In 2019, the Desjardins Voyageurs Credit Union was recognized by the Sudbury Chamber of Commerce as a Best Place to Work. With recent news reports of banking cultures going astray I was curious how this credit union had managed to get things right. I caught up with Regional Vice President Josée Préseault who provided insights into their winning practices. She told me that everything they do is aligned with a business model of taking a human approach.
Tracking the human pulse
They used to do the big annual employee survey. It took 45 minutes to fill out and 6 months to get the results. Now they do surveys every two weeks. Just 5 quick questions. Employees can provide comments as well. It’s an anonymous survey, but comments go directly to the manager’s inbox. Managers have 48 hours to acknowledge the comment and thank the employee for offering feedback. Then the management committee meets every two weeks to go through the results. Taking these frequent pulse checks shows what management’s priority is. It’s not a numbers approach, it’s a human approach.
Aligning behaviors for desired outcomes
Their performance review program is equally balanced between how employees conduct themselves in the workplace and achieving the numbers. They are measured on being member-oriented, team players, keeping things simple, and what they call being part of modern design. I love this concept of modern design. For Desjardins, it means keeping current. Keeping current on new services, new online features, adjusting to new external trends. For example, last year they added a focus on being eco-friendly in the workplace. They’ve replaced plastic water bottles with glasses or personal water bottles.
In addition to onboarding programs that help clarify the expected behaviors, new employees are set up with a senior employee who acts as a mentor. Managers also demonstrate the human approach by being out in the field. They are supportive and collaborative, setting up an atmosphere of trust. Employees feel at ease to approach management to share experiences, ideas, and suggestions about what the organization can do to improve.
“50% of the evaluation is based on the things you can do on a day to day basis. And if those are there, usually the target numbers follow. We have our employees’ best interests at heart.” Josée Préseault, Regional Vice-President, Desjardins
When it comes to reward and recognition, they have a competitive compensation package, even a defined benefit pension plan and three weeks of vacation in the first year of employment. Then they layer on the human approach. Recognition includes celebrating birthdays. They use occasions such as Valentine’s Day, Christmas, and Easter to leave little care packages on employee desks. It’s their way of saying thank you and showing appreciation for what people are doing for the organization and the members.
Taking care of the customer
The human approach also extends to the 130,000 members they serve in Ontario. They are here to better the lives of their members. When they recently built a new branch office on Elm Street in Sudbury, they used a new formula for the office layout to include partners such as Desjardins Business and Signature Service. Their “reception area” is now a “member lounge”. The configuration allows for comfortable, educational, and meaningful conversations that better serve the members.
Even under the pressure of a crisis, their attention to members first shines through. When the floods in Ottawa happened in the spring of 2109 the focus wasn’t on the number of claims that would be coming in or the financial impact of this sudden crisis. Instead, all teams came together. They called every member in the affected areas to find out if they had been impacted, if they needed help in any way. It was a proactive reach out instead of being reactive. It was a human approach.
Josée Préseault is very proud of her company’s culture. She believes this is what allows them to minimize turnover, offer competitive client services and return millions of dollars to the community through their philanthropic efforts. While other companies are obsessed with the numbers, driving their employees to achieve the targets, Desjardins takes the opposite approach. People first and the numbers follow. It’s a winning formula.