Olympia Federal Savings has long had a reputation as an outstanding employer in Washington. This week in part two, Stu Poston, compliance trainer for OlyFed, tells his story. Olympia Federal Savings (OlyFed), Olympia, Wash., has long had a reputation as an outstanding employer in Washington. The Northwest Weekly recently spoke with three longtime employees of the $581 million bank for a three-part series (see part one here). This week in part two, Stu Poston, compliance trainer for OlyFed, tells his story.
Q: Tell me about your background. How did you land at OlyFed?
A: Stu Poston: During college, I held jobs cashiering at a grocer, waiting tables at a restaurant, and teaching snow skiing. While studying psychology in college and working when not in a class, I was developing skills in cash handling, adult education, customer service, and security awareness skills – all of which are important for working here at OlyFed. The first-aid training was a bonus, too! I landed at OlyFed in the winter of 1981 when our regional ski areas were unable to open for lack of snow. I couldn’t interest anybody in mud sliding lessons! I saw an ad in the help wanted section of the paper and thought, “I know how to handle a cash drawer; I could do this!” I applied and was offered a part-time position. I quickly learned the procedures and systems at OlyFed, and the part-time job became a full-time job in just a couple of months.
Q: How would you describe a “day in the life” at OlyFed?
A: Stu Poston: When it comes to the morning greetings between coworkers, they are almost always cheerful and sincere. If a colleague has suffered illness or misfortune of any kind, that person can quickly find an empathetic ear; their team will do their best to raise everyone’s spirits. If an employee issue is deeply troubling or complex, OlyFed offers free Employee Assistance Programs, generous health benefits, and group rate legal counsel, as needed. Once a branch or department team has arrived, we share what we call “Hoopla!” – a morning pep rally, of sorts. We share ten to fifteen minutes of brags about one another’s accomplishments, play a fun game, or share thoughts about accomplishing office goals. That helps us all to focus on the tasks for the day and face our challenges together with a sense of how our individual efforts contribute to our overall business plan and our success. OlyFed’s vision statement includes treating every customer like family; the customers themselves often remark on that perception. It’s not at all uncommon for customers to greet one another, sit in our lobby and share a cup of coffee as they catch up on their current events. Our branches are all dog-friendly. Customers often bring in their pets for us all to admire, and of course, we have dog treats ready for them. As the day concludes, all staff members do their best to see that not only are their responsibilities taken care of but then they commonly check on coworkers to see how they can assist in getting any extra work completed. No employee is ever left feeling they are on their own to get something done. And as we leave, we leave in groups or teams of two. OlyFed is concerned that we all remain safe, even as we walk to and from our parked cars. Again, we experience that family feeling of caring for the well-being of everyone here.
Q: A true test of a company is not necessarily when things are good, but when things become challenging. Do you have an example of a time when OlyFed rose to the challenge?
A: Stu Poston: One remarkable example: Another longtime employee received the worst news at his doctor’s office; he was diagnosed with dangerously advanced cancer, and he would likely be out of the office several months if he returned at all. OlyFed told him to get the care he needed, and we’d keep him on the payroll so his health insurance would remain active. Coworkers visited when they could. And thankfully, he did pull through. Though it had been some months, his desk was open and waiting for him as soon as he was able to return. Years later when he finally retired, he summed up that experience as he choked back tears, saying simply, “What other company would ever do that?!” Another example of OlyFed management’s commitment to employee safety: Over a decade ago now, our region was hit with a 6.8 magnitude earthquake, centered relatively close to Olympia. Our main office is in historic downtown Olympia, and the old building just across the street had big pieces of cement and plaster crashes to the sidewalk below. Our office rocked and swayed, but not a single window was cracked. We all followed our security procedures and met outside in the parking lot for a headcount. Though shaken both literally and emotionally, everyone was OK. It was a cold winter day, and many had left the building without taking time to grab a coat. Again, management did not want any employee to take any unnecessary risk and enter the building until it had been inspected for safety. It was just our CEO and one executive VP who went office by office, department by department, getting coats and keys and whatever the staff needed – no other employees were allowed. I was there, too, and offered to help. But the CEO said no; he didn’t want anyone to take that risk despite the fact that the office appeared to be in good shape.