“Better Banking, Better Service:”
State Employees’ Credit Union (MD) used cutting-edge technology to revamp its in-house operations to streamline project management and allow for increased staff accountability.
“Better banking, better service” is the new tagline SECU ($1.45 billion, 240,000 members) adopted to aim high in serving its members. This new tagline was a motivational factor for the Linthicum, Md.-based credit union to face larger competitors to continue growing and providing top-quality service to its membership. To make this goal a reality, SECU needed to make its in-house operations more efficient.
“We came up with the new tagline, ‘better banking, better service,’ last year, ” says SECU’s Joseli Wright, Organizational Development . “To fulfill our goals and play with the big guys, we needed an organization working together at optimum levels.”
Early last year SECU implemented an innovative online management automation tool in order to survive in a competitive financial services environment. This software solution, a CUNA Technology Council 2004 BAI “Best of Show” recipient, makes new product and promotion project management easier and more streamlined by clearly defining team member responsibilities and tracking tasks, which mitigates any confusion. This process builds teamwork and trust within a financial institution’s executive team by better aligning employees with their strategic goals or job responsibilities while keeping projects on track through accountability.
According to Wright, the enhanced management automation tool has allowed SECU to compete with the bigger financial institutions by enabling its management staff to work together through better communication. This improved communication, in turn, provides a high level of service for its members because internal operations — whether it’s a major project or a simple task — flow better.
When SECU first implemented this program , many credit union staffers, including Wright, thought it was going to simply be a project management tool. But as the staff became more knowledgeable of its capabilities, Wright quickly realized that it was a great coaching tool as well.
“It’s interesting to watch people as they get oriented to a new program,” Wright explains. “They start out thinking, ‘This is going to make more work for me.’ But they end up realizing that it actually saves them work in the long run.”
“I don’t have to ask my staff, ‘Where are you with this? What’s happening with that?’” she adds. “This tool allows me to check the status myself.” (Connections Online is a management level tool. However, some credit unions have incorporated the entire staff to use it.)
SECU employees no longer have to issue reports. Each person can see all the current information, whenever they want it. If they’re wondering where the credit union is as an organization with its critical measures (project deadlines), they can simply go online and it’s all there for them.
As a manager, Wright now notices employees taking the lead in solving problems. She notes that the staff has become results-oriented because they are aware of the results they are working toward and what kind of progress they’re making.
Initially, to understand where the credit union’s operational gaps were, SECU conducted a staff survey using the BAI Organizational Climate Survey. The credit union administered the Climate Survey in February 2004, re-administered later that year in September, and again in February 2005. One year after implementing this software, the credit union’s scores jumped in the following categories:
- Service Climate — + 7%
- Work Processes — + 3%
- Communication — + 13%
- Teamwork and Collaboration — + 13%
- Core Values Strength — + 11%
“This great tool automates project management, which enables us to meet our strategic and functional goals,” Wright adds. “This is a huge benefit for our organization. It has also really helped everyone focus on their own professional development by automating the people management piece of our business.”
According to Wright, in every dialog between the boss and the employee, it’s not just the manager using the browser-based solution and discussing the issues. The employee sets the agenda. Employees lead the discussion about what they’re doing, how they can help make the organization better, and how they can improve their own work so that they can contribute more meaningfully to the credit union’s mission.
“It’s easily implemented and, if properly done, you can see tremendous results,” Wright states. “I give full credit to our CEO, Rod Staatz. He used Cardwell Group’s Connections Online in his previous position and he really lives, breathes, and believes in it. When you have that kind of commitment at the top of your organization, implementing change is much easier.”