LONG-TERM COMMITMENT: Karl A. Kozak, Pawtucket Credit Union president and CEO, with Lorraine LaMontagne, who has worked at PCU for 51 years. The financial institution pushes employee advancement, often promoting from within.
PBN PHOTO/RYAN T. CONATY
By John Larrabee PBN Staff Writer
Employees at Pawtucket Credit Union love their jobs in part because they’re helping their own community.
Like all credit unions, the institution is owned by its customers – called “members” – and is dedicated to boosting the local economy.
“I get a lot of satisfaction working with our members,” said Lorraine LaMontagne, who works in quality control for mortgages. “I’ll bump into people at Stop & Shop, and I’ll hear them say ‘I remember you! Thanks for being so helpful.’ That always gives me a good feeling.”
Job satisfaction like that means employees stick with the organization a long time. The average length of employment now tops 20 years, and is growing. LaMontagne is now first on the longevity list: Last year, she celebrated her 50th anniversary on the job.
LaMontagne, who works part time, stays on board in part because the credit union is willing to offer flexible schedules to older employees, working mothers and others. “They really value long-time employees,” she said. “They told me, we’d rather have you work here part time than not at all.”
That’s not the only reason PCU employees are loyal to their employer. A job at the credit union means job security: In the 84-year history of the institution, there has never been a layoff. “We continue to expand,” said President and CEO Karl A. Kozak.
There’s ample opportunity for advancement. All job openings are first posted on the institution’s intranet, and the credit union first looks to its staff when a position is empty. More then 75 percent of upper-level positions were filled by promoting from within.
The credit union provides training to help workers move up the ladder at the institution. New hires receive 70 hours of training their first year, and other employees receive 32 hours each year. The curriculum covers such topics as conflict resolution, business writing, communication skills and performance-review writing. Employees can take online courses as well.
PCU also has a tuition-reimbursement program for job-related college course work. Employees are eligible to receive $3,000 a year to help pay for undergraduate courses, and up to $4,000 per year for graduate-level classes.
The credit union is also generous with rewards and incentives. That means an annual bonus for all employees, a practice that’s waning at other workplaces. “We give out checks to all our employees a few days before the holidays,” said Kozak. “It’s a full week’s pay. We’re profitable, and we believe that has a lot to do with the great people who work here.”
The credit union has a sales-incentive budget close to $150,000, which is distributed through several different programs. When a branch or a department reaches a sales goal, each of them receives a cash reward. There are also contests and sprints with monetary incentives. A contest held every February includes weekly drawings for $25 gift cards. At the end of the month all those who have reached their minimum sales goals are entered into a drawing for a $250 gift card.
The credit union offers a great benefits package, too. Full-time employees pay just 11 percent of the total monthly premium for family or individual health care coverage, and the credit union has absorbed premium increases for the past several years. Part-timers who work a minimum of 20 hours a week can purchase identical coverage on a pro-rated basis. Dental coverage is free to full-time employees and their family members. And both health and dental plans include domestic partners.
PCU has an on-site fitness center and full locker rooms at its Pawtucket headquarters, and the facilities are open to all employees. The large lunchroom is also used for after-work, group-exercise classes. “We offer yoga classes, kickboxing classes, Zumba classes, healthy cooking classes and a lot of other things,” said Kozak. “It helps us work with employees’ insurance companies to keep costs down.”
The wellness effort doesn’t end there. Healthy snacks such as fruits, salads and 100-calorie items are sold on a vending cart at a reduced cost of 50 cents per snack. The credit union also offers flu shot clinics, blood pressure screenings, lunch-hour presentations on relaxation and sleep and other programs to help employees keep in tip-top shape.
Employees can take pride in knowing PCU supports local communities. The credit union has a full-time community-outreach director, and many employees are allowed to help out as volunteers for nonprofits and civic organizations during work hours.
The credit union has established partnerships with 16 schools throughout the state to offer a financial-literacy program, which includes classes for students with special needs. Another program – titled Real World Da – teaches students how to manage a monthly budget, to help them prepare for life after graduation.
Each year the credit union awards college scholarships to four Rhode Island high school graduates. The winners – who pen essays on the importance of financial literacy – receive $2,000 a year for four years of college attendance.
PCU provides financial support for the Special Olympics, through both fundraisers and direct donations, and employees frequently participate in Rhode Island’s annual Special Olympics summer games. Other worthy organizations also benefit from the credit union’s largesse. Among them: local food pantries, Habitat for Humanity, The Children’s Shelter of Blackstone Valley.
PCU has adopted some eco-friendly policies as well, investing in energy-efficient lighting and HVAC units for the new main offices. The same technology will be used when branch offices are redesigned. •