MACU's Efforts Reduce Turnover (And Win An Award)

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Mountain America Credit Union's staff turnover rate in 2003 was 21.8%. And that's down from the previous year's mark of 23.8%, and well below the CU average in 2002 of 28%.

But the CU is really proud of two other numbers: its turnover rate for telecommuters is just 3%, and, when employees do leave, 16% return within two to three years.

Efforts that have led to the reduction of turnover have won recognition from the Utah Department of Workforce Services, which named Mountain America among the state's top 10 companies for work/life balance.

According to Marshall Paepke, Mountain America's vice president of human resources, all of these numbers reflect the CU's commitment to its more than 600 employees to provide an environment "where people can strive, grow and can make a contribution."

"In recent years, we have hired six to eight people away from a major bank in Utah. All of them say the atmosphere here is so much better," he said. "We have great people overall, so we don't have the back-biting or the rumor mill you see at other businesses. Managers empower people, and allow them to do their job without micromanaging. And we let people know we appreciate them."

3 Keys to Satisfaction

MACU has more than doubled in size in the last seven years, but has worked to keep the small company mentality, Paepke said. In employee surveys-where staff members are allowed to speak anonymously-the credit union consistently scores well in providing a "warm" work environment.

Paepke said three keys to employee satisfaction are advancement, input and the work/life balance. "People need to know their career path and they want to be heard. But more than that, they want the opportunity to spend time with their family."

No segment of MACU employees seems happier than those who telecommute-or work from home one or more days per month. Forty-six people have company-installed computers in their homes, including 16 full-time telecommuters (10 who work in the call center, six in the accounting department). The 30 part-time telecommuters include members of the business services department, information systems, managers and executives.

"Some of our telecommuters work from home every day, some once a week, some once per month," said Paepke. "Our CEO (Gordon Dames) travels so much, he is set up to telecommute."

The turnover rate for telecommuters is so low, he explained, because once people get used to working from home-if it agrees with them- they adjust their life and don't leave.

"It offers a good work/life balance. There is no commute, no fighting traffic, no running all over town dropping off kids at day care," he said. "However, you need to have the right fit of the person and the job. We had to bring a few telecommuters back in to corporate because they weren't right."

The key to successful telecommuting is for the employer to communicate expectations, Paepke asserted. Mountain America employees must sign an eight-page document that attempts to clearly define all issues. For example, if the employee has children at home, he or she agrees to have an office with a door that locks and a caretaker to watch the kids so mom or dad can work uninterrupted.

The telecommuter agreement also delineates ownership of all equipment. The credit union supplies an ergonomic desk and chair, a computer and pays for installation of a dedicated phone line.

The goals for those who work from home are the same as for employees in the office, Paepke said.

"For call center representatives, we have immediate reporting on their job performance, so that's easy to track. In accounting, it's a little harder, but the main measurement is providing good service. It is up to the managers to determine if people are doing what they should."

Employees must "earn" the telecommuting position by working for the company for at least two years to demonstrate their work ethic. Of those who haven't been successful working from home, Paepke said most were hired directly from the outside.

As a result, the CU prefers to appoint telecommuters from within.

You Can Go Home Again

When employees leave MACU, it holds an exit interview with each person. Employees are told, "If you decide the other company isn't a good fit, look us up," Paepke said.

"Many employees leave for more money, but later determine their work/life balance is just as important to them and their family-if not more important than money. On occasion, an employee will leave to take a 40-hour position at a company that actually expects exempt employees to work 50 to 60 hours. Yes, they may be making more annually, but they are making less per hour worked."

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