The March 30 article recounting New Jersey Credit Union League’s Reality Check caught my attention. The takeaways cited in the article relate to some of the bigger challenges that we face as a movement: declining number of credit unions over the next 10 years, holdings of less than 10% of the wallet share of members, problems with our industry’s ability to spread the good word. We have two options that I can see in the face of this news: We can feel disheartened and like our efforts are for naught…or we can seize the opportunity to steer this movement in a new direction.
From where I’m standing, it seems like tunnel vision on members isn’t helping us as much as we’d once thought. After recently learning of Richard Branson’s maxim for running Virgin Group (Staff first, customers second, shareholders third.), I believe that the credit unions that are doing well in these challenging times are ones that have expanded their focus on staff, providing them with the opportunities to develop as a whole person, and seeking to harmonize work and life.
There are myriad ways that we can provide this to our staff–education benefits and support of cross-training opportunities will foster a culture that values learning and curiosity, which in turn stimulates innovation. Facilitating events that allow employees from different branches and departments to both work and play together can help create a culture of teamwork and collaboration. More ideas will be shared, and more action will result.
The secret to unlocking these culture changes is to reach out to key employees, many with leadership potential who have few opportunities to develop their skills in their current role. Whether it’s inviting them to form a benefits committee, or giving them access to resources with which they can transform the workplace into a place that feels almost family-like in atmosphere, the empowerment of a few key employees will spread throughout the rest of your organization.
The payoffs of these sorts of investments are huge–our greatest asset is our employees, and in caring for them in a level beyond basic benefits, we’re providing a great incentive for employees to be our biggest advocates. Employees that feel valued have a deeper level of commitment to the work that they do, and that will be visible to members. For any question of "What should we do?" to combat the facts provided through Reality Check, I believe empowering employees is the answer.
Sasha Kemble, Trainer & Silver-Lining Specialist, Verity Credit Union
Contact 206-361-5392 or SashaK@VerityCU.com. She is a member of The Crash Network, a grassroots organization of over 100 young credit union professionals catalyzing the industry through meetups, mentorships, online collaboration, and development projects.