Apr 21

How Credit Unions Will Optimize Hybrid Remote Work Models, Even in a Client-Facing Retail Environment

With vaccinations increasing and the world opening back up, company deadlines for workers to return to the office are starting to appear. Employees who’ve become comfortable with their remote routine may not want to return to the office. Others may welcome it, especially considering the impact of working from home has been greater for some. And if people are given a choice between in-office or remote, many criteria will influence how they make this decision. Given these differing opinions and experiences, some companies are banking on a hybrid model going forward.

Recently, KCD PR President, Kevin Dinino, discussed this topic with experts from the banking industry. As part of the Fintech Talents Virtual North America 2021 event, he conducted a panel with the following leaders:

  • Australia Hoover, President and CEO, CDC Federal Credit Union
  • Tyler Lessard, Chief Video Strategist, Vidyard
  • Jennifer Kouchis, SVP of Real Estate Lending, VyStar Credit Union

During the panel, Kevin asked the members how their organizations have dealt with the disruptions and opportunities presented from the pandemic and resulting business shutdowns. Each member then discussed the future and how their businesses will incorporate and leverage hybrid work environments. In this blog we share excerpts of the conversation, paraphrased and lightly edited for length and clarity.

The Initial Shift to Remote Work

At the start of the pandemic, the panel members facilitated an initial transition to their employees working from home. It’s been a year since they faced this pivot. Here’s how they fared during that time.

Amazingly, Australia says CDC Federal Credit Union never closed their branches. None of their brick-and-mortar branches have a drive-through window, so they remained open and served members by implementing safe practices. They have been fortunate to not have experienced any major health incidents so far.

In the beginning, Jennifer had employees at Vystar Credit Union voicing concerns for their own and family members’ health. The company’s leadership team partnered with IT to allow as many employees as possible to work from home. Still, some employees were in roles that didn’t allow remote work. They made sure those who had to come in were protected – both members and employees. Early on they served members via drive-through windows and have now fully opened back up. Employees remain in a work hybrid model, with office employees continuing to be remote.

Tyler says because Vidyard is a B2B technology company, they were able to shut down offices quickly and move to a fully distributed model. They intend to remain so going forward. Their office space is now a collaboration center and is reconfigured to give teams the option to meet safely when needed.

Moving Forward After a Year of Challenges

While all three organizations are doing well today, there were challenges along the way. Here’s what these leaders faced in sending employees home to work and their thoughts on moving forward for the future with a hybrid work model.

Australia brought up how many employees’ home environments were not well set up to work remotely due to issues with internet access and family members sharing the same space. Now, they struggle with how to return to in-office work when employees still need to be home as part-time teachers to their children. While focused on identifying other practical concerns for the organization going forward, Australia has seen many companies pivot and make it work. His optimistic energy can be channeled into better service and efficiency going forward. For example, the CDC Federal Credit Union now plans to build more ATMs and some drive-through windows.

For Jennifer, employees’ mental health is still a concern as many thrive on personal connection. Her organization is looking at providing training to leaders so they can give their teams the support needed in a remote work environment. The bright side is that a hybrid model allows employees to be home to help with family matters but come into the office to get away and be productive. She also sees the credit union’s members thriving in using mobile devices and home computers.

Tyler’s firm is using this time to take a refreshed approach and truly adapt its business model to changing customer and employee desires. He sees more opportunity with video as organizations are moving to a video-first model with their clients. His customers are now using custom videos to share information, gaining the flexibility to engage in several ways.

Implementing a Hybrid Model

In planning to incorporate the new hybrid model, panel members are keying in on a few near-term actions. Here are the considerations they are weighing to make their new approach safe and productive.

Return to work protocols were first up for Jennifer’s organization. The company is following CDC guidelines in the office – sanitizer, masks, social distancing, etc. Next is reviewing all lines of business and who is front-line. They are determining which roles can work well being in the office a few days each week and taking it a step at a time, with the office at 25% capacity now. Eventually, Jennifer sees about 50% of its workforce capable of remote work.

Australia is evaluating future adjustments to see what capacity is available to have roles be remote. Their back-office functions can do that efficiently. For client-facing roles, the standard Australia sets is to deliver exemplary service remotely and make it as good as it is in person. For that, they will look for technology solutions to enhance capability. He predicts 50% or more of its workforce going remote long-term.

Keeping Culture Intact

One aspect many businesses are worried about with new work models is keeping a robust corporate culture. For example, how do you maintain a strong company culture for remote employees? Here are the main areas the panel will focus on in addressing culture in the new paradigm.

  • Employee engagement – find a way to replicate in-person aspects for remote employees so everyone has a sense of being a part of the team.
  • Equity and fairness – ensure all employees have equal chances at opportunities. Don’t overlook employees who work from home when providing corporate communications. The new baseline is to provide remote employees with the same level of experience as in-office employees.
  • Set expectations – train management and expect them to lead remote teams effectively. Set a standard with off-site employees that they need to be accessible during the workday.

Adjusting to a New Normal

In giving final thoughts, Kevin asked the panel to discuss their confidence in credit unions adjusting to a new way of working for everyone.

Jennifer feels credit unions can adjust well. During the pandemic, her credit union pivoted fast and what normally would have happened in months was done in a matter of days. It’s shown her that during tough times, employees can ban together and make things happen.

Australia sees the new model as a chance to encourage entrepreneurial spirit among credit union employees. Credit unions can do this by redefining what efficiency means and what resource allocation means. When employees are remote there is no micromanager standing over them accounting for time. Managers are instead focused on the output of each employee and this is the value an organization has placed on the employee going forward. Australia predicts this sense of ownership can create tremendous opportunities if the organization fosters that growth. Leaders can manage in new ways, create value in new ways, and reward employees in new ways.

As businesses make plans for a post-pandemic work world, there will be challenges in returning employees to the office. However, there will also be opportunities. Perhaps we will revisit this topic a year from now and see if the hybrid model continues to be the option of choice and delivers everything leaders expected.

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