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NO. 4 LARGE | Teamwork, flexibility help Summit Credit Union beat crisis

NO. 4 LARGE | Teamwork, flexibility help Summit Credit Union beat crisis

From the Shining stars: Meet the Madison area's Top Workplaces series
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In pre-pandemic times, Summit Credit Union employees huddle at the credit union’s headquarters in Cottage Grove. The credit union serves about 215,000 members, has assets totaling $4.4 billion and employs about 475 people in Dane County. 

Everyone wants their pre-pandemic lives back, but the crisis revealed the value of Summit Credit Union’s strong culture.

Credit union employees — including 475 in Dane County — were either homebound or closing mortgages in the drive-up lane or issuing Payroll Protection Plan loans in the new world created by the virus.

“We had a strong culture going in. I think it got stronger during the pandemic,” said Summit CEO Kim Sponem. “People are really digging in and figuring out how we’re going to do all of these things differently. That creates a lot of camaraderie and teamwork.”

Many of Summit’s employees were reassigned and took on other responsibilities to help serve Summit’s 215,000 members.

“Some are still in different positions than what they were hired for. The funny part is that people have just really been excited about that,” Sponem added. “It’s a new way for them to learn another skill set. It’s afforded a lot of promotions for people.”

Sponem said that communication is at the core of effective leadership, especially now.

“Keeping people informed, giving people avenues to express what they’re feeling and how things are working for them is important. Listening is a big piece of developing a strong culture. Then working together to make changes,” she said.

Summit also decided last July that the work-at-home practice would continue until the end of March — and has now moved that date to the beginning of June, with a slow phase-in, if possible. “When we originally did that, it was pretty bold because most companies weren’t doing that, and our employees appreciated it, because they could plan,” Sponem said.

Some things haven’t changed, she added. “Every employee at Summit is a financial educator. We have a higher purpose of helping people become financially successful,” she said.

In addition to its comprehensive benefit package, Summit this year introduced Diversity is Our Strength Day, a floating holiday that can be used by employees to celebrate anything that has to do with diversity — including race, gender, religion, sexual identity and others.


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