Returning to Work: There Is No One-Size-Fits-All Approach

Gary Grinnell, NAFCU Board Chair

How do you keep your team motivated and engaged? This is a question that I have been asked numerous times over my years as a leader at Corning Credit Union. The answer to this question varies, in part because the problems facing our team at any given moment can change. One big change over the last few years: the transition to remote and hybrid work.

According to recent research by Microsoft, 50% of leaders say their company already requires, or plans to require, full-time in-person work in the coming year. However, research by the Myers-Briggs Company shows that forcing workers to be in the office more often than they want will significantly increase the chance that they will seek new jobs.

For an industry that prides itself on open doors and in-person interactions to serve our members, we have felt this challenge more than most other industries. So, the question remains: how do you keep your team motivated and engaged during your credit union’s transition? Here are a few things I’ve found are key to managing expectations and providing flexibility, all while keeping the goal of retaining and empowering staff for success.

  • Be transparent: While we’d like to offer staff full control over their work structure, it’s unrealistic to offer this to every teammate. There are many factors that go into decisions such as this and it’s important to be open and honest with your team about the ‘why.’ Even though you may be faced with questions that have no satisfying answer, providing honest answers will be key.
  • Listen: This one seems obvious, but it is important to listen to all expectations, concerns, and potential disappointments as your team digests information about their work environment and potential plans for the future.
  • Understand differences: Your team is most likely made up of both introverts and extroverts, people who thrive in a remote work environment and those who crave in-person connections. There is no one-size-fits-all approach in this case. Different solutions may work for different teams or teammates, and that’s okay.
  • Try and try again: Finding the right solution for your credit union may take time. An open line of communication with your team will be needed as you assess and implement new work structures. It may be beneficial to tell your team that the new plan will only be for a trial period, and they can come to you with suggestions or recommendations. This “new normal” will constantly evolve the workplace, so it’s important to get comfortable trying new solutions if your current structure isn’t working.

The average employee at any organization hopes for fairness, transparency, flexibility, and a sense of purpose from their work. I am sure your credit union’s mission provides a worthwhile and exceptional purpose already—but it’s up to you as the leader of the organization to ensure the right amount of fairness, transparency and flexibility are provided.

As you navigate these changes, my number one suggestion is to reach out to your credit union colleagues. One of my favorite aspects of our industry is our ability to share ideas and help each other succeed. A great place to connect with peers on this topic can be found online in the complimentary NAFCU Networks, specifically the CEO Network and the NAFCU Human Resources Network, where you can engage in discussions about what other credit unions have found to be successful.

Change can be hard. But one thing I know for sure is that credit unions have a unique way of supporting not only their members, but also their staff. I have no doubt that each credit union will find a solution that works best for their staff and ensures their members will continue to receive the best financial services and products available in the industry. 

Gary Grinnell is president and CEO at Corning Credit Union in Corning, NY.