Small but mighty: Why Texas Tech FCU consistently ranks among the best
Texas Tech knows a thing or two about winning. Not the university’s football team, which was ranked just No. 68 nationally in pre-season polls, but the credit union chartered to serve the university.
2019 marks the fifth consecutive year $195 million-asset Texas Tech FCU has placed in Credit Union Journal’s “Best Credit Unions to Work For” rankings, coming in at No. 4 overall this year and No. 2 among institutions with $200 million or less in assets. It held that same ranking in 2018 and in 2017 was No. 2 overall, and placed first among the smallest asset class. It has performed highly in earlier rankings, as well. A few other credit unions under $200 million also regularly rank highly in this category, which features less movement among the rankings than higher asset classes.
“We first applied for the designation in 2015 because we were proud of the relationships we have with our employees,” explained Chris Hutson, CEO of the Lubbock, Texas-based institution. “We applied again this year for the same reason.”
Texas Tech supports 23,000 members at five branch locations. When asked why he thought his credit union not only placed in the Top 50 credit unions but ranked so highly so consistently, Hutson said it comes down to treating employees with respect.
“Our board sets the tone. They really demand that our employees are treated well. We are transparent about our strategy with all employees,” said Hutson. “Our C-level team leads a strategic consciousness program multiple times each month where we connect employees to the important strategic initiatives of the credit union.”
Along with providing “above average” compensation and benefits plans, the credit union also has a quarterly employee-recognition program. Hutson explained that nominees may be recommended by any staff member and winners receive a paid day off and a personalized award. At the end of the fourth quarter, executive staff selects its employee of the year. The winner receives $500 and a personalized award.
While senior management keeps a close watch on productivity, the credit union’s staff also has an opportunity to provide opinions to executives, which Hutson said is critical to the credit union’s success.
“We actively solicit feedback across all departments and employees using a software tool called 15Five that facilitates weekly reports from employees to supervisors,” said Hutson. He added, “We all share in the success of the credit union together. Our employees are encouraged to take risks, to own their roles and to leave the credit union better than they found it.”
But Hutson confessed there has also been a learning curve, particularly when it comes to facilitating and supporting the institution’s culture and spirit. One of the first steps in overcoming that, he said, is using the right verbiage.
“Quit saying ‘my branch’ or ‘my team’ or ‘my desk’ or ‘my staff.’ When you say ‘our staff” you demonstrate that you have a high view of the team for which you are responsible,” said Hutson. “The desk at which you sit will be occupied by someone else someday. The relationships you build drive success and leave a legacy.”
And gaining employee insight doesn’t always come from meetings or workflow reports. To this end, Hutson and other executives host tailgate cookouts at different branch locations throughout the year.
“We get some great insight into our organization when we take time to build relationships,” he said.