It’s not that unusual to listen to a podcast while you work, but it’s not that common for the host of that podcast to be the CEO of your company.
Grow Financial Federal Credit Union CEO Thomas Feindt started his own podcast for his employees during the pandemic as a way to connect with his staff, who had largely shifted to working from home.
Like any other podcast, Feindt discusses various topics and interviews guests — usually others from around the company. But what three-year Grow Financial employee Linda Johnson appreciates the most? The podcast tackles real topics, like being a Black professional during a resurgence of national protests that brought systemic racism to the forefront. As a Black woman, Johnson felt not only represented but supported by her company during the turmoil of the last year.
“I’ve been in toxic environment at previous banking institutions,” Johnson said. “Then, I came to Grow and it’s completely different. Everybody is positive and not only cares about you, but what you think.”
Read more: Tampa Bay’s top large workplaces for 2021
Grow Financial, a Tampa-based credit union with about 550 employees, won the top spot as the best workplace for large local companies. Its employees applauded their new CEO’s leadership during the pandemic and praised a company culture that makes them feel heard and valued.
“I think one of my jobs is, when people’s alarm goes off in the morning, they’re excited to come into work,” Feindt said. “To receive this type of recognition, that tells me we’re going in the right direction.”
Khenh Vong, a web developer who has been with the company for the last 14 years, is a fan of the podcast and the the weekly town hall meetings held by Feindt. The virtual meetings started as a way to give updates during the pandemic but have become an opportunity for employees to speak their minds and interact directly with the higher-ups.
“Current events are bleeding into, and impact all, facets of your life,” Vong said. “I’m proud of being part of a company that isn’t just talking, but really doing things. Despite how difficult the last year has been, it really gave us new meaning.”
Vong is on the company’s diversity committee, which has a series of goals to increase the company’s mix of people and inclusion from human resource policies to hiring procedures and dress codes. The company has also launched company-wide unconscious bias training.
Vong also works on the company’s foundation, which organizes charity efforts. This year, unable to do the usual in-person volunteering, employees collected and donated supplies needed at nursing homes.
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Both Johnson and Vong said they like working for Grow because their personal values align with the company’s. Rather than avoid discussing things that are uncomfortable to bring up in the workplace, employees said management has created a culture that fosters difficult conversations.
Beyond that, employees feel invested and valued because of the amount of training and advancement available to them.
Johnson, 32, worked in one of Grow Financial’s St. Pete branch locations assisting customers with banking until recently. She started a new training program through Grow that has shifted her to work-from-home. Now, she spends the day in online classes. She is also a graduate of an intense leadership class, which she said was another example of her company’s investment in her success.
When Johnson started her job, she had an early conversation with a branch manager explaining her goals to grow her career in banking. The two discussed a path to achieve them.
“They really treat you like family and they really care about what’s going on in your personal life,” Johnson said. “They want to see you advance in whatever you want to do.”
In his first year as CEO, Feindt has stressed the value of promoting from within. Over 2020, the company says it promoted more than 100 people internally. The company also changed its vacation policy, making it so all employees start with three weeks of time off rather than earning more vacation hours over years of employment.
James Kapish started at Grow Financial in the fall of 2019 as a communications specialist. But he was struck by the workplace’s culture before he even landed his job.
“The moment I stepped foot in there and started talking to team members, I could just tell it was different,” he said. “It was a special kind of culture that you can just sense right away. I knew before my first interview finished, it’s where I wanted to be.”
Times staff writer Jay Cridlin contributed to this report.
ABOUT THE COMPANY
Grow Financial Federal Credit Union is based in Tampa with branch offices throughout the region. As a credit union, Grow is similar to a commercial bank but is member-owned and run as not-for-profit.
“I am given the freedom to lead my team how I see fit. My ideas are sought out and taken into consideration on a regular basis. I believe that all team members are working toward the common goal of ‘serving people’ and it is fun to be part of that mission.”
“I really feel that I am making a difference in the lives of our members. We are very cooperative with each other. We have fun doing our work. I have the chance to grow and learn more in my position.”
“I work with the absolute coolest team. I do exciting work that has a significant impact on the organization and our communities. I have countless opportunities to grow and develop myself professionally. I have a manager I respect and learn from every day. This is easily the best job I’ve ever had.”