From John: How to Attract Top Talent on a CU-Sized Budget

Magnet attracts people cutouts
John Pembroke Photo

3 minutes

Identify—and then communicate—the unique ‘why’ a high performer would want to take a job with you.

Some financial organizations that compete with credit unions for talent can say to candidates, “If you come here and work out, you’ll be a millionaire before you’re 30”—and it’s true.

No credit union can say that. And only a very few CUs can say that if you excel at your work in their shops—for your whole life—you’ll be a millionaire. 

Fortunately, I know from watching people who graduated with me from Wharton in the late 1980s that not everyone wants to work on Wall Street. My classmates who did so worked 80, 90, even 100 hours a week. Some of us didn’t go that direction because money isn’t the sole thing that motivates great people. 

Today’s equivalent of the group from my class that didn’t go to Wall Street is an important group for credit unions to court. Just to be in the running to hire such outstanding talent, your credit union needs to offer a competitive compensation package. Tools like the CUES Executive Compensation Survey (included with CUES Unlimited+ membership) can help you know how your offer will compare to others candidates will be seeing.

With my marketing background, I can say that credit unions that win in the war for top talent will not only offer competitive pay but also communicate in their hiring messaging their uniqueness as a workplace—the “why” a person with great talent would want to take a job there. I anticipate that most CUs will find their unique “why” in one of these three areas:

1. Benefits. This includes seemingly obvious things that are fundamentally important, like good health insurance. When a credit union is looking to hire an executive, it can also include supplemental employee retirement benefits, which can be custom-created for a CU’s CEO and leadership team. Some credit unions also promote CUES membership as a worthy staff benefit.

2. Professional development. Communicating your commitment to learning and career growth can deepen candidates’ interest in joining your team—and staying. A new CUES membership benefit, CUES Leadership Development Guide details how to identify high-potential employees and bring them along into increasingly responsible roles. Sending employees to learn at a top business school is another way to attract top talent. There is still time to send staff to the Strategic Growth Institute™ at the University of Chicago or CEO Institute II: Organizational Effectiveness at Cornell this summer.

3. Culture/lifestyle. One of the things my staff loves is CUES’ commitment to work-life balance, which includes every employee having the tools and skills to telecommute on a regular or as-needed basis. Another is that we serve credit unions—and credit unions are driven to be “people helping people.” What is your uniqueness? Live it with your employees, and talk about it with potential hires. 

All this illustrates just how fierce this war for talent that we’re always talking about at CUES really is. And it demonstrates that credit unions have to be really clever and agile if they want to attract and retain awesome financial industry leaders. 

You can do it. And we’re here to help.

Since joining CUES in March 2013, John Pembroke has played a leadership role in developing and launching a new direction in CUES’ strategy, branding and culture. Under his guidance, CUES has revamped its membership structure, launched new institutes and introduced Elite Access™ Virtual Classroom, an innovative blending learning offering. Additionally, CUES has expanded its market further into Canada and the Caribbean. Pembroke’s experience includes 25 years in financial services, marketing and e-commerce. He also has served as chief marketing officer at PSCU Financial Services, St. Petersburg, Fla. Pembroke holds a B.S. in Economics from the Wharton School of Business of the University of Pennsylvania and an MBA in Marketing and Policy Studies from the Booth School of Business of the University of Chicago. Pembroke also serves on the board of directors of the Goodman Community Center, Madison, Wisconsin, whose mission is to strengthen lives and secure futures. 

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