For the past 3.5 years I worked for Citizens Bank of Canada (bank esp. for progressive Canadians) which in turn is owned by Vancity Credit Union. The whole glory of credit unions is that they are cooperatives, and the members not only share in the profits (I’ll get mine in a month or so. yippee!) but also we get to decide who is going to govern the credit union.
Last week I had coffee with Jennifer Sweeney who is running as an independent to be a director. Last time, she missed being elected by a very small margin, and I hope this time she gets a landslide – I think she’s exactly right for the position.
Among other things, I probed re: employee engagement. I’m a By The People, For The People kinda gal (would you guess?) and after 3.5 years on the inside am even more convinced that it’s the folks who do the everyday tasks that make, or break, the cooperative spirit of Vancity, and thus the quality of experience the members receive. It’s not about metrics or output, it’s as much about soul as anything. Genuine Soul, combined with competence, can generate results the likes of which Canada has yet to see from a financial institutions.
Here is Jennifer’s response to my query. Read it and consider if you would also like to see her on the Board of Directors, and vote accordingly.
I had coffee with Nancy last week and she asked me my thoughts on employee engagement.
When I hear the term “employee engagement” I often wonder if it has become another meaningless catch-phrase. People are quick to adopt new words and terminology without thinking about what they mean. If employees are “engaged”, what does that look like? What does it feel like? How do you know? How do you make it happen?
A few years ago, I worked under contract for a government ministry to address recruitment and retention of professionals working with young children. During that time I had the chance to travel around the province and hold confidential interviews with people about their work and their working conditions. Over and over, I heard stories of people going above and beyond the call of duty when there was a supervisor, manager or local champion who valued them and worked to support them. I started reading anything I could put my hands on to help me understand the complexities of retention in an increasingly mobile workforce. I posted a note above my desk to remind myself of this fact: most people leave because of their boss, not their job.
The most corrosive element I have seen in my years of work with people in many different environments is when there is a lack of trust or trust has been breached. Few people have the courage or the willingness to enter into the difficult conversations that must happen in order to move past a problem. Human resources professionals need to be in a position to fully support employees in reporting problems and working them through.
As I am running for election for the board of directors of Vancity, I have been thinking about the role that a board plays in governing an organization. A culture where people comes first is vital for real employee engagement. This takes a human resources department that has adequate resources to influence major decisions. Healthy organizational culture with employees engaged in the mission of the organization makes for happy employees providing outstanding service to members. That is what I would like to continue to see at Vancity.