LANSING, Mich.-Even as two credit unions become one during Lake Trust CU's merger here, employees know exactly where to go to get the latest word and to get to know one another: the employee portal.

"You can't over-communicate during a merger," said Danielle Brehmer, VP-marketing at the $1.6-billion CU. "A merger creates a lot of feelings among staff. But one thing that helps mediate those feelings is to communicate."

Though Lake Trust still uses e-mail, newsletters and telephone for merger tasks, the portal is the primary means of communication, said Brehmer. Lake Trust is relying on the Employee Intranet Portal provided by Passageways of West Lafayette, Ind.

Genisys CU started using the Passageways portal soon after its recent merger, according to Jackie Buchanan, CEO at the $1.3-billion institution in Auburn Hills, Mich. "Bringing two large organizations together necessitated a lot of changes. It became apparent that our team needed quick access to information. The portal puts policy, procedure and product and service information at the team's fingertips so they can serve our members efficiently."

Communication via "static" channels such as email can hold you back, explained Noreen Schafer, manager, virtual sales and emerging technology at Lake Trust. "If all you do is send out information through email, it's inefficient."

E-mail forces employees to sift through and organize their inboxes to find updated information, whereas the CU's portal automatically shows employees the most recent, files-or can push them out to mobile phones and pop-up alerts, Schafer said. New brand toolkits, amalgamated employee policies and current product pricing are just a sampling of what's posted at Lake Trust's portal.

Newsletters and e-mail are problematic because you can't change them once they're published or sent, said Brehmer. "If there's an error, you have to redistribute the entire newsletter or send out a new email. With the portal, you just update the information." The CU saves money on printing costs, added Raymond.

"Employees can access the information as often as they like, and we can post important messages right away," she said. Employees can contribute information and ask questions in an organized fashion on the portal, something they can't do using static channels.

The portal offers a customizable start page where employees receive and respond to the latest workgroup announcements. Managers can set permissions to indicate what type of information each employee receives.

Employees across the CU's 22 branches are able to post and comment on workgroup announcements as well as manage their schedules from a common calendar. Plus, the portal helps people staff get to know one another via employee photos and contact information, said Schafer. "They can put faces to names and find commonalities around their work."

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