HR Managers Share Success Stories Dealing With Pandemic’s Impact on Staff

staff development

EDITOR'S NOTE: The COVID-19 pandemic turned so many things upside down, including credit unions having to maintain employee engagement and do onboarding of new employees—all within the virtual space. Below are excerpts from two recent articles in in which representatives from Santa Clara County FCU and SafeAmerica CU share their success stories on building productive teams and welcoming new hires, respectively.


NOTE: John Wu, vice president of member experience at Santa Clara County FCU ($922.4M, San Jose, CA), was among four leaders discussing how the credit union is building productive, happy teams. Here’s an excerpt of that article.

The ongoing pressure from the coronavirus pandemic has been both disorienting and demoralizing for credit union employees. Many employees were able to move into a remote office environment and hit the ground running when branches shut down and social distancing became standard operating procedure 12 months ago. Other employees, however, have had to spend their working hours masked up behind a Plexiglass screen.

Without typical member or co-worker interaction, the experience of on-site credit union employees will continue to be different from — and more challenging than — years past. But when times get tough, credit unions get creative.

From food and clothes to virtual activities and cold, hard cash, credit unions have created clever ways to maintain operations, increase employee engagement and morale, and have fun during difficult times.

Santa Clara County FCU

From an engagement standpoint, how was 2020 on your staff? We’ve had some of the tightest restrictions in the country. In recent months, we were no longer allowed to eat in the breakroom or inside the branch at all. Employees have to sit in their car. Things like that have put a damper on engagement.

How did you try to increase engagement? We gave webcams to everyone so we can be on video when we have meetings, and when we do silly things like funny hat days, pet days, or ugly Christmas sweater contests, we can see and interact in real time. We’ve also been putting together picture collages and PowerPoint birthday cards in lieu of sending one in the mail. We’re always looking for new ideas.

We signed up for a corporate account with DoorDash, the food delivery service. Individual accounts limit how many meals you can buy in a given time period, whereas the corporate version allows us to buy food for our teams from the restaurants they want given the price cap we set. Then, DoorDash allows the account holder to pay a small fee that then waives the delivery fees. We haven’t tried out that piece yet, but it’s something we’re considering. It’s a simpler, more efficient way to do something nice for our employees who’ve been working hard. The team has been appreciative, so that’s been a successful way to build engagement.

What are you looking forward to in 2021?  The vaccine. We’re not mandating the vaccine, but we are encouraging it, and we’re going to give people time off to get it. People are getting burnt out, but we’re trying to provide what we can to make their working experience better while also encouraging them to be aware and take precautions in their personal life. We can’t enforce what they do off the clock, but it can put a strain on morale.

An important lesson from last year was to listen to feedback and to not dismiss anything without giving it some deeper thought. There are no bad ideas. And, when it works, we’re able to adapt and adjust quickly. I see more of that as the year goes on.


NOTE: SafeAmerica CU Vice President of Human Resources and Facilities Stefany Chadbon-Hooke was among the HR leaders at cooperatives big and small to share how they welcome new hires, from breaking bread to explaining the credit union difference. Here’s an excerpt of this article.

Leaders in human resources are among the most open and sharing about what they do and how they do it.

Time and again, these leaders demonstrate a willingness to share insights, experiences, and even data. Callahan & Associates sees that in our Executive Roundtables, in our interviews for, and in our recent outreach to solicit responses for our benefits and compensation survey.

Callahan’s analyst team is crunching the numbers from the more than 200 responses to that survey, and we’ll have results soon. In the meantime, I went back and asked respondents for their favorite employee onboarding tips.

There were too many to list all of them here, but I do want to share some takeaways and a few best practices for making new hires feel right at home. I also want to thank these leaders again, although I’m not surprised we got such a great response. HR people are “people” people, after all.

Getting To Know All About You

Some of our respondents shared onboarding practices that are similar to what we do here at Callahan, such as sharing fun facts about the newbie to help colleagues get to know them better and welcome them to the work family.

SafeAmerica Credit Union ($512.8M, Pleasanton, CA) also uses its intranet to post welcome messages. According to Stefany Chadbon-Hooke, vice president of human resources and facilities at SafeAmerica, the credit union sends new hires a note like the one here to get to know them better.

Hi [new employee],

We have an intranet feed that keeps our staff up to date on news and events as well as connects our people. We always like to celebrate our newbies and ‘The Hub’ allows this celebration to be more interactive!

That said, I would love it if you can indulge me by answering the following questions (and/or any other questions/comments you can think of to help us get to know you better)!

What is your preferred name/nickname and pronouns?

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

What’s something — big or small — that you’re really good at?

What’s your guilty pleasure?

If you could choose a superpower, what would it be?

Last book you read?

What’s the best/most memorable trip you have taken?

Anything else you want to share to help us to know you better?

Thank you in advance for sharing a little bit about you! We are all looking forward to your first day at SafeAmerica!

SafeAmerica then invites all colleagues to send their own welcome messages through the portal.

Bottom Line: Share Culture And Core Behaviors

Several credit unions underscored the importance of ensuring the onboarding process educates new hires about the mission and culture of their new employer.

EECU ($2.9B, Fort Worth, TX) shows a video that traces the cooperative’s journey from its founding to where it is today. Kelly Davis, EECU’s director of learning and development, says that among all onboarding tools is what garners the most comments from new hires.

“Every new hire wants to feel they made the right choice in choosing their place of employment,” Davis says. “They want to feel like they belong and have opportunities to make a difference. Sharing this video during onboarding creates this foundation for us. It sets the stage for understanding our culture and our drive to serve our members.”

At Park Community Credit Union ($1.1B, Louisville, KY), new hire orientation includes a 30-minute session with CEO Jim Spradlin, which garners positive reaction.

“He talks about the credit union’s mission and describes our core behaviors,” says Sharon Williams, senior vice president of human resources. “And, he reminds them why they were selected to be part of our credit union team.”

These articles appeared originally on and is the intellectual property of CALLAHAN & ASSOCIATES. No part may be reproduced, transmitted, distributed, published, or otherwise com­municated without the express written permission of CALLAHAN & ASSOCIATES. To read the rest of the Santa Clara County FCU article, click here.  To read the rest of the SafeAmerica CU article, click here.

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