Member-First Talent Strategies

smiling customer service representative shaking hands and greeting a couple
Stephanie Schwenn Sebring Photo
Contributing Writer
Fab Prose & Professional Writing

4 minutes

Successful credit unions find the right people to positively impact the member experience.

Alongside member effort scores and audits, successful leaders are finding the right people to impact the member experience. The experts weigh in:

Be strategic. For the first time in 50 years, the GDP is higher than the unemployment rate, which makes the war for talent increasingly urgent, says Mike Neill, president of ServiStar Consulting, Nashville, Tennessee. “It starts with finding, interviewing, hiring and orienting the employee to an organization’s preferred culture. Unfortunately, some credit unions are behind the curve in talent acquisition, and despite advancements in technology, nothing replaces the human touch.” 

Hire the right people. “We win or lose with talent,” says Tansley Stearns, chief people and strategy officer for $2.4 billion Canvas Credit Union, Lone Tree, Colorado. “Even in a world of automation, members want and need people for the more complex experiences. Tie talent selection closely to the culture you’re building and the behavioral expectations of the roles you’re filling. ... We can teach the functional elements; what we want are people who share our values. Certainly, there are roles where technical expertise, experience and tenure matter, but we still focus on a cultural fit.”

These are the people that can deliver the member experience, and they may or may not have banking experience, reiterates Frank Aloi, president of ath Power Consulting, Andover, Massachusetts. “But it will be a person who puts service first, who understands the credit union’s brand and the importance of sharing the value of membership with the member.”

Look for people who listen. Aloi believes one of the greatest employee attributes is listening. It enables an employee to understand and have a conversation with the member, and conversations are what drive member experience metrics, retention and loyalty.

Train and train some more. This can make or break the correction of member journey gaps found in an audit. It requires an ongoing commitment to staff, says Aloi. Training is critical, from the front line to the board, because all are ambassadors of the CU. “A credit union is either member-centric or not,” he adds, “and everyone, from the CEO on down, should embrace training. It sends the message: ‘This is what we’re about. This matters to us.’”

Create unity. Clear and frequent communication with staff increases organizational awareness of initiatives, milestones and issues, allowing for greater unity. “The employee is integral to and should feel responsible for creating an exceptional experience where the member never wants to leave,” explains Aloi. “But when credit union leaders understand how to develop talent, unity is much easier to attain as is delivering the member experience.”

Cement the “employer brand.” One of the advantages CUs have is that millennials and Gen Z want to work for purpose-driven organizations, says Stearns. “Focus recruitment efforts on how the credit union is mission-driven and the work it does to manifest positive change, and it will help attract individuals who want to stay for the long-term.”

Citing research from the Filene Research Institute and Dr. Sekou Bermiss, “The Laws of Attraction: Credit Union Recruitment in a Competitive Labor Market”, Stearns adds that CUs can leverage turnover to actually improve their employer brand. “We often think of turnover as negative and want to minimize it; however, it is possible to turn it into an advantage by sharing the success stories of former employees. As people leave the credit union and go on to do incredible things, share the news, reiterating that the credit union is a wonderful place to begin and grow a career.”

Take time. Hiring managers are frequently in a rush to find “somebody,” offers Stearns. “They might be short-staffed, and even if the credit union is committed to finding the best fit, a manager may settle, leading to turnover, frustration and performance challenges. While it takes patience, finding the right person is worth the wait.”

Neill concludes that finding engaged employees who believe in the CU’s mission is vital to the member experience. “If members are going to love your credit union, the employees must love it first. Member engagement and employee engagement are inevitably and inextricably linked.”cues icon

Stephanie Schwenn Sebring established and managed the marketing departments for three CUs before launching her business. As owner of Fab Prose & Professional Writing, she assists CUs, industry suppliers and any company wanting great content and a clear brand voice. Follow her on Twitter@fabprose.

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