People First in the Age of the Coronavirus
Published: April 13, 2020
How one Credit Union responded to the Coronavirus pandemic by keeping members and employees front and center.
Alexandria, VA - In early March when the Coronavirus pandemic was becoming a truly serious issue in the US, many companies and organizations had to act swiftly and responsively to ensure their companies could keep up with the socio-economical demands related to the pandemic. While some businesses were already equipped to handle the ever-changing shifts in doing business, others were simply faced with not being able to meet these new challenges and demands.
One such organization that had big hurdles to cross was the United States Senate Federal Credit Union (USSFCU) in Alexandria, Virginia. USSFCU’s entire workforce was predominantly in-office only and without any expectation to move an entire workforce to work remotely. Additionally, some employees simply could not work from home. The Credit Union seemed to face a daunting task to move its entire operation from an in-office only operation to a remote-only operation in just a few weeks. This task landed squarely in the lap of USSFCU President and CEO, Timothy L. Anderson. The change had to happen to safeguard USSFCU members’ health as well as the health and wellness of the USSFCU workforce. Anderson and his team had an uphill battle but it was a battle they were determined to win.
“We had a couple of people work from home, for example, the head of our ACH department,” said Anderson. “We have people who sometimes work from home, but to do something on the scale of shutting down the entire Credit Union and have every single operation from employees’ homes; that's just an incredible concept.”
Anderson gathered his Senior Management Team to strategize and weigh their options on how to move forward. The first steps were creating a Crisis Management Taskforce that would streamline decision-making and hammer out policies and procedures to ensure all of the transitions were manageable for overall security, compliance, and reduced risk. This team was made up of senior management from USSFCU’s Project Management, Risk Management and Human Resources and working around the clock for days produced the roadmap to take care of employees, members and the organization. The Crisis Management Team took over the Board Room, turning it into the Crisis Room.
Next, USSFCU’s IT department had the enormous task of moving all of the organization’s 115+ employees to remote work while safeguarding the world-class data security that is one of USSFCU’s philosophical cornerstones. The department spent tireless hours in setup and testing to ensure the new work environment would be functional for employees and have airtight security. Their hard work paid off and the deadline was set. The week of March 16th USSFCU would make their big switch.
There were a few bumps in the road leading up to the point of the launch. Not all employees were equipped or had access to devices that would allow them to work remotely. Additionally, there were bandwidth limitations and not all employees would have access to work remotely. How would these employees who wouldn’t be able to work be addressed by the organization? Many companies and organizations, when faced with similar challenges, were either furloughing employees or simply letting them go during the wake of the pandemic. Having great respect and appreciation for staff, USSFCU decided not only would all employees stay on regardless of their remote work accessibility; they would also continue to receive their regular pay during these challenging times.
On Wednesday, March 19th USSFCU did what seemed impossible and launched its official first day as a predominantly remote work organization. All branches closed their doors except one, keeping the drive-thru open a few hours per week. The Member Services Call Center all logged on from their homes and began taking member calls without missing a beat.
“I am really proud of how our teams were able to pull this off,” said Anderson. “Our call center representatives are set up remotely, so they're taking calls from their homes. The loan operation folks are receiving applications. ACH, support services and marketing are doing their jobs. You name it, HR and payroll are doing fine, every single department. We have not missed a beat. I never thought I’d see something like this.”
Anderson and his team met their goal and provided a safe & healthy work environment for both their employees and members. They are continuing to refine and expand on making the system run more smoothly, efficiently and have more capacity. There are now plans in place to bring the last group of employees online in the coming weeks. Another remarkable action taken is the credit union recognizing essential employees who had to physically come into the office or branches since March 16th. These employees are being rewarded with supplemental pay.
All of these measures put in place, allowed USSFCU to continue serving their members and quickly put in place measures to assist members in need during these difficult times. From offering 90-day deferred loan payments, waiving certain fees and penalties, a special Relief Loan and a modified Signature Loan with a 90-day “No Pay” option are a handful of ways USSFCU is continuing to support its members during the Coronavirus Pandemic crisis.
“What has been so rewarding,” said Anderson, “is how we have all pulled together during these very trying times. Everyone has a shared goal and is working together. I’d say during these times, as people are isolated in their homes, I have the feeling we’ve never been closer. This terrible event has brought us all closer.”
USSFCU will continue to work remotely until there is new guidance from the CDC, federal, state and local officials. While this new way of doing business had some growing pains, it has also created more organizational flexibility and pulled this credit union and potentially many others into what could be the wave of the future. USSFCU’s Human Resources department continues to engage managers and staff working remotely through training opportunities, encouraging daily messages, and proactively reminding managers to positively communicate often with their teams.
“During these critical times, the CU’s culture and engagement are essential for employees to successfully support our members,” Heather Mansour, SVP, Human Resources & Training shares, “The best way to do this during a crisis is to keep their spirits up, communicate effectively, and take the time to really care, both personally and professionally.”
For 85 years, USSFCU has provided the U.S. Senate and Capitol Hill communities with world-class financial stability, security and service. Now with 100 plus paths to membership, almost anyone has the opportunity to experience the USSFCU difference. Learn more at www.ussfcu.org.