What do you like most about working at Idaho Central?
“What I love most about ICCU is how they invest in our team and their families, our members and our community. ICCU takes great pride in creating the most amazing culture for our team and our members. I am proud to be a member of the green team.”
Bart Kleng, Commercial
“Everything … but especially the culture of caring about its members and team members.”
Emily Haas, Branch Manager
“Our culture! I get to make a difference in our member’s lives while working with my favorite people in the world!”
Anne Hagman, Business Development Officer
“I love ICCU. I love that every day we all band together to serve Idaho and help our members and future members achieve financial success. I love that positivity is a core value of our culture and it shows. I also love how we embrace all generations of professionals and work successfully together.”
Kylie Smith, Member
“What I like most about ICCU is our culture, and that we put our members needs first. I love working in such a friendly and positive environment.”
Kiana Tompke, Mortgage Loan Processor
“I love ICCU because I have an amazing work family! Not only do I have a place to grow professionally but a wonderful support system of people who genuinely care. Go green!”
For a computer guy, Kent Oram’s not a bad CEO.
As the big man on Idaho Central Credit Union’s Pocatello-based campus, Oram has overseen tremendous company growth since he joined up in 1984 as data processing manager, just seven years after the “modern” credit union began. ICCU boasted assets of $34 million, had four branches and 40 employees at the time.
Oram moved up as CEO in 2007, flexing his leadership muscles at the very moment the curtain started coming down on the U.S. economy.
“I had no intent to become a CEO,” Oram told a group of Post Falls Chamber of Commerce members and guests during a special CEO lecture in April. “I was a computer person.”
But he was more than that. Much, much more, as it turns out.
“One thing I am is humble and hungry,” he said.
That’s two things, but when it comes to $3.5 billion in assets and roughly 1,000 employees in Idaho — never mind being consistently rated at or near the top of the list of best places to work in the entire state — who the heck’s counting?
If you’re looking for numbers that matter, here’s one: Idaho Central is the state’s No. 1 lender for auto loans. Another: No. 1 in the state for mortgage loans. In fact, Oram said, two out of every three auto loans in Idaho comes from ICCU. That computes to a lot of success.
But here’s another stat that the company’s leader really values: 90 percent. That’s how many employees say they’d refer ICCU as an employer, 50 percent higher than when Oram started sinking his teeth into the task of being the big boss.
Tremendous growth that includes a new branch in Hayden and construction of a headquarters on Ramsey and Appleway in Coeur d’Alene, a project that should be completed within 21 months, hasn’t happened because of corporate luck or a big wave of national economic prosperity.
“People are looking for one secret,” Oram told the group. “There isn’t one; there’s hundreds or maybe thousands.”
A terrific workforce, Oram would argue, is essential for success. And you know what that means at the top.
“You can beat people but it’s a lot easier to lead them,” he said, echoing the key message of a December 2001 Harvard Business Review article entitled, “The Hard Work of Being a Soft Manager.”
That approach has played out well for Oram and for Idaho Central, which admittedly is quite selective in choosing employees, even in these days of virtually full employment. Last year, for instance, ICCU received 18,579 applications. It hired 279 people.
“To say that we’re a little picky would be an understatement,” said Oram, who’s from Blackfoot. “I’d rather have a position open for months than settle for the wrong person.”
The goal, he emphasized, is to hire Happy Smart People. They’re the ones who will create and sustain a culture of success.
Hire the smile and train the skill when needed, he said. And watch out for the blood suckers.
“Culture can be destroyed by allowing just a few energy vampires into the house,” he said.
Heads nodded throughout the crowd.
But where Oram really found agreement — or was it astonishment? — was in describing the level to which he and his army of Happy Smart Employees are involved in their communities, in workplace camaraderie, in celebrating the best things life has to offer.
“Little things add up to big things,” he said. “Our employees love it when we recognize things that mean something to them — birthdays, anniversaries, births, weddings, funerals, graduations. Divorces — sometimes we really celebrate those.
“We go to our kids’ events. If somebody who works for me has a son or daughter playing a sport, I’ll go. If they’re in a choir thing, I’ll go. When I say I go, that’s what I mean. And all the people out here who work for Idaho Central do the same thing. You cannot lead by giving dictates and directions. You can lead from the front, which is where we want to be.”
In a statement that was privately backed up by reliable ICCU sources, Oram practices what he preaches. He sends birthday and anniversary greetings to employees, a routine that used to happen every once every two or three days. Now? It’s five or six greetings every day.
And payback is a peach.
“When I had my birthday a couple weeks ago,” he said, “I got 700 messages.”
Internal communication and support is so vital, the computer guy/CEO told his IT pro that he wanted a private Facebook page for Idaho Central employees. Can’t be done, he was told.
“I just went and hacked the systems and opened ‘em up and created the private Facebook page and told the IT guy, ‘Sign up. You’re the first customer,’” Oram said.
Results have been nothing short of beautiful.
“There’s never been, not one time, anything inappropriate shared on our private page,” he said. “What is shared are births and graduations and volleyball games; ‘I went rock climbing with my friends.’ We create communities among our thousand employees.”
But those communities grow, embracing customers and neighbors — and more neighbors who might join the 300,000-plus Idaho Central members.
“We like to paint, we like to rake leaves, we go to parades,” Oram said.
He said a friend who runs a hospital asked how Oram gets employees to participate in all those activities. Oram’s reply?
“I think he thought I had a whip or something. I said, ‘I go to the parades and I go paint houses and I go rake leaves. And then they come, too.’”