Guest Opinion: Strategic Planning Enhanced by More Voices
Late summer is a time of transition. Families are wrapping up vacations. Kids are getting ready to go back to school and college. Football practice squads are putting on their gear and hitting the gridiron.
It’s also a time of transition at credit unions as many look to the upcoming year and strategic planning sessions.
While most credit unions do strategic planning, not all do it well. Too many times, planning sessions become more numbers driven – think ratios and balance sheets – than people driven. One way to ensure your credit union is maximizing its planning process is to engage people at every level of the organization.
Three groups of people credit unions should listen to as part of their strategic planning process are members, staff and executive team/board of directors. Paying close attention to what these three key groups are saying will greatly aid your efforts at the planning table.
As your most important audience, it is vital to engage your members. This data feeds directly into your strategic planning process.
One way to accomplish member engagement is through focus groups. This involves getting a group of members together and asking them about their experiences with and attitudes towards your credit union. You could assemble a totally diverse group of members from a random draw, or segment member data for a more targeted group; for example, members in a certain age range or members from a certain geographic area. You might even want to talk to some nonmembers.
Examples of focus group questions include: How can the credit union improve the way it serves you? What could the credit union do to earn all of your financial services business? What is important to you in a financial services provider? What financial products are most important to you?
Another way to research engagement is a formal member survey. If you do conduct a member survey, be sure to ask n a scale of one through 10, how likely are you to refer a friend or family member to the credit union?
Drilling deeper into your staff’s level of engagement can also aid the strategic planning process. Employee focus groups are one way to do this. Similar to the member focus group, the employee focus group is designed to bring together a group of your staff and gather information concerning their feelings about your credit union.
“We began hosting a series of employee town hall meetings to help better listen to the concerns and feedback of our staff,” said Cindy Beauregard, CEO with Heart of Louisiana Federal Credit Union. We get honest input from our staff on a variety of important issues which can then be directly fed into the strategic planning process.”
The key with employee input is honesty. Make sure they know their answers are safe and be sure to get a thick skin.
With a more formalized employee survey, you can quiz your staff as to their levels of engagement with the credit union across a broad spectrum of topics. In his book Now, Discover Your Strengths, author Marcus Buckingham offers twelve key questions that help measure employee engagement. Some of the questions are do I know what is expected of me at work? At work, do I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day? In the past seven days, have I received recognition or praise for doing good work? Does the mission or purpose of my company make me feel that my job is important? This past year, have I had opportunities at work to learn and grow? Some credit unions complete this survey yearly and use its results as a tool to measure employee engagement.
Executive Team/Board of Directors Engagement
Information from your executive team and board of directors is also important to your strategic planning process. Engaging with this group is a key way to not only gather critical data but also to provide better direction and focus to the strategic planning itself.
Doing this legwork beforehand will help save valuable time during the session. You can complete the standard SWOT or the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats exercise prior to the session along with asking what key strategic issues we should cover.
You should also use the Five Star Analysis, which asks each person in the strategic planning session to rate the credit union on a scale of one to five (one the lowest, five the highest) in member service, staff, operations, finance and marketing/branding. It’s easy for the strategic planning process to fall into a numbers trap. But strategy is not about ROA, peer to peer reports and ROE, it's about engagement.
Mark Arnold is president of On the Mark Strategies
Contact 214-538-4147 or firstname.lastname@example.org