In 2019, Texans Credit Union—which delivers a suite of financial products and services to 120,000 members, supported by 250 employees across 11 branches—had a turnover problem. Turnover stood at 46% organization-wide and 63% among customer-facing roles in branches.
Four years later, those figures have dropped to 18% and 25%, respectively. How did the company turn things around?
It largely comes down to one word, says Chief People Officer Jenni Short: Fun.
Leadership revamped its company culture, committing to “make work fun” as one of its core values. That work is led by a “Fun Committee,” and employees are even assessed, in part, by how well they embrace company values like this. Short—who spent more than 13 years at Target, including as an HR manager and later as a training director at Dynamic Corporation Solutions—recently spoke with HRE about how infusing fun into company culture can make EX and, ultimately, retention stronger.
HRE: To what do you credit the organization’s successful reduction of turnover?
Short: Back in 2019, our turnover was very high, and we knew we needed to address it. We started by looking at compensation because we did have a gap and needed to be a little bit more competitive in the marketplace, and that certainly helped.
But I would say that the even bigger transformation came when we started to work on a cultural shift. We had some new executive leadership at the company and we really outlined our cultural values. We created a “Fun Committee,” which puts on all sorts of different activities and creates ways that people can connect with each other at work and just make things a little bit lighter.
We’re dealing with people’s finances, so, of course, we have to take that very seriously, but when we can, we want to have fun with each other. And I think that those shifts in the culture really helped us make this a place that people want to work at.
HRE: How do you plan to make that strategy sustainable over the next couple of years?
Short: It has embedded itself in our culture. One of our values is “make work fun.” People actually get reviewed on that in their performance: Are they participating in the culture? We’ve codified it into what we believe in. We have the “Fun Committee,” which is like a fun, challenging assignment for leaders to take on and drive that throughout the organization.
There’s a deep commitment from leadership that our culture will always come first. We want this to be a great place to work. Our members come to us because we give exceptional service, and we know that we have to have that sort of same mentality: We’re going to have that exceptional culture for our employees to thrive in.
HRE: How are you helping employees thrive amid challenges like rising healthcare costs?
Short: It’s always on my mind and, of course, this time of year we’re going through open enrollment. I think having really good relationships with vendors is important and brokers to help advocate for you in that space. One of the things that we’re doing that’s new this year is a wellbeing spending account; sometimes they’re called lifestyle spending accounts. It’s an opportunity for us to invest money back into our staff members and then they can choose how to spend it—massages, gym memberships, park and camping fees. We really want people to have ownership over how they provide themselves that self-care—and it’s fun.
One of the things I love about that benefit is where it came from. We have a system in place where staff members can submit ideas or questions: “Why don’t we try this?” And we were getting some around mental health support and general wellbeing. [We thought], what can we do that will be really impactful, but still flexible to what people need? So, it was an idea that came out of that.
HRE: How do you think HR perspectives on the value of employee experience have shifted in recent years?
Short: I think that connection is so important, and HR leaders have had to understand that it starts way earlier in the process than maybe we used to think.
People may think about the experience starting on someone’s first day of employment but, honestly, their feelings and perceptions about the organization that they’re joining started way before that. What’s their perception of your brand? What’s their perception of your interview experience, onboarding process? People really care about how employers make them feel. The experience is much bigger than maybe we used to think it was, and that can’t be taken for granted.
Employees have really high expectations because we have great experiences in all other areas of our lives—whether it’s digitally or in person—and we need to mirror that in their employment processes as well.
HRE: Looking back, what sparked your interest in HR in the first place?
Short: I loved business in general and the part of HR that I have always loved is the people side of things: why the decisions that are being made are being made, and how could I potentially be involved in those conversations? [HR] has absolutely matched my expectations and certainly gone beyond.
Organizations that put value on keeping their people and their culture is what differentiates good companies from great companies. And being able to work with a group of leaders that get to make those decisions every day is more exciting than I ever anticipated.
HRE: Outside of this work, what are you passionate about?
Short: I’m a mom—I have two little ones—so I’m often running around after them, but I am passionate about being involved in my community, mostly through my kids’ schools. I’m on the PTA board, and I love being able to support our teachers and our school community.
I wasn’t expecting to share this, but both of my kiddos have had different health issues, and so I’m also passionate about the American Heart Association and giving back through that. They’ve been really impactful to our family.
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