Finding a Home in the Credit Union World
I can't count the number of times I’ve heard the five most groan-inducing words in the English language: “Can you help me move?” Dutifully I’ve helped my fair share of friends move down the block or across town. This summer, I ended up asking that question myself as I made the decision to move a little further – from Juneau, Alaska to Madison, Wis.
I didn't realize quite how comfortable I was in Juneau, my home for six years, until I got to my new unfamiliar town and felt a bit lost (full disclosure – more than once I got very literally lost). If you’ve ever made a big move, you probably know what I am talking about: The grocery stores are all different, the road systems are confusing and I hardly knew anyone.
Sitting in my favorite Juneau coffee place, I imagined getting to Madison and feeling right at home as soon as I moved. Several months later, my boxes are unpacked but I still don't feel entirely settled. Now I’m realizing how much time and intention it takes to re-develop connections, favorite haunts and a general feeling of homey-ness.
I’m fortunate to work with young professionals in the credit union space, and am struck by the similarities between moving into a new career and moving into a new town. Many young adults just starting out expect to settle right into their new positions, and are surprised at the time it takes to feel at home in an organization or industry. Those of us who have experienced the “credit union Kool-Aid” firsthand have the unique opportunity to help credit union newcomers unpack their boxes, literally or figuratively, as they move into a new-to-them industry. A number of wonderful people have made a huge difference helping me settle into Madison life. Similarly, those of us established in credit unions have the chance to make a huge difference for our entire industry by actively reaching out to the next generation so the credit union world begins to feel like home.
Millennials will represent almost half of the U.S. workforce by 2020, but few are engaged in their jobs and workplaces. A Forbes article, “Why Retention Will Be the Biggest Talent Challenge Of 2017,” cites data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics to express it this way: “We’re not far off from having a majority generation in our workforce that expects to work with you for less than two years.”
According to the Harvard Business Review article “Talent Matters Even More Than People Think,” “In any organization or group, a few people will make a disproportionate contribution to the collective output. Around 20% of individuals are responsible for 80% of the output and vice versa … Thus, talented people – the vital few – are the main driver of a company's success.”
Since talent is the main driver of success, and almost half of all talent in the U.S. will be millennials by the year 2020, we can't just hope that millennials will assimilate into the credit union space. Attracting and retaining the next generation isn't just an optional way to gain “one up” on the competition – it's a critical imperative for our entire industry's survival. Credit unions must engage Gen Y, and Gen Z behind them, not just as tellers but as current and future leaders. Here are three key ways credit union leaders can support the next generation of talent in the industry.
1. Connect young professionals with development opportunities. The 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey reported, “While correlation is obviously not the same as causation, it is likely no coincidence that where millennials are most satisfied with their learning opportunities and professional development programs they are also likely to stay longer.” Far from the entitled or lazy stereotype they’re often labeled with, many millennials today are quite willing and indeed want to put in the work to develop and grow professionally.
Our industry is full of opportunities to develop new staff members. Connect your young people to The Cooperative Trust, the leading credit union young professional network. Consider sending them to Crash the GAC or to Crash another credit union conference. Check out CUDE training, the NTCUE competition, Filene's i3 program and a host of other opportunities. Encourage mentorship relationships for your young professionals with leaders at your organization or other credit union industry leaders to help them grow and feel supported. What ways can you help your young employees develop?
2. Emphasize where young professionals’ careers can take them. In an ideal world, you may have nearly no turnover at your organization – but in the real world, we know that turnover will happen. Top talent may not stay at your credit union forever. According to the 2017 Filene Research Institute publication by Y. Sekou Bermiss and Samantha Darnell, “The Laws of Attraction: Credit Union Recruitment in a Competitive Labor Market,” “The labor market today is such that employees anticipate inter-organizational mobility throughout their careers.”
Keeping talent in the industry is inherently good for all of us. If there are limited opportunities for growth at your organization, consider discussing other growth opportunities in the industry as a whole rather than losing talent from the credit union space altogether. Are you discussing places your young professionals’ careers can take them long-term in the credit union world?
3. Develop and implement your young adult strategy. Are you tired of reading and talking about millennials? If so, you’re definitely not alone. Move from conversation to action by developing a young adult strategy – and executing it. As the old adage goes, “failing to plan is planning to fail.” With more than a decade of young adult research, Filene has developed its newest Young Adult Advisory program to help credit unions plan and implement successful strategies to reach the next generation. Do you have an effective young adult strategy in place, and is your organization implementing it?
Together, we can encourage young credit union newcomers to put down roots of their own – and help secure the future relevancy of credit unions at the same time. Four months into living in my new town, I’ve got a favorite coffee shop, new friends and a vague sense of Midwest geography. It will take more time before Madison feels like “home” – but I’m so glad the credit union world is home already.
Lauren Culp is Manager of The Cooperative Trust at the Filene Research Institute. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.