Credit union: Direct FCU

Assets: $580 Million

Location: Needham, Mass.

Category: Custom App for Employees

Nominated by: Direct FCU

In an effort to engage employees, Direct Federal Credit Union developed DirectThinker, an app that allows employees to submit ideas on how business operations could be improved.

“One of our main takeaways is that engaged employees create a cycle of positive results. As we celebrate our individual and collective successes it drives us all to achieve more,” said Direct Federal CU’s Director of Marketing Kristen Johnson. “By ensuring that our employees have a voice in our credit union’s direction, we embody our cultural aspiration of ‘if you want something done right, do it together.’”

A Direct Federal Credit Union employee using the DirectThinker app at a kiosk.
A Direct Federal Credit Union employee using the DirectThinker app at a kiosk.

The new app is a result of a three-year effort to transform the $580 million, Needham, Mass.-based credit union’s culture. This was achieved, in part, by instilling core values, such as drive, integrity, resilience, competence and teamwork, explained Johnson. To date, 143 ideas have been submitted by more than 50 percent of staff.

“So far, 27 ideas submitted have been implemented this year and 70 are in progress,” said Johnson. “The remaining ideas are being incorporated into our 2018 strategic plan.”

The app was conceived by a “cross-functional, credit union-wide team,” explained Johnson. This in-house team, along with the credit union’s advertising agency, created and structured the program as well as the user experience.

“The team also reviews all ideas, implements the idea when appropriate/feasible or alternatively assigns the idea to whomever in the credit union is responsible for that area of our strategic plan,” said Johnson.

In May 2017, the CU launched the inaugural “DirectTank” competition, a company-wide idea pitch contest that encouraged individuals or teams to submit formalized ideas with a project/implementation plan. In total, eight submissions were received from 12 employees and reviewed by senior management.

The top-three finalists presented respective pitches and plans at an employee-wide meeting in June. Employees were able to cast their vote on which idea “best maximized value and minimized waste” for the credit union, noted Johnson.

“The winner, Susan Lynch, pitched an ‘Employee Volunteer and Community Outreach Program.’ Susan received $500 cash, an extra vacation day and the funding to implement her project this year,” said Johnson. “All ideas that were submitted were done so with such extensive planning and research, that the majority will also be implemented this year.”

In recognition of its efforts, Direct FCU has earned a 2017 Best Practices Award from Credit Union Journal.