On the Same Page I

FORT WORTH, Texas — With offices in 17 different states, creating a collaborative culture has been difficult for American Airlines FCU.

In its attempt to keep everyone in the loop, the $5-billion AAFCU had previously invited all of its hundreds of employees to participate in quarterly conference calls with senior management and the CEO. But after former CEO, John Tippets, retired, the credit union decided it needed a better way to get its new leader, Angie Owens, in touch with everyone from executive level staff to front-line workers.

"We did not have the full participation we had hoped for," project manager Veronica Martinez said of the conference calls. "There seemed to be a lull, because we didn't have specific topics that were proactively communicated in advance."

In response, AAFCU turned to Passageways and its portal system to create a more energetic forum that could meet the strategic goal of achieving a more collaborative culture, as well as craft a one-stop shop for its employees on policies, procedures and best practices.

"It gives us a place to accurately organize our content so that our employees have instant access to the information they need, whether it is a policy or a procedure, information from our CEO or workgroup pages," said manager Jennifer Huie. "It's a centralized location where employees can go (and) find everything they need to be successful in their work."

From Passageways' framework AAFCU crafted a specific portal page for its new CEO, labeling it "In Touch with Angie." The page gives every employee access to the credit union's leadership without the need for e-mails. The old conference call has been replaced with virtual meetings that are archived for any employee who may have been unable to participate live. A discussion board on the page gives employees the opportunity to ask questions in advance while also allowing senior staffers the chance to prepare answers and drive the meetings forward, thus addressing the "lulls" that the conference calls experienced.

"We're giving our people a highly interactive forum with the portal," noted Portal Administrator Carols Galvan. "It is hard for us to quantify in numbers, but is easy to see by the excitement this is generating that we are getting our employees engaged."

While the ROI is tough to calculate, an internal survey found 92% of AAFCU employees believe it is "very important" to increase engagement, and 67% of respondents believe the virtual meeting system is superior to the previous conference calls. Eight-five percent also found the portal system easy to use, and 84% said they would participate in a future meeting.

"The way they are utilizing the discussion boards allows the front line employees, who wouldn't normally have the opportunity, to interact with the CEO," said Passageways' Implementation Manager Stephanie Scott. "When you are all over the country it is hard to foster that cohesiveness. Having that direct contact helps to prevent any message that needs to be shared from becoming diluted."

The portal system and its discussion board, along with the blogging features, have created an internal "social network" that has helped communicate innovative business practices between AAFCU's 42 locations. This forum gives employees the ability to have continuous training in existing and new techniques; the results have been strong with the credit union "blowing past" its employee participation and incentive goals

"We have come up with lots of ideas with branches that may have been sharing with just their own region. Now they are letting everyone know about what they are doing which has cascaded down," Martinez explained.

Best Practices CUJ 2009
CU: American Airlines
Best Practice: Staff Communication
Vendor: Passageways