The Great Recession and subsequent slow economic recovery have left indelible marks on nearly all aspects of credit union operations. In terms of human resources (HR), the most striking trend is the emergence of the “universal” employee, according to Beth Soltis, CUNA senior research analyst.
A universal employee combines front-line duties with financial advice and counseling to create a seamless member-service experience, Soltis says.
The global economic crisis shook members’ confidence and dealt most of them a serious financial setback. If there’s a silver lining in any of this, it’s that many members have become more actively engaged with financial education and money management. They’re now more likely to seek financial advice and counsel from your credit union.
In response, many credit unions are training tellers to take on the roles of member service representatives. Or they’re creating a new position called the “universal” employee, who can meet a broad range of members’ needs.
These employees not only conduct basic transactions, but also cross-sell services, offer financial advice, and find solutions to a variety of members’ needs.
Some credit unions are changing titles to reflect the additional advisory responsibilities, or moving these employees to desks in highly visible locations within the lobby. Some are even replacing teller lines with these centrally located representatives.
Credit unions also are reducing staffing needs by using more multitasking positions that span several job classifications. These employees aren’t universal employees, who can meet nearly all of members’ needs.
Multitask employees, however, can perform functions usually filled by multiple employees. They also can fill in for absent colleagues, which improves productivity.
Credit unions employ an average of 36.53 full-time employees, of which 8% are multitasking employees, according to CUNA’s 2011-2012 Credit Union Turnover and Staffing Survey (based on credit unions with at least $1 million in assets and one full-time employee).
Until 20 years ago, most college graduates with business or finance degrees worked in financial services, points out Steve Swanston, executive vice president of business development at JMFA (John M. Floyd & Assoc.), Baytown, Texas—a CUNA Strategic Services alliance provider. JMFA’s executive search group provides recruiting services for executive and midmanagement employees and contract staff.
“There used to be a consistent flow of job candidates, but starting 20 years ago there has been a war for talent with the technology industry, and this has dried up the talent pool available to credit unions,” says Swanston.
Credit unions have had to look outside their own organizations, and even outside the credit union movement when recruiting for senior-management positions. And although hiring has been sluggish across the board since the recession, Swanston has seen it pick up in the past six months.
“Hiring hasn’t increased as much as expected, and there are regional exceptions, but it’s expected to increase slowly,” says Soltis. “As it does, competition for skilled workers will intensify.”
There are many applicants for each job opening, but there’s a widening gap between the skills available on the job market and those needed in the credit union, notes Joseph Sefcik, president of Employment Technologies Corp., Winter Park, Fla., which offers EASy Simulation tools to improve employee screening and selection as well as coaching and development.
“Job applicants will need even better skills when the economy picks up and credit unions start growing and adding members,” he says. “It increases the importance of employee screening and selection.”
It also makes for a national candidate pool. “For management-level positions, there’s a greater trend toward relocation than in the past,” says Swanston.
As credit unions execute growth strategies, the need for talent can’t be overstated. “A credit union’s growth is almost 100% correlated with the caliber of people it hires,” he says. “We tell credit unions to hire the best person for the job, not just the first person who’s qualified. Think of the cost of hiring the wrong person.”
Soltis advises building retention and recruitment strategies around critical management positions. “Succession planning can help prepare for management departures,” she says. “Credit unions have traditionally developed plans only for their CEOs, but it’s a good idea to groom employees for other hard-to-fill, key positions.”
Swanston is seeing more credit unions enter the business services and commercial lending arenas. “That requires hiring from outside, since these markets are new to many credit unions,” he says. “We’re also seeing credit unions hire enterprise risk managers to assess risk holistically as the regulatory environment becomes increasingly complex.”