Sask Top Employer 2018

Strong employees make great credit unions

Lisa Castle doesn’t find too many quiet moments during her work week. Lisa Castle
As the Manager of Retail Administrative Services at Synergy Credit Union, she oversees 52 employees who play a major role in the success of an organization that holds more than $1 billion in assets. Her time is in demand. Whether it’s an email from a supervisor inquiring about assisting a member, a training opportunity with a young employee, or a meeting with the top executives in the credit union to discuss long-term goals, her leadership and decision making are valuable and heavily sought after.  

It’s a long way from her beginnings as a part-time Member Service Representative in her hometown credit union - at a time when she couldn’t even get an interview for other entry-level positions. But even then, the urge to do more was real for her. After not hearing back from multiple applications (conceding she wasn’t remotely qualified for some of them), she asked the manager if she could come in on her day off and simply observe her fellow employees to see if what they were doing was the career path was for her. Castle got the thumbs up to do a job shadow and a lifelong journey inside the credit union system began.

Invaluable people
People like Castle become invaluable to organizations like Synergy Credit Union - intelligent, ambitious and driven by helping members and making a difference in their communities. The challenge for the credit union’s leadership is to grasp how to attract employees like Castle, as well as how to retain them and allow them to thrive within the credit union’s corporate structure. 

Success stories like Castle’s show the infrastructure in place that not only make Synergy a popular employer in the regions it serves, but are an indication of environments that stand out when accolades like the Saskatchewan Top Employers are selected. Synergy Credit Union is honoured to be in such company with the top organizations in the province. Saskatchewan's Top Employers is a special designation that recognizes Saskatchewan employers that lead their industries in offering exceptional places to work. Employers throughout Saskatchewan were evaluated by the editors at Canada's Top 100 Employers using the same criteria as the national competition.

“Recognitions like this are possible, first and foremost, because of our commitment to hiring exceptional people,” said Synergy Credit Union CEO Glenn Stang. “We aim to put the best possible structure in place for our employees to succeed but we are able to attract the high-performance people who push our organization to achieve great things.”

Amazing opportunities
“The credit union system is amazing for the opportunities it provides for professional development,” said Castle. “And I don’t think people know about it until they experience it.”

Castle’s resume reads like an organizational chart, one that she started navigating in June 1994: Teller, Contact Centre Loan Clerk, Contact Centre Representative, Member Contact Centre Lender, Consumer Loan Specialist, Agriculture Lender, Consumer Lending Manager, Special Projects (which put her in charge of training and education for new government regulations) and then a commercial account manager. She arrived at Synergy Credit Union in October 2007 as the loans supervisor in the Member Contact Centre and a year later was managing the department. She then took over a unique position that looked after branch manager succession. This meant that she was the branch manager in centres like Neilburg, Marsden and St. Walburg, as Synergy filled those roles – sometimes taking up to two years. After that, she became the Southern Regional Manager before taking her current role in 2015.

At first glance, one might assume it was a stereotypical workaholic chiseling her way up the corporate ladder - it was actually quite the opposite. Castle’s family has always come first and when she took on positions outside of Lloydminster, the ask was always the same: she couldn’t leave before 8 a.m. and she had to be home by 5 p.m. It could have been viewed as a hard stance – especially when you factor in time zone changes – but Synergy’s leadership was open to ways that would work for her.

Not the traditional way
“Synergy has always been more about what we can do and not what can’t we do,” said Castle. “And while that meant I was sometimes driving on company time, it didn’t mean there was less work. My kids were young then and when they went to bed at 7:30 p.m., I was back answering emails and catching up on reading I didn’t get to during the day. They were open to the work not being done in the traditional way.”

That flexibility and nurturing of development are what makes organizations like Synergy Credit Union attractive options to talented people. During her time in the credit union system, Castle was financially assisted in completing her Business Administration diploma, completed many courses to help her within the financial industry and just recently completed her Credit Union Institute of Canada (CUIC) General Business Studies designation. She was also supported in her terms on the committees for the Saskatchewan Young Leaders and National Young Leaders, stints that were invaluable from a growth and networking aspect. She was also supported by Synergy when asked to start a Synergy Emerging Leaders group in 2010.

These opportunities don’t happen by accident though. Castle stresses that employees have to be willing to reach out and inquire about what’s available to them.

“You have to know the value you add and then knowing how to articulate it is a skillset,” she said. “Synergy does such a great job of supporting staff and not keeping you in your current job – it allows you to think about what you can do and then pursue that.
“Synergy is different. We’re not afraid to try something we haven’t done before.”

On the right track
It’s words like that which show Synergy’s executive and board that the credit union’s commitment to corporate culture is on the right track.

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