It's Tea Time!

Settle back, tea cup in hand, as you review this week's research.

April 2, 2012

Mom, Dear Old Dad, and I frequently enjoy an impromptu tea party at the kitchen table.

There’s something terribly civilized about the brewing of tea. Discussion about which variety of tea to enjoy that afternoon, along with selecting tea treats and setting the table requires our thoughtful attention and commitment to the process.

This preparation creates a mindset for the event itself. Tea time provides a moment for reflection of the human condition, a discussion of current events, exchange of family gossip, and, most importantly, an opportunity to take time out of busy schedules for mutual mindfulness and appreciation of one another’s company.

Does your credit union workplace facilitate moments of mindfulness for staffers? Are they encouraged over the course of a busy day or week to reflect upon happenings, problems, and successes?

It’s easy for us to become all-consumed with “to-do’s” at the expense of the occasional necessary restful moment to take a deep breath and contemplate our surroundings.

Settle back with teacup in hand as you review this week’s research during your quiet moment.

Lora Kloth is a research librarian at CUNA.
Lora Bray is research librarian at CUNA.

Would you like one lump or two? Sadly, we cannot escape news about our continuing difficult economic situation.

In “Worse Than the Great Depression: What the Experts Are Missing About American Manufacturing Decline,”  The Information Technology & Innovation Foundation reports, “In the 2000s, U.S. manufacturing suffered its worst performance in American history in terms of jobs. Not only did America lose 5.7 million manufacturing jobs, but the decline as a share of total manufacturing jobs (33 percent) exceeded the rate of loss in the Great Depression.”

And “Economic Issues Still Dominate Americans’ National Worries,” according to Gallup.

Reported here: On the list of Americans’ top 15 concerns, economy and gas prices are at full boil “with 71% and 65% of Americans, respectively, saying they personally worry ‘a great deal’ about each.”

Unfortunately, for many, tea time is perhaps not an option, as reported in the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC) report, “A Tightening Squeeze: The Declining Expenditures on Food by American Households.” 

The sad trend is that there’s a “huge squeeze” on family food spending due to “declining incomes, rising housing prices, and food inflation that outpaced income growth.”

FRAC states that consumers face real problems with poor diets: “As this report reviews the rapidly declining food spending of a large proportion of the population, the report thus foreshadows widespread harm to the nation’s children and adults, its schools and its workplaces, and its public finances unless the trend is rapidly and decisively reversed.”

What do these circumstances portend for your members? Are they worried—and can you help?

The healthcare debate

In other consumer news, the tea kettle whistles away with several reports on the Affordable Care Act regarding healthcare provisions.

The White House states that the “Affordable Care Act Gives Americans More Security, Better Benefits.” 

Some of these benefits, reportedly, are that “2.5 million more young adults have health insurance on their parent’s plan” and “In 2010 and 2011, over 5.1 million seniors and people with disabilities on Medicare have saved over $3.1 billion on prescription drugs.”

See “The Affordable Care Act: What You and Your Family Need to Know”   by Consumers Union for a good look at vital points of the act from the consumer perspective.

One last sip on this topic from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reveals that “Health Reform Provides More Than 45 Million Women Access to Preventive Health Care Services,” and the act “...includes several provisions that are expected to significantly improve women’s health.”

Are your members enjoying such benefits, and are they realizing any cost savings as a result?

The employment picture

What recipes can we borrow from other tea parties? Deloitte this week looks at “Analytics in Retail,” which claims “retailers require in-depth insights to effectively manage and forecast future performance.”

The report identifies and summarizes six key analytics: customer engagement, marketing and media resource allocation, pricing and profitability management, supply chain efficiency, risk and fraud detection, and workforce development and management.

What takeaways can be applied as you attempt to better serve your evolving membership? To what trends do you need to be attentive?

Let’s conclude the tea party by serving up the latest on employment news.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) gives us a tiny taste of trends in “State Employment: January 2011-January 2012.”Here you will glimpse the percentage change in nonfarm employment by state. “The largest over-the-year percentage increase occurred in North Dakota (+5.7 percent)…The largest over-the-year percentage decrease in employment occurred in Wisconsin (-0.5 percent)…”

Employment in Green Goods and Services 2010,” also by BLS, reports that “In 2010, 3.1 million jobs in the United States were associated with the production of green goods and services.” Organic cucumber sandwich, anyone?

Finally, BLS reveals its “Employment Situation of Veterans Summary.” It reveals that “The unemployment rate for veterans who served on active duty in the U.S. Armed Forces at any time since September 2001…was 12.1 percent in 2011…The jobless rate for all veterans was 8.3 percent.”

How do these employment issues affect your credit union, and how will you respond?

It matters not whether your tea is prepared with tea bag, loose tea leaves, or instant granules. Tea parties, I find, are especially enjoyable when participants favor their own individual blends and two or three pots are brewing at once.

That’s when comparisons and contrasts are made and insightful discussion ensues.

May I pour?

LORA BRAY is a research librarian in CUNA's business-to-business publishing department.