I’d like to believe I’m still a kid at heart. But I must admit I have a hard time thinking like a millennial.
I have absolutely no idea what “woke” means. As far as I’m concerned, “Snapchat” sounds like having a quick conversation. And this new mannequin challenge thing— well, I plain don’t get it.
That said, I work hard to learn about young credit union professionals by talking to them as often as I can. I listen to their ideas and work with them to identify the challenges they face as they navigate a generally older work environment.
What concerns me is that, time and again, the challenge I hear most from these young folks is the perceived lack of leadership opportunities they have in their organizations.
Feeling as if they make a tangible difference in driving their credit union’s success is important to them. But many young people I’ve spoken to don’t feel they’ve been given a chance to prove themselves.
To be certain, earning these opportunities can be an uphill battle. It requires courage, particularly for those just starting their careers who may not yet be comfortable speaking up and speaking out.
As managers, we also must have the courage to empower young people, to coach them, to bring their fresh perspectives into the fold, and to demonstrate that they have a stake in the direction of the organization.
It takes initiative from them, but it also takes trust from us.
Fortunately, the credit union industry has recently been handed the very opportunity young credit union professionals are looking for. And I trust them to take advantage of it.
No matter your political leanings, the makeup of the 115th Congress and new presidential administration signal an advocacy environment that could be favorable to carving out regulatory relief for credit unions.
While a credit union-friendly environment is an important first step, ultimately we need action.
We need leadership in creating a culture where credit union professionals and members fighting for credit union interests on Capitol Hill and in state legislatures is common practice.
This is where young people can make a big difference.
Through credit union grassroots advocacy efforts, young professionals have an opportunity to not only become leaders at their credit unions, but also of the industry as a whole.
With that in mind, CUNA offers a variety of ways through which younger professionals can get involved.
First, they can lead their credit union’s efforts to build relationships with policymakers. The strongest form of credit union advocacy lies in putting in face time with elected officials.
By attending public forums or inviting representatives to visit branches, credit unions can ensure their elected officials have a greater understanding of the credit union difference and keep credit union interests top of mind.
Second, young staffers should encourage their credit unions to participate in the industry’s major advocacy efforts, including the CUNA Governmental Affairs Conference and league Hike the Hill visits—and lobby to attend those events themselves.
These events provide critical opportunities to meet with lawmakers and to communicate the importance of credit unions in their communities.
Third, have them take the lead at your credit union in participating in the CUNA Member Activation Program, which enables credit unions to enlist members and their important voices in our advocacy work.
When hundreds of thousands of credit union members write their elected officials in support of our issues, Washington listens.
Finally, encourage young professionals to challenge friends or colleagues to do any or all of these things. The more credit union people become engaged, the more we grab the attention of policymakers.
Effective credit union advocacy takes all of us. We have a unique opportunity in the coming months to improve the operating environment for credit unions in a significant way.
I’m looking to young people to help lead us there.
JIM NUSSLE is CUNA’s president/CEO.