Right after I first started at this job, I had the opportunity to attend CUNA's Governmental Affairs Conference. I had been working here for three months, and I was learning on my feet.
I learned from the speakers and by attending some of the breakout sessions. But what stayed with me the most was the overall experience of seeing first hand what the industry is all about.
If I had not taken this job, I would have never had the opportunity to learn about credit unions by reading the articles written in this magazine, attending events like GAC and eventually writing and reporting my own articles. It is safe to say that without this job, I most likely still wouldn't know much about credit unions.
After graduating college, one of my friends was excited to tell me she had been hired for her first job. The job, she said, was at a bank. It gave her excellent benefits and would pay for a portion of her classes if she decided to go back to school. Later, I found out that the bank was actually a credit union.
There is a lot of focus on how to educate the general public on what credit unions are all about, but how many credit union executives can say for certain that all their tellers know the credit union difference? How many tellers are given the opportunity to learn about who they work for?
One of the most valuable things any company can invest in is its employees. For credit unions trying to attract new members, having employees that can articulate what a credit union is and the difference between a credit union and a bank to friends, family and members coming in the door is an important tool.
The Crash the GAC movement, started by younger credit union employees that want to horn in on the education and network opportunities older executives get, shows that training and education for lower-level employees is something that is needed in the industry.
Executives that have been in the industry for 20 plus years have a plethora of opportunities to attend conferences and events to learn more about the industry, but what about a new, entry-level employee that was just hired? What opportunities are available to him or her to learn about credit unions?
Having any employee at any credit union go around boasting about the excellent benefits they get at their job and then go on to call the credit union a bank hurts the industry as a whole.
I understand that it is not possible to send every employee to a conference, but there are inexpensive ways to educate and train. Learn from the Crash the GAC organizers, they found an inexpensive way to attend GAC and still get the same educational, training and networking opportunities.
Webinar sessions can be held at conferences for those that can't afford to spend on travel. Sessions can be broadcast over the Internet to lower-level employees who aren't able to attend.
Don't just rely on conferences and events to educate employees either. Have a system set up in-house to give new employees a crash course on credit unions.
Education can work both ways, too, when it comes to young employees. Executives can educate young employees about the industry, while young employees educate executives about the needs and wants of younger members.
Instead of going out into the general public or reading reports and white papers to try and find out what Gen Y needs and wants when it comes to a financial institutions, tap your employees.
Start a weekly meeting with young employees and find out their opinions. See if they have accounts at other financial institutions and why. After the past year, employees everywhere could use a morale booster. Make them feel valuable by showing them that their opinions have a place to be heard.
For some lower-level and entry-level employees, their positions may feel like it's just a job. It's up to the people above them and the higher up employees to make them feel like it's a career. If your employees don't understand a credit union and don't feel connected to the industry, then you can't expect the general public to be.