Growth opportunity: Interregional mobility

October 28, 2016
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Everyone knows the expression “good people are hard to find,” but if you’ve ever run a business or managed people, you know good people are even harder to keep. When you have ambitious talent eager to take on more responsibility, a smaller organization may simply not be able to compete with a larger one in terms of the opportunities it can provide.

This comes with a cost. Research shows that companies, on average, spend 18 months’ salary to replace a manager or professional and up to six months’ salary to replace an hourly worker. So holding on to top talent is not just good human resources practice but fiscally prudent as well.

At First West Credit Union, our unique model has not only enabled us to bring more products and services to our members while maintaining our local decision making, but also proven to be a benefit in talent development and retention. By encouraging employees to find new opportunities in any of our three regions and supporting those who want to continue in their current roles while relocating to a different region, we are able keep and grow top talent. In addition this also encourages knowledge and sharing of best practices across the organization.

Don’t just take it from us, First West employees who have taken advantage of this interregional mobility share their experiences:

Mandeep Sindhi: Manager, Commercial Credit, Island Savings (pictured above)
I became senior manager in commercial credit at Island Savings in Duncan at the time of the merger in January 2015, but I started my career with First West more than 10 years ago as a commercial account manager at Envision Financial. Moving to Duncan enabled me to grow my career but was also beneficial to my family for personal reasons. My son was six months old at the time and we didn’t have any immediate family in Metro Vancouver. My wife’s mum and dad live on Vancouver Island, so the transition worked well for us. The move enabled me to work within the same organization and retain the networks I had built in that organization while at the same time improve my work-life balance.

Kareen Post, Branch Manager, Envision Financial, Sunwood Square branch
I started with Island Savings in 2002 and worked my way up from account manager, investments to branch manager. In 2014, my kids were grown and I had lived in the Cowichan Valley my entire life, and I realized that I wanted a change of scenery. In March 2015, I became branch manager with Envision Financial in Coquitlam. Island Savings becoming part of First West was the perfect opportunity to change my lifestyle but not have to leave the organization I loved working for. Fundamentally, Island Savings joined First West because we are the same in how we want to serve our members, but each region, and branch, is able to still preserve the power of local decision making and our investment in the communities we serve. We’re stronger together.

Nick Wade: Advisor, Sales Effectiveness, First West
I began my Island Savings career working at our Westshore location in retail banking. After the First West - Island Savings merger, I had the amazing opportunity to join our operations, sales and member experience department as an advisor in sales effectiveness. The nature of my role enabled me to work in any one of our three divisional head offices. I jumped at the opportunity to live and work in the Okanagan and did so for the better part of a year. Late last year, however, I decided to move to the lower mainland and work out of the Langley corporate office. The flexibility of the First West model had enabled me to move around. In my opinion, the First West model brings greater opportunities for career growth, especially if you are willing to relocate.

Gagan Gill, HR Business Partner, Envision Financial
I moved to Nanaimo in the spring to be with my fiancé and to live the island lifestyle—I now travel to the Duncan corporate office every day. In another organization, it might have been unthinkable as a regional HR business partner to move outside of the region I support, but not at First West. The HR team has been so supportive of my move. I am now more involved in bigger cross-regional projects but through the Lync technology and computer hardware we’re all provided, I can still support the region as well. This has been a tremendous opportunity for me.

Kristin Burgess, Assistant Manager, Central Operations, First West
As we continue to grow as an organization, there are new opportunities being created all the time. My story is indicative of this. I started in retail banking in Hope in the Envision Financial and then moved on to central operations, where I worked at the Langley corporate office for 16 years. I then transitioned to a role in member experience for a year before a terrific opportunity came up in central operations in the Valley First region. We’re creating a centre of excellence with the team that processes estates, investments and demands for all our branches across the entire organization. It’s really exciting to be part of that. One of the biggest benefits of the First West model is that opportunities for employees will grow as we partner with other credit unions and look at new ways of doing things.

Jeff Knutson, Branch Manager, Island Savings, Salt Spring Island
I joined First West in 2010 as branch manager of Envision Financial’s Ridge Meadows branch. Since then I have also managed the Sardis branch and then was the manager of retail credit for Envision for a few years. My wife and I have three young boys, ages 3, 7 and 10, and decided we wanted to raise them in a community smaller than Langley. When the Branch Manager role for Salt Spring Island came up, my wife and I did our research and decided to go for it. So far the transition has gone well. My kids love their school and the branch employees and members of the community have been so welcoming. If Island Savings hadn’t voted to join First West, I would never have had this opportunity.

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