Looking to attract Gen Y as members? It might be time to turn your attention inward and focus on hiring them first.
Experts say that means pushing past the negative stereotypes that the group is entitled, lazy and needs constant hand holding to recognizing that their socially responsible, can-do attitude may be just the jolt the credit union industry needs moving forward.
“Gen Y wants to be a part of something bigger,” said Matt Monge, vice president of people and development at the $427 million Fort Campbell Federal Credit Union in Clarksville, Tenn., who feels credit unions could have the edge as an employer of choice. “You’ve got to connect what your organization does, and what they’ll be doing individually, with the bigger picture,” Monge said. “Why does it matter? Why is it significant? Whose life will be better as a result of their work?”
Given the credit union philosophy, it might help overcome the overall negative perception of working at a financial institution, said Johnny Laurent, vice president/general manager at Sage Employer Solutions, a human resource solutions firm in Irvine, Calif.
“There’s this bad image that nothing exciting is going on at any financial institution, that they’ll be doing the same thing everyday and that it’s boring,” Laurent said. “Let’s face it, that’s not what Gen Y wants. They want to be part of something exciting, fast-paced and cool. So if they’re looking at a potential credit union employer and it doesn’t have mobile banking or isn’t even on Twitter, then they need to be convinced they’re coming to help that organization to get to where it needs to be.”
To that end, credit unions should educate and emphasize the credit union difference as a cooperative and play up the volunteer board. He added that the job description is where many need to get creative.
“There’s some degree of mundane tasks expected [that] you don’t need to include in your job description,” Laurent said. “So if what you need is a creative person to improve a process or even deliver a great experience for members then that is what you’re really looking for.
Laurent said if the job description is for a creative individual to find ways to reach more people with a great offering, when it’s time for the interview, be completely honest and open about what the job entails overall.
“Don’t hold back or you’ll shoot yourself in the foot,” Laurent suggested.
He said with social media, if the individual gets lured in with a great job description but then interviews and finds “it’s just the same old thing,” word of mouth will spread that there has been a disconnect and the employer will be branded everything from dishonest to inauthentic.
“This is a group that volunteers more than any other, so sell your ideals, demonstrate how you’re involved in the community, how they’ll be making a difference,” said Mark Arnold, president of On the Mark Strategies, a branding and strategic planning firm. “Be upfront, let them know, ‘yes we’re an older organization but you can help us get younger.’ Show you want their help and are willing to work with them.”
He added that credit unions should include any staff Gen Yers, regardless of whether they are in senior positions, in on strategic planning sessions as their input can be invaluable.
“I don’t know of any credit union that doesn’t have attracting a younger demographic as part of its plan but how can that be accomplished at a session filled 100% with boomers, Gen Xers or seniors,” Arnold said. “They can learn from you and you can learn from them. They come to the credit union full of ideas and it’s really all about change. Don’t be afraid of it. Change at your credit union is a good thing.”
Essentially, it boils down to culture, which has to be one that embraces ideas, innovation and most importantly failure, most agree. According to Monge, credit unions have to provide connected and collaborative work environments become Gen Yers come in expecting those features.
“Provide a context within which they can define their role, in some senses. Don’t confine them strictly to a precise job description,” Monge said. “Give them goals, expectations, and performance standards; but also allow them room to create, innovate, and take their role within the organization to the next level.”
Monge said on a related note, provide a clear path for them to make real contributions to the organization, its goals, and its direction. This certainly includes, but isn’t limited to, empowering them to do meaningful work.
“Again, simply punching a clock and getting paid isn’t enough for Gen Y; provide them clear opportunities to make an impact on the organization,” Monge noted.
Arnold also advised issuing a test of sorts. “Give them a challenge and they will rise to it,” Arnold said. “Let them know, here is a problem, solve it. And then let them run with it and take ownership of the project.”
The $939 million FORUM Credit Union in Fishers, Ind. has a program designed to find the next generation of top tier talent from within. The FORUM Future Leaders is a one-year program that enables selected staffers the opportunity to sharpen their skills through a mix of lessons and real life strategic and tactical challenges. Experiences and curriculum for each individual accepted into the program is customized to their unique goals, strengths, challenges and FORUM’s business needs, according to the credit union. Along with a mentor, each FFL participant is monitored along the way to ensure their goals are being achieved.
“Future leaders are developed over time by leading in meaningful, measurable ways,” said Andrew Janning, assistant vice president training/quality service at FORUM. “What this program does is allow those selected to fail forward faster so they learn from those experiences. We’re taking them out of the sanitary safe training environment and into the messy world of actual work and all that comes with it.”
Janning said the program wasn’t specifically designed for Gen Y but typically, it’s the group the credit union catches. FFL aims to show that FORUM trusts its Gen Yers with real high impact projects “and it’s not about just waiting for someone to put in their time but recognizing that potential and giving them the opportunity to develop their own career path by applying what’s been learned.”
In its third year, FFL has produced exceptional results, Janning said. While completing the program doesn’t automatically guarantee or result in an immediate management position, participants will have developed and built an in-house network of cross departmental contacts. The matching of a mentor for each participant is based on input from the candidate and determining who will best help them meet their personal development plan. Six months into the program, the participants get new mentors.
“The one-on-one mentoring has been invaluable because here is the opportunity to form a tight bond with someone who can provide clear feedback on identifying strengths, what can be improved upon and share their experiences,” Janning said. “We really try to pair with mentors outside their functional group. We want them to get different perspectives so that means matching them with mentors from different areas. The idea is, say you’re in branching, then a relationship with a senior executive of the branch network is one that would naturally be forged over time.”
According to Laurent, effective recruitment and retention of the next generation requires a shift in approach with everything from where jobs are posted, and résumés, to even the interview process itself.
“The problem today is leaders can’t get past all the other stuff, the assumptions and talking about 12 hour days,” Laurent offered. “You’ve got to change your expectations. With the interview process, most people are asking the same questions they did 10 or 20 years ago and we’re programmed to look for that canned response or we think it’s not a good fit. That simply won’t work today.”
Laurent said the questions should be more open-ended conversations with follow-up questions.
“During this conversation, find out what’s really important to them or what their passion is. As you listen, you’ll learn about their work ethic. It’s not about their résumé skills but getting to know them and whether their personality is a fit for your organization.”
At Fort Campbell FCU, interview questions can range from ‘tell us about a work environment that drove you crazy’ and ‘what’s the most fun you’ve had at work,’ to ‘tell us about a time you came up with a weird, unique or different solution to a problem and how you handled the resistance to it.’”
“We want to get them talking and [starting] a narrative [on] who they are as human beings, their DNA and how they’ll interface at the office,” Monge explained. “Is there really a right answer to what makes you better than every other candidate? And do you want someone who can do that? It’s horrible to ask and horrible to answer so why not frame it differently to what makes you unique or why do you think you’re a good fit for us?”
Arnold suggested trading the one-on-one interview setting with group interviews.
“With the group interview or team interviews, you’ll get insight into how they interact with others. For the most part, we work in teams so use the team approach with the interview and you’d be amazed by what you learn.”
Credit unions should also expand the parameters for résumé selection beyond the standard requirements.