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Creating a World-Class Recognition Culture Within One of California’s Largest Financial Cooperatives

Discover how Golden 1 Credit Union uses Reward Gateway’s employee recognition platform to embed an “attitude of gratitude” throughout its workforce

With more than $20 billion in assets, Golden 1 Credit Union is one of the nation’s largest credit unions. Founded in 1933 and headquartered in Sacramento, California, Golden 1 provides easy access to financial solutions and resources and supports its members’ and communities’ need to improve their wellbeing. The organization is committed to creating a more equitable and financially inclusive California, and proudly serves all those who live or work there.

Golden 1 is more than 1 million members strong and employs a dispersed workforce of over 2,200 employees, many of whom are frontline staff responsible for serving members at the Credit Union’s 70+ branches and home loan centers across California. Additionally, 72% of Golden 1’s employees are remote and/or hybrid.

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Finance & Banking

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Number of employees:



Number of branches:


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Platform features:

Employee discounts, employee communications, reward and recognition, employee wellbeing

The challenge:

Golden 1 Credit Union's platform, Golden Spotlight, homepageGolden 1 first approached Reward Gateway at the start of 2022 with a clear goal in mind: to establish a central employee recognition hub that would enable them to reinforce an “attitude of gratitude” across all levels of the organization, including within company headquarters, branches, home loan centers and more.

Driving greater engagement and peer-to-peer recognition were marked as two main priorities, with a pointed focus on offering employees more redemption options through a seamless Amazon integration. This would also reduce time spent on internal administration and repetitive processes. 

Golden 1 Credit Union’s Senior Benefits Specialist says:

“Before partnering with Reward Gateway, we relied on a catalog system that offered limited options for managers and staff in terms of recognition and awards. We needed to find a system to inspire high levels of engagement among staff and really bring our ‘attitude of gratitude’ ethos to life – because that’s the basis of everything we do at Golden 1.”

The approach

The first step for Reward Gateway was to create a tailored platform to house all of Golden 1’s recognition initiatives. Named “Golden Spotlight”, the new hub was designed with user experience and the Amazon integration in mind, making
it simple for employees to access a wide range of items, rewards and real-time feeds each time they log in. 

Golden 1 Credit Union eCards – Welcome and Thank YouAn interactive eCard system quickly generated high levels of engagement, giving both managers and staff an avenue to shine a light on great work, anniversaries and birthdays. The eCards are based around Golden 1’s core values – Service Excellence, Inclusion, Reliability and Integrity – helping to inspire positive behaviors and bring those values to life on a daily basis. 

Senior leaders immediately recognized the value of the platform, and worked with HR to spread awareness and garner interest from employees across all roles and locations. Following Golden 1’s initial launch, the organization shifted its focus slightly to encourage more peer-to-peer recognitions.

“In the buildup to launch the new platform, we did a lot of internal promotion to notify employees and generate excitement. Our senior leaders set a strong example for the rest of the organization to follow, which helped us gain a lot of traction with our eCard and Instant Award systems. It was fantastic to see thousands of manager-staff recognitions and awards being sent within the first six months of launching.”

Self-service success

One of Golden 1’s main stipulations when choosing a new platform was that it needed to be easy for its internal team to manage and maintain. The last thing they wanted was a clunky back-end system that always required technical support and long delays to get things updated.

Golden 1 Credit Union's platform, Golden Spotlight, and the Reward Marketplace“Reward Gateway’s support team has been fantastic in terms of talking us through the capabilities and customizing the look and feel of the platform in line with our brand. They respond very quickly, too. The software is also so user-friendly that I feel comfortable making adjustments as an admin and don’t need to contact them often.”

Several Golden 1 leaders have become “super users,” in that they’re using the system to prepare eCard recognitions and awards for every birthday and anniversary within their team. This allows managers to plan ahead and prepare for their employees’ important events.

Golden 1’s director – and Golden Spotlight super user – says:

“The Golden Spotlight program is an incredible (and easy) way for us to share immediate feedback/kudos/congratulations with our team members – it doesn’t always need to be a long message – it can be something as simple as, ‘Hey Tom, just wanted you to know how hard I’ve seen you working lately – thanks for your commitment to our members!’, or ‘Hi Amy, hope you have a great day!’. Little boosts of encouragement can really make a difference for someone when they need it.”

The result:

In just 18 months, Golden 1 has managed to convert 88% of its 2,200 employees into active users on the platform. This is testament to its HR team’s campaign led approach and success in garnering senior management’s enthusiasm in utilizing the program.

The eCard system has proven to be an overwhelming success for Golden 1, with 31,300 eCard recognitions sent since launching in March 2022. That includes a healthy split of 56% manager-to-staff recognitions and 44% peer-to-peer recognitions.

What’s more, over 3,200 Instant Awards have been sent by managers so far.

“Looking at our stats, I’m delighted with the momentum we’ve created so far on the recognition side of our culture. We plan on promoting the mobile SmartSpending app and developing our discounts offering, which we hope will help support the financial well-being of our employees. Golden 1’s managers and supervisors have expressed how much they love the platform, so I believe we’re definitely on the right track!”

Want to learn more about how the Reward Gateway solution can help your business? 

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