A Publication of WTVP

CEFCU and Methodist Medical Center of Illinois were recently selected as winners of the 2007 Best Places to Work in Illinois competition. The Peoria-based organizations were two of 10 large companies to win the award, while 20 small and mid-sized companies were also recognized.

The Best Companies Group and ModernThink, LLC, the powerhouses behind the competition, identify and recognize groups they say are “leading the way in defining the employee experience of the 21st century.” According to the Best Companies Group, all participating companies receive an in-depth, worldclass evaluation identifying the strengths and weaknesses of their workplace according to what their employees had to say. As a cosponsor of the event, Central Illinois Business Publishers is proud to highlight the accomplishments of CEFCU and Methodist, who ranked third and ninth, respectively, in the state.

Considering that its lending system was born out of a cigar box in 1937, CEFCU has developed into one of central Illinois’ most thriving businesses. The company was first established as a service for Caterpillar employees, but when it outgrew its cafeteria setup at the plant, the first CEFCU office was established in the Pekin Mall. Unlike a traditional bank, CEFCU has grown only with the investment of its members, who “bought” shares of the company by putting just $5 into a savings account. Over the years, its status as a credit union has helped the financial institution to expand.

Mark Spenny, president and CEO of the company, shared with IBI last year that a credit union’s business philosophy is “first and foremost, taking care of members.” Spenny said that for CEFCU, a good deal for members, rather than maximized profits for shareholders, was its top priority. With service and values as its goals, CEFCU has become the area’s largest locally owned financial institution, ranking 19th among credit unions nationwide. Today, the group has 19 office locations, over 100 ATMs and Cash Express Machines, 229,000 members in a 14-county area and more than $3 billion in assets.

CEFCU’s journey with the Best Places competition began with research. After Spenny received information about the program and some basic research was completed, the personnel department began to realize how beneficial the competition could be.

“CEFCU’s employees are our greatest asset because we rely on their knowledge, skills and commitment to deliver a superior experience for members,” said Jana Stevens, CEFCU Community Relations Manager. “This program provides a unique opportunity to find out what employees think about working at CEFCU. At the same time, we could find out how our employment practices and policies rated among other Illinois employers.”

First, an employer questionnaire regarding all aspects of human resources—values and ethics policies; compensation and benefits; fitness/wellness programs; healthcare and insurance benefits; employee recognition programs; and corporate citizenship— had to be filled out. Secondly, 350 random employees were asked to take a 65-question survey about their experiences in the workplace.

The result is a testament to the member-friendly attitude of the company—employees, who are also members/owners through their own financial investments, gave the credit union a “thumbs up.” CEFCU was delighted to receive the award and easily attributed it to its simple goals.

“As a not-for-profit financial cooperative, CEFCU’s efforts are focused entirely on making it easier for member/owners to succeed financially,” Stevens said. “CEFCU strives to be a company that makes both our employees and member/owners proud. Employees are empowered to do the right things for members as we go about our daily work as a result of the values that are shared through this single-definition of success.”

The Best Places competition highlights each company’s best practices, and for CEFCU, a slew of corporate values was placed in the top slot. “We Make Membership Count”—CEFCU’s culture statement—spotlights some of its commitments: “Members are our #1 priority; we are committed to excellence; we care about our community; teamwork is the way we do things; integrity is the foundation of everything we do.”

The second best practice at CEFCU involves a health-conscious employee benefits department. The company’s main office offers a fitness center open during the day and evening for all employees and directors. Complete with wellness activities and promotions, aerobic classes, various machines, locker rooms and showers, the center goes above and beyond expectations for fitness. The department also coordinates on-site health fairs, flu-shots, Red Cross blood drives, blood pressure and cholesterol/ blood glucose screenings and more.

Outside of these recognized practices, CEFCU boasts other employee benefits, including extensive training, job sharing, flexible work schedules, mentoring, tuition reimbursement and retirement programs. The company makes it easy to gain tenure because it gives its staff the first opportunity to fill positions that become available. The credit union even has its own training school—what it calls the University of CEFCU’s Training and Development Program—from which the majority of managers graduate.

However, CEFCU never forgets that its members/owners are the priority; its community commitment says enough.

“Central Illinois is extremely important to CEFCU,” Stevens said. “Our strong commitment and history for giving back to the community is simple: we want central Illinois to remain a robust and growing area. After all, it’s where we all live and work, and that continued strength and growth helps everyone—especially CEFCU members.

“In reality, it’s our culture of ‘people helping people’—be it members helping members or giving back and helping the community— that makes CEFCU such a great place to work.”

CEFCU recently made a $1 million gift to the Children’s Hospital of Illinois. The company is also recognized for sponsoring free children’s safety events, its Brighten a Child’s Life Holiday Greeting Card Contest and donations to local museums.

Like CEFCU, Methodist Medical Center of Illinois had humble beginnings. Three deaconesses of the Methodist Church purchased a two-story home and began a hospital and nursing school on Glen Oak Avenue. In 1911 permanent construction began, and since that time Methodist has grown to become an institution with multiple wings and 353 beds. The hospital serves as a regional referral center for a 19-county market containing a population of approximately one million people. Its mission: “We are committed to delivering outstanding healthcare. Period.”

The hospital’s numerous awards and accreditations continue to raise the bar on standards of patient care in the Peoria area. In March, Methodist earned a Gold Seal of Approval for Health Care Quality for its heart attack program, only one of three hospitals in Illinois to do so. April found the hospital earning another Gold Seal, this time for its unique C. Duane Morgan Sleep Disorders Center.

Methodist’s distinction as a Magnet Hospital reflects excellence in nursing care, and it is recognized nationally as a Solucient Top 100 hospital in cardiovascular care. Last fall, Methodist earned two Summit Awards for consistently high patient satisfaction scores (high standards must be met for at least three years) and also earned the prestigious 2006 Lincoln Gold Award for achievement of excellence.

It’s no surprise that a hospital which invests so much in its credibility would also invest in its employees. After being named one of the Best Places to Work in Illinois, that fact is tried and true.

Following the same competition process as CEFCU, Methodist said it was thrilled to have its workplace recognized. Senior Vice President of Administration Dallis Howard-Crow and Director of Organizational Development and Retention Martha Diebold shared their reasons why Methodist is a great work environment.

“We recognize the importance of the key elements that distinguish and define a great workplace and strive to provide them: pride, credibility, camaraderie, respect and fairness,” Diebold and Howard said. “We believe employee engagement drives employee satisfaction, and therefore we have hardwired our practices to respond to employee input on key factors.”

The key factors, according to Best Companies Group, are two unique company practices.

Hospital food generally carries a negative stereotype, but Methodist defies the ordinary with its made-to-order bakery and locally famous macaroni and cheese. Employees receive a discount on the cafeteria, which really comes in handy when picking up a take-home meal for one’s family before leaving for the day.

Methodist also knows how to save time with its second best practice: flexible scheduling. For example, the WIN program lets an individual work just the hours children are in school or work a few hours in the evening while a spouse or partner provides child care. The WOW program allows for a weekend-only schedule: working 24 hours a week and getting paid for 40 with full-time benefits. Methodist employees also have the option of working 10- or 12-hour shifts or joining a flexible scheduling registry.

Employees enjoy numerous benefits, including on-site childcare, paternity leave, a wellness center, discounted tickets for area events, an Employee Crisis Fund for short-term financial assistance and time-saving services on-site including banking, a full-service mailroom and pharmacy.

Methodist Corporate University serves as the chief vehicle for the education and development of all employees, providing in-depth training for individuals, teams and the organization. Methodist strongly encourages employees who continue formal education through a tuition reimbursement benefit available to both part-time and full-time employees.

Methodist also offers distinct services for customers, including free or low-cost health screenings and wellness classes, free parking and a complimentary valet service, free overnight accommodations for out-of-town family members and a Community Care program that makes it possible for any person to receive quality medical care.

By 2012, the hospital plans to complete a $350 million renovation in order to make Methodist more welcoming and energy efficient. New buildings will consolidate services to make them more convenient, and a dining and conference pavilion will make it easier to take care of daily tasks.

“The Methodist of tomorrow is being built with wellness in mind,” Methodist President and CEO Michael Bryant said. “We are going beyond providing services—we are adding value for patients, families, employers and the community as a whole.” IBI