New Opportunities Present Challenges, Require Culture Change
Legislative initiatives have been giving credit unions the ability to expand their operations beyond traditional parameters. The passage of the Small Business Jobs and Credit Act gave credit unions the opportunity to increase their small business member lending. Other regulatory reforms (like the proposed rule on debit card interchange fees) have the potential of removing incentives for customers to join a credit union. In either case, both the new opportunities and challenges are requiring credit unions to change their operations and corporate cultures. Managing and driving this change effectively from within is no easy task. It demands a clear mission, vision and the right strategies and processes.
The old adage, “The only constant is change,” is particularly relevant for credit unions today. They went from what some regarded as the step-child of the banking industry to formidable competitors. While banks have had to fight to retain their customers, many credit unions have seen their memberships grow. There are now an estimated 92 million credit union members. The opportunities for continued growth are strong.
A study by the research and consulting firm of Bersin & Associates confirmed the power of empowerment, reporting that:
- 46% of organizations with empowered employees are more likely to be strong innovators in their markets,
- 34% are more likely to get to market before their competitors,
- 33% are more likely to report higher customer satisfaction, and
- 17% are more likely to be market share leaders.
There are several ways in which credit unions can foster employee empowerment. They include asking employees for their suggestions, establishing self-directed work teams, allowing employees to lead meetings, and giving employees (rather than executives) training responsibilities. Equally important is making certain every employee knows that he or she has a direct line of communication to the credit union’s top executives.