Keep Staff Informed and Involved

 It’s time to reverse the long, steady decline in employee satisfaction.

July 24, 2012

Your employees might not remember exactly what you did or what you said, but they’ll always remember how you made them feel.

Unfortunately, employee satisfaction has decreased significantly during the past 25 years—from 65% in 1987 to 45% today, according to The Conference Board. Even more alarming: Satisfaction among employees age 25 or younger stands at a dismal 35.7%.

What does this tell us? The message is clear: There’s a disconnect between employees and their employers, creating a workforce that costs the economy billions of dollars in lost productivity annually.

But there’s hope. Employers and supervisors have an opportunity to turn the tables and create engaging workplaces that inspire growth, strengthen relationships, and increase employee satisfaction.

This starts with recognizing that employees have three prime needs, according to motivation expert, Zig Ziglar. They need to:

1. Do interesting work;
2. Be recognized for doing a good job; and
3. Be in on what’s going on in their companies.

Regarding the first need, how can we help make our employees’ jobs more interesting? Start by finding out what makes each person tick.

For example, some people enjoy rote tasks. If so, great. Look for oppor­tunities to help them grow and develop within their positions.

For staff with greater ambitions, help them find ways to discover their strengths and to shine.

For example, if a teller wants to move to the new-accounts area, suggest job-shadowing and cross-training. When vacancies arise, you’ve groomed the perfect candidate.

The second needrecognitioncomes in many shapes and forms. Individuals are motivated by different types of recognition, and it’s up to leaders and managers to discover their preferences.

Basic, but important, ground rules regarding recognition include:

Keep it specific. Simply saying at the end of each day, “Great job  everyone,” has little to no impact, especially day after day. A better approach: “Judy, I appreciate how you evaluated that member’s needs as you served him today. His new credit card will help him save money long-term.”

Judy certainly will know what she did well and the impact it had on the member.

Make it timely. How would Judy feel if her manager ignored her at first, and then mentioned the example three weeks later? She probably wouldn’t even remember the situation.

Make your recognition timely and meaningful for greater impact.

The third employee need is often overlooked: Employees want to be a part of the big picture within your organization.

To illustrate, many years ago when I served in the military, my job was to check in and out aircraft avionic parts for repairs. I remember thinking, “How do these parts all work together?”

After months of doing this tedious job, my unit commander called me into his office to tell me he’d awarded me an “incentive flight”—I was invited to go on a mission with a flight crew! Finally, after all that time, I was sitting in the cockpit of a C-5 Galaxy watching all the instruments work in perfect harmony.

I never looked at my job the same way again after that experience!

How can your employees see the big picture at your credit union? One credit union invites its front-line team to monthly asset/liability committee meetings. It’s a great way to share the big-picture direction of the organization.

It’s really quite simple: Take care of your employees and they’ll take care of your members. And they’ll remember you.

STEVE LANGLEY is vice president of sales, service, and training at Travis Credit Union in Vacaville, Calif., and vice chair of the CUNA Operations, Sales and Service Council. Contact him at 707-469-1626. For more information about CUNA Councils, visit