People helping people: how RBFCU leans into its mission during COVID-19

Stephanie Luna's headshot

As the coronavirus crisis continues at a touch-and-go pace, companies like Randolph-Brooks Federal Credit Union (RBFCU) are responding to challenges both common and unique. RBFCU was founded in 1952 in Texas, but their mission—“people helping people”—is more relevant in the days of COVID-19 than ever before.

Working remotely from San Antonio, Stephanie Luna is the Manager of the IT Project Management department at RBFCU. From building a data center to setting up telephony, her team handles all enterprise projects across the credit union.

Stephanie sat down with us to share RBFCU’s challenges in the pandemic—and how the credit union’s people-first ethos continues to guide them in times of crisis: “Our goal is to improve the economic well-being of our members and we don't take that lightly,” Stephanie says.

Identify your biggest obstacles.

The pandemic has introduced new challenges to RBFCU, the foremost being safety. Stephanie says: “The very first thing that we ran into was ensuring the safety for our employees and safety for our members coming through our branches, which span the whole state of Texas. We had to figure out real quickly how to keep people safe and services available.”

Nowadays, a big part of keeping employees safe is helping them work remotely whenever possible—a natural first step for the credit union. Stephanie describes the transition to remote work as less of a challenge around infrastructure, and more of a hurdle to maintaining their warm customer-facing culture.

“It’s been very difficult for those typically in-person departments that are used to face-to-face communication, just by the nature of their business. We have customers who look forward to coming into the branch to have a cup of coffee with the Branch Manager. For some in our community, it’s the only real interpersonal contact they have during the week. So trying to maintain those relationships through a drive thru or teleconference has been a hard shift,” Stephanie shares.

In addition, new employee onboarding and training have continued remotely—a brand-new experience for RBFCU. “We have an incredible learning and development team in-house,” says Stephanie. “Every new employee comes onsite and goes through extensive learning and development, so that has been moving virtually as well. It’s been an interesting experience.”

Respond to challenges with strong leadership.

Stephanie describes with admiration how the credit union’s leaders went into people-first problem-solving right away: “One of the things that really stood out to me is how our leadership team took on that servant-leader position automatically. They didn’t exude fear. They immediately started moving people out of office spaces and those who couldn’t leave right away were spread out across buildings on campus to limit their exposure.”

“What showed up big time for me was the use of the chain-of-command communication from our BCP, or business continuity planning, and the disaster recovery tests we performed. Those have been critical to keeping the communication open.”

“Typically, we are an open door organization. You can walk into the CIO’s office any time to visit with him. But when it comes to an emergency situation where we are trying to keep business flowing in times of turmoil, communication is locked down to specific channels only and it’s military style. We quickly started only communicating with our managers and direct reports because that kept the information that was flowing succinct and in synchronization with what was coming up from the top.”

Leadership quickly demonstrated their care and concern about the right things, from safety to cleanliness, inspiring employees to roll up their sleeves and adapt. “We had our CIO crawling under desks and dismantling hardware to get it to the folks that needed to work remotely but hadn't before. Lots of rolling up our sleeves on all levels, and doing things not normally assigned.”

Celebrate what’s working.

As far as what’s been going well, execution hasn’t missed a beat. “We didn’t even see a blip in projects in our workflows because we've been using Workfront for about three years now. People are used to it, but we are still overcommunicating since we are remote and a lot of teams aren’t used to that. Overcommunication is better than under at this point. Really clear communication is both pivotal and top-of-mind.”

We continue to be inspired by Workfront customers like RBFCU, and leaders like Stephanie, who are finding ways to thrive during an era of massive change by putting their people first. A big thanks to Stephanie for taking the time to tell us about it.

How are you and your company continuing to #workboldly together?