer, the credit union’s current remote staff consists of a marketing specialist, collections specialist, and an e-commerce manger.

In the past, two call center employees worked remotely, too. They logged into the call center and answered calls from home no different from calls at a desk in Bartlesville, OK.

More challenging for the credit union, however, was accommodating a remote supervisor.

Truity’s e-commerce manager lives in Kansas City, MO, but manages a team of three in the Bartlesville headquarters. The credit union set a six-month trial period to evaluate the arrangement before committing long-term. So far, it has worked.

“I still have hesitations about supervising staff-level employees remotely,” Diven says. “But [the e-commerce manager’s] management style is such that we didn’t feel it was going to make a significant difference in how he managed his group.”

For example, the manager holds a department meeting at the start and end of each day to discuss priorities and track overall progress. That hasn’t changed — he’s just on a video screen instead of across the desk.

The manager also works on-site at Truity’s Lawrence, KS, branch a few times per year and travels to Bartlesville, OK, for quarterly department meetings.

“You have to rely on tools other than direct observation to monitor what people are doing,” Diven says. “You have to change how you manage people.”

Despite the lack of formal policy, employees know what to expect and are just as willing to work with the institution as the institution is willing to work with them.

“We haven’t run into any problems,” Diven says. “It’s because we’ve worked at it, but it’s also because our employees have worked at it, too.”

 

July 3, 2017


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