Feeling Lucky

Unemployment numbers have just shot up again, so now more than 8% of the workers in our country are out of a job.

It’s the kind of environment where, when you complain about your job at a party, 10 people look at you and say “You should feel lucky to even have a job.”

I do feel lucky to have a job, and I feel extra lucky that my job happens to be at Farm Credit. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t care about my job satisfaction. Like most people, I want to have it all.

In April last year, we sent a job satisfaction survey to all employees here at MidAtlantic. In it, we asked them about their perspective on our association’s management, leadership, customer service, teamwork, human resources, and communications.

We received the results of the survey in June, and I wanted to give you an update on what we’ve done about them. First, the results of the survey were very good—the outside consultant that helped us evaluate the results said that we should be very proud of our positive work environment. But, as I said earlier, I want it all—and if there’s room for improvement, let’s make it better.

Some of the specific concerns that came out of that survey were the need for better communications through all levels of our association, a concern about workload issues, and a targeted look at our regional structure.

We’ve done several things to improve in those areas. Communications, for instance, has been addressed at both the association level and the regional level, with more consistent communications for me (hence my jump into the modern world with my blog), more meetings and conference calls with staff, and—towards the end of the year—more conference calls with the bank and funding corporation as well. I think communications is always an issue with every organization, but I’m committed to keeping all of you in the loop as much as possible.

Workload issues, which are both short-term (based on business cycles) and long-term (anticipating retirements), have been addressed as well, as we’ve added several new positions in our business plan for 2009. Expansion positions are a tricky proposition in 2009. Obviously, our first goal is to be efficient—and that’s more important in this economic environment than ever. But an equally important goal is to provide outstanding customer service, and that means having enough people to do the work. My strategy is always to balance these two goals, and I think this year’s business plan does that.

Finally, I think that our strategy to have regional differences was proven last year when Valley chose to merge with us (in my discussions with their board, I frequently heard that the ability to maintain some autonomy was a large factor in their decision). We have taken the opportunity of the merger to look at what we do regionally and what we do centrally; as you know, this is a constant balance (again) between serving the customer and being efficient. I trust that our regional differences will continue to evolve as the market changes, but I do think that having some regional differences positions us well for success in the future.

Those three issues were the largest ones to come out of the survey. We know that we haven’t completely addressed everyone’s concerns, and we’re certainly not saying that the process is over. In fact, we’ve decided to send an annual survey to all staff so that we can continue tracking your satisfaction. We want to be our staff’s favorite employer…so that they don’t just feel lucky to have a job, they feel lucky to have THIS job.

I know that employee satisfaction is part of my responsibility as CEO. But, as I said last year, it’s not all my responsibility (thank goodness!) Every one of our employees has an opportunity to improve our association’s work environment…whether it’s through suggestions for new efficiencies, spot awards for your fellow employees, or keeping the lines of communication open both ways (it doesn’t always have to come from the top down! I always love to get feedback and suggestions from staff!)

I’m committed to making MidAtlantic the best workplace possible. Because sometimes, you have to make your own luck!

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