A recent CUNA survey found that one in five credit union CEOs will have retired by the end of 2012, causing board members sleepless nights wondering who will take the reins.
But some in the industry would respectfully say, “It’s about time.”
That would be Generation X and Y doing the talking.
“With numbers estimated as high as 70 million, Gen Y is the fastest growing segment of today’s workforce,” said Brent Dixon, young adult adviser for the Filene Institute. “As credit unions compete for available talent, the needs, desires and attitudes of this generation can’t be ignored. What are the advantages of hiring Gen Y employees? How can you attract young professionals and shape them into future leaders of the credit union system? These are some big questions, and I’m not sure credit union boards know the answers.”
With all this turnover, the CEO transition process has become one of the top priorities for today’s credit unions. And this boomer shift is good news for the younger generations who have been sitting in the wings watching and waiting for their careers to take off.
Gen X, the generation that is actually turning middle age this year is finally getting a crack at the top jobs in credit unions. Gen X–born between 1961 and 1981–is also known as baby busters, slackers and latchkey kids. There are 89 million Xers (30% of the population) in the United States. And they want to be promoted..
Last month, the $69 million LANCO Federal Credit Union in Lancaster, Pa., named Stacey Remick its new president/CEO. Remick belongs to the Gen X category.
“CEO’s are retiring, and we can learn so much from them,” Remick said. “I think things are turning around for the younger employees at credit unions. I know a lot of Gen X and Gen Y people who want to come and work at credit unions, and I encourage them because I think there are a lot of opportunities whether it’s as a CEO or other jobs. It’s an exciting time for credit unions.”
The challenge for Gen X is that they are wedged between two huge generations competing for the same opportunities.
Gen X chronicler Jeff Gordinier has written that Gen Xers suffer from “athazagoraphobia,” which is “an abnormal and persistent fear of being forgotten or ignored, but they’ve been waiting–sometimes not so patiently–for upper management credit union gigs, and their upbringing lends a certain amount a of street smarts to their credit union employers.”
Back in 2007, Orange County’s Credit Union appointed Gen Xer Shruti Miyashiro president/CEO, taking over for industry icon Judy McCartney.
“People were kind of wondering if I could do the job because I was young,” laughed Miyashiro. “But Judy was a year younger than I was when she was appointed CEO.”
“What I got from Judy and from other retiring CEO’s has been so valuable. The younger people who are in a sense waiting in the wings should learn from them. They should also not be in such a rush to claim the CEO title. They should want the job because it’s what they love to do, not because they want the title.”
As Gen X slowly fills the departing shoes of the boomer CEO’s, Gen Y is still, for the most part, looking through the window with longing.
Gen Y, which is quickly becoming the most educated age group in the country, can fill any number of positions at growing and hiring credit unions. Approximately 31% of Americans ages 25 to 29 held bachelor’s degrees in 2009 compared to the 30% of all Americans, which is a record level, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s February 2011 report.
Even though Gen Yers’s are young enough to be the grandchildren of the retiring executives, the credit union world should make a bigger effort to secure some valuable employees from the group, said Miyashiro. “Many Gen Y’ers are really about giving back and aren’t out to make a million dollars a year. Credit unions should take advantage of this and make [credit union] jobs not only more attractive employment options for young people but perhaps even long-term career choices.”
Generation Y–born between 1982 and 2003–is often referred to as the dot com generation, echo boomers or millenials. Depending on where you draw line, there are 78 million in the Gen. Y group, 26% of the population.
As millennials enter the workforce, companies are jumping through hoops to accommodate their demands for faster promotions, greater responsibilities and more flexible work schedules. Millennials are the only generation that doesn’t list work ethic as a defining trait, according to the Pew Research Center. Indeed, 75% of those Pew polled said that older people have a stronger work ethic than young adults. But employers who regularly hire workers in their early 20s find them to be just as diligent and competent as previous generations, stated the same Pew poll.
Despite Gen Yers’ reputations for being brash, studies show they keenly understand the value of experience. They also excel at working in teams. Pairing them with more experienced workers enables the older worker to feel valued and respected, while at the same time satisfying the younger workers desire to rocket up the learning curve.
“It’s tough, it’s like waiting for people to die or something,” said former credit union employee Sondra Marsh of Los Angeles. “I worked for three different credit unions waiting for a promotion, and it never happened because no one would retire. There are so many changes that my generation could make, but it seems like change isn’t a good thing at credit unions.”
In Canada, credit unions market to Gen X and Gen Y while employing and promoting them, said Katie Meyers of Vancouver B.C. who works at Vancouver City Savings Credit Union and belongs to Generation Y.
“Credit unions in Canada really market to young consumers,” she said. “The ad campaigns are edgy and fun and working at a Canadian CU is the same. I love this career and I don’t think it will take me long to move up.”
Meyers said that her peers have skills and talent and they are anxious to have these talents utilized in a meaningful way.
“They want their responsibilities clearly defined with identifiable boundaries,” she said. “They want to be certain that any achievements are recognized, attributed to them, and not mistaken as anyone else’s work. Gen Yers have a global view of the future.”