Thought I Was Wrong But I Was Mistaken
No one is infallible and mistakes happen. Some are out of laziness or lack of knowledge. Some people are burning the candle at both ends and unable to think clearly. Some are just plain accidents. The jerk that just cut you off on the freeway may have a blind spot.
I made a few mistakes this week that were not devastating but nonetheless irritated me so much I’ve made it the theme of this column. The worst thing those of us who make mistakes can do is fail to admit them, and like then-presidential candidate John Kerry, you can have an I-voted-for-it-before-I-voted-against-it moment.
Hopefully for most of us, it’s not that public, though last week one of mine was at least within the credit union industry. I made the horrid mistake of accusing NCUA’s Buddy Gill of being (perish the thought) a Republican. A thousand pardons to my learned colleague in Virginia. It was a bonehead move to work from my failing memory that was made in haste under a looming deadline.
This mistake was avoidable as many are. But some mistakes are bigger than others. Let’s avoid these.
According to the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate fell to 9.3% in June from 9.6% a year ago. Though trending downward, the figure is roughly twice what the U.S. is comfortable with. And the Sand States are still feeling the pinch. In El Centro, Calif., unemployment was 28.5% for June, while Yuma, Ariz., recorded 26.9%. All of the remaining 10 areas with jobless rates of at least 15.0% were located in California.
Of course, this situation makes lending incredibly difficult, but look inward for a moment. Take note of your employees. Morale can be incredibly low when financial institutions are crumbling all around and friends and family are laid off from their jobs.
Don’t make the mistake of abusing your employees because they should be grateful they have a job. They already are. Instead of beating them up, boost them up. If a financial bonus is out of the question, offer a little paid time off, allow them to work from home some, give them some sort of recognition or even training.
Someone asked at a conference I attended recently, “What happened to employee loyalty?” The speaker’s response was what was expected. Essentially, he said that many employers are no longer loyal to their employees. If you want to hold onto your best and brightest who will make your credit union successful in the long run, this is not the tack to take. Holding the high unemployment rates over their heads provides added stress that impedes job performance and has them looking for other opportunities the moment the door opens.
Incentive pay is another way of rewarding employees relative to their work output, but a fine line must be carefully toed to ensure the employees’ incentives are aligned with corporate strategy. Providing incentives that bring personal and business goals into conflict are a mistake no one can afford to make.
This is particularly important for your Gen Y staffers who are likely to be your lower ranking, lower paid employees that often have the most contact with your members. Keeping employees as happy as you can is essential to keeping members happy and business humming. Besides replacing them is more expensive than keeping them, so neglecting these folks would be a mistake.
A credit union’s Gen Y employees are also a great way to understand what young adults want from a financial institution. This group is in their formative years financially where they’re just getting their career going and ready to borrow for their cars and start saving for retirement. Know what they want through your Gen Y employees and invest in making that happen and letting them know about it.
Yes, you’ll need to market to your members and potential members, including Gen Y. This will cost money, but no one will know credit unions exist (i.e. use your services) simply by willing it.
And don’t ignore women as a segment in your marketing. Ford gets it. Ford actually redesigned its door handles so as not to chip women’s longer fingernails, according to Womenomics, a business book about women’s power in the workplace.
Women represent a good target for your marketing but also for your hiring. Not honing in on this segment would be a huge mistake since 57% of bachelor’s degrees in the U.S. are earned by women, plus 58% of all graduate degrees, according to Womenomics, which cited stats from the Department of Education.
That means they’re going to make up a greater part of the workforce as boomers retire, and they’ll have even more control over finances. This book emphasizes women’s power in the workplace and how it will shape the organizations of the future, including more flexible work schedules and locations. Women are redefining how they see “having it all.”
Mistakes are human so learn from them and move on. Best of all try to avoid them when you can.