Utah CUs Come Together To Share Solutions To Common HR Problems

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Looking for some best practices in human resources? Credit unions in this city were, which was why they joined to talk about a number of common HR challenges and the solutions they have developed in response.

Marshall Paepke, vice president of human resources for Mountain America CU, organized the conference that MACU co-sponsored along with America First CU and the HR Council of the Utah League of Credit Unions.

Paepke told The Credit Union Journal topics ranged from how to deal with unemployment to motivating through leadership to using technology to get paper out of HR and become more efficient.

"There was a lot of sharing best practices," he said. "For example, one credit union here in Salt Lake City goes bowling every Monday night there is a new hire. They feel it is good to go out in a relaxed atmosphere. There are no titles at the bowling alley."

At one conference session, doctoral students from Brigham Young University presented results from a study they did of Utah credit unions. The study found happy employees are critical for the relationship with members, and had a positive impact on the bottom line.

Asked what common human resources issues Utah CUs share, Paepke said accounting for sick and vacation time, and the popularity of PPO health plans are two of the biggest.

"HR people all have the same struggles," he said. "One problem I have heard from many different people is the difficulty in communicating the total compensation package to employees. One solution that a few credit unions have adopted is the 'hidden paycheck,' which spells out the value of all benefits, including the health plan, 401(k), disability and worker's compensation. The hidden paycheck shows an employee with a salary of $40,000 per year really is making $65,000."

Most of the Beehive State's CUs have strong benefit packages, Paepke said, but the exact contents of these packages vary widely.

"Utah credit unions are doing very innovative things with benefits to attract employees. Because of this emphasis, the amount paid towards benefits is going up-especially 401(k) and health insurance."

Health Care A Hot Topic

Controlling health care costs was a hot topic at the conference, Paepke said. A speaker from Fred A. Morton, an insurance benefits broker, led an educational session on the choices CUs can make.

While some health care issues are out of a credit union's control, such as technology advances and the role government plays, there are some areas where CUs can intervene- including incenting employees to use generic pharmaceuticals when they can.

Conference attendees were told promoting healthy lifestyles is one way to cut health care costs. Paepke said a speaker presented a study showing 40% of Americans are obese, which can lead to a variety of health problems.

"The study showed being highly obese is the equivalent of smoking a pack of cigarettes a day. There are a lot of non-smokers in Utah, so that statistic woke people up," he said.

"There are some sticky issues there," Paepke continued. "People can be offended if you talk about their weight, but it is something we need to talk about."

Paepke stressed the importance of CUs surveying their employees to determine which benefits the staff truly finds valuable, and which are superfluous. He said Mountain America CU surveys one-sixth of its employees every other month-a strategy which management feels gives a clearer picture than a once-yearly questionnaire.

'The Most Important Thing'

"In some cases, a credit union might make a change to benefits, and people react negatively to that change for a short time before they get used to it. If the credit union does a survey right after the change, it might seem like it is a big problem, even though the staff has gotten over it."

"The most important thing, however, is to do a benefit survey," he added. "At most credit unions, these surveys are not happening, so management doesn't really know if they are supplying the benefits employees want or need. Potentially, a ton of money is being misspent."

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