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Carla Toews started as a teller when she was 18. Now a project manager with Access Credit Union Ltd., she’s working with a technical team administering a merger with several credit unions. She attributes much of her success to the exemplary leadership training she’s received at the credit union.
“That kind of training has helped me understand the different perspectives that employees have and what strengths each brings to the table and how to use the different skill sets,” says Toews. “It’s about giving our members the best service possible.”
Headquartered in Stanley, Man., Access has 52 branches, primarily around Winnipeg, and the mergers will add another nine to the roster.
“I don’t think I would have moved up as quickly as I did if I didn’t have leaders tapping me on the shoulder and encouraging me to take those steps,” she says.
Access’s overarching culture is one of empowerment, accountability and trust, according to Larry Davey, president and CEO.
“We give the staff the space to make decisions directly impacting our members. However, we hold ourselves accountable not only to our members but to ourselves,” says Davey. “We trust staff that they have in mind the best interests of our members and our organization.”
And leadership training is an important component of empowerment, Davey emphasizes.
“We spend a great deal of time on leadership training and getting the staff flow as frictionless as possible,” he says. “I find that if staff are empowered and know they are trusted, they are that much more engaged.”
“Trust is built through working together with different teams, knowing you have common goals to better serve members and each other,” adds Toews.
Davey says that altogether, this has made the mergers, such as the one Toews is involved with, that much better.
“We have been able to do that through the credit union mergers that we’ve had and I think it will continue,” says Davey. “Probably the most pride I have is how our staff have excelled and how people want to work.”
Davey adds that Access helps employees financially continue their university degrees, noting about 25 have received their MBAs.
“My job is to create an environment where people can excel. I find if people are empowered to excel, they will,” he says.
Part of Access’s culture is to maintain a healthy work-life balance. There’s a joint management and employee health and wellness committee. Leadership training also stresses the importance of that balance.
In addition, the organization ensures employees use all their vacation time and they are encouraged to work only their set hours.
“We all work a lot. We all work hard. But at the end of the day we’ve got to go home to spend time with family and friends so we come back refreshed the next day,” says Davey.
Toews adds that varying work among team members helps reach that goal.
“During busier periods we often shift responsibilities to make sure everyone can still achieve that work-life balance,” she says.
Another key value at Access is community involvement.
“We support communities financially with up to three per cent of our gross profits being reinvested in various charities or community clubs, for example,” Davey says.
Two fundraising golf days on behalf of Manitoba’s Health Sciences Centre Foundation raised $112,000, he adds. However, Jeans Day proves especially popular with staff. Employees pay $3 a week to wear jeans once that week. With 97 per cent participation, staff raised $150,000 for various charities.
“I love the people I work with,” says Toews. “They really make this a great company to work for.”
This article is produced by the Advertising Department of the Winnipeg Free Press, in collaboration with Access Credit Union