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How VSECU made people the priority

VSECU

Cornerstone Group and PI helped the credit union align its customer and personnel initiatives

Banks and lenders bring security and value to a lot of people. But they aren’t always thought of as technological innovators. 

Yvonne Garand is the Chief Brand and Marketing Officer at VSECU, a credit union serving members throughout Vermont. And to hear her tell it, their approach to recruiting was once pretty similar to that of any other financial institution. 

“We would fall into that trap of wanting to hire people based on the fact that they had banking experience because that old muscle memory was, well, if they’ve got the knowledge in the briefcase, then they’ve gotta be the right fit.”

It’s an understandable, even logical approach. But like many other companies, VSECU found it wasn’t yielding the right sort of hires.

“They weren't succeeding in their roles. We weren't able to truly optimize individuals to perform their best in alignment with our culture and our vision.”

Yvonne Garand

Aligning operations with mission

Change doesn’t happen overnight, of course—not in an industry as traditionally regulated as the financial sector. 

“We did something in our organization that’s a little unusual,” Garand said. “We took the traditional human resource role and we broke it up into three different pillars.”

Garand and VP of HR Eileen Mead-Belanger, with buy-in from the rest of the C-Suite, removed training and onboarding from the traditional HR umbrella, reallocating it to their operations department. At the same time, they moved recruiting tasks to marketing and business development. 

The idea was this: Ensuring a positive customer experience comes first. And no one was better equipped to sort through candidates than the people already navigating a pipeline of customers. 

Of course, it wasn’t enough to get candidates into the pipeline; they had to get the right people in the door. They had already learned that just because someone had a banking or finance background, it didn’t necessarily make them the right cultural fit. 

Enter PI, with the help of Laura Caton and certified partner The Cornerstone Group.

“Now, when we're creating roles within our organization those roles have a direct responsibility to help us achieve the outcomes of our strategic vision.”

Yvonne Garand

Scaling up

In 2017, with the aid of the Cornerstone Group, VSECU’s executive team implemented PI’s Hire solution to not only redefine how they hired, but also reconfigure the structure of the HR department. 

“The Predictive Index is a tool that goes above and beyond what a lot of those personality tests do,” Garand noted. “But the beauty of PI is that it actually helps you create the type of motivators, drivers and behaviors are needed for a particular role.” 

VSECU began really leveraging PI data as it related to these factors. They also continued to rethink the way they viewed certain roles

“Head, heart, briefcase” is a common refrain at PI, and it effectively means a person’s resume shouldn’t be valued over their cognitive and behavioral abilities, or other intangibles that make them a sound cultural fit. VSECU put that mantra into action by leveraging the PI platform to understand how the candidate fit the role and the team..

Now, when considering candidates for a role, they ask questions like:

  • What gaps might this person’s behavioral pattern fill?
  • Do we need more innovators? 
  • Do we need more stabilizers?
  • How will their communication style mesh with those already on the team?

And while the world of finance is still beholden to plenty of compliance and regulatory mandates—meaning certain tasks still need to be done a certain way—they’ve found that making room for innovation has fostered the sort of culture they want to promote. 

"We use [PI] for job/role alignment. And we use it for team analysis.”

Yvonne Garand

Carrying culture over

Ultimately, credit unions are about serving the customer. Garand said they’ve come to recognize that people are VSECU’s greatest asset. The better aligned and in sync those people are, the better the customer experience will be. The PI Inspire solution helped the organization ensure positive employee relationships.

Three years after initiating these changes, VSECU is well on its way to becoming, as Garand put it, “change agents within the space.” Membership is stabilized across the state, unified in striving for three guiding principles: financial, environmental, and social prosperity. 

They’ve done sessions with branch managers, focusing on team patterns and communication styles, sharing practical knowledge with one another. One of the most basic emphases is that no office, or branch, or team, should be filled with similar personalities. You need stabilizers to complement explorers; cultivators to balance producers. 

Garand says she encourages people to be consultative and engaging now—to be human. Simply being an order-taker doesn’t serve the best interest of the credit union or its customers.

“So now, when customers come in, I’m asking my branch staff to take time and sit down with people. Converse with them, engage with them, ask them what keeps you up at night. What are your dreams, what are your goals?” 

It’s an approach that’s not only helped VSECU generate leads, but also meet some of its less tangible engagement initiatives. Member loyalty improves when people feel a social connection with the businesses that serve them. 

Customers are happier. Employees are happier. And that’s not some happy coincidence.

“What PI does is give us another tool to help individuals understand themselves, for colleagues to understand each other---for coaches and leaders to understand how they can help guide and develop their individuals that are working for them as well.”

Yvonne Garand