The Road to Employee Engagement

When CUs develop leaders and build career plans, employee engagement takes hold.

February 11, 2013

Merriam-Webster defines engagement as “emotional involvement or commitment.” Most modern thinkers realize a direct correlation between an employee’s level of engagement and the organization’s success.

I don’t believe we can train specifically for employee engagement, but engagement is a byproduct of the development and career planning we provide employees from the day of hire. They’ll be emotionally involved and committed when they understand what our commitment is to them.

We can develop more engaged employees by ensuring they have goals that directly align to the organization’s goals.

Employees also will become emotionally involved and committed when they understand how their everyday actions impact the credit union and its members. I’ve heard this approach compared to laying brick: Are you just laying brick, building a wall, or creating a cathedral?

Employees will become emotionally involved and committed when we help them plan for their future. From their first day, we should ask them about their dreams for the future and then work to help them achieve their goals.

Career planning should address not just how to achieve technical skills but also how to master people skills. It’s important to determine those “soft” leadership skills that are important to your credit union and develop them in employees.

In my 19 years of human resource (HR) experience, I’ve heard horror stories of managers promoted based on their technical skills—with the assumption that people skills will follow. This is dangerous.

While we can’t promise advancement to anyone, we should want our employees to have the technical and personal skills so they’re the best-suited applicants for any appropriate internal jobs.

If employees want to advance in the credit union, they’ll be emotionally involved and committed if we have leadership development programs that allow them to grow and challenge their thought processes.

Leadership development isn’t just a class or session. It’s about giving employees the opportunity to practice what they’ve learned and then providing them with feedback.

According to CUNA’s 2012-2013 Complete Credit Union Staff Salary Survey, 6% of CEOs plan to retire in the next two years.

While credit unions are better prepared today than they were two years ago, many succession plans only address talent at the executive levels. Credit unions of all sizes should evaluate their succession plans to be sure they’re developing talent (or bench strength, as we call it in my credit union) at all levels.

We must prepare for the numbers of senior-level executives and managers who plan to retire. If your credit union wants to promote from within, assessing talent at all levels will be critical.

In a CUNA HR/Training & Development Council survey, 74.6% of credit union HR and training professionals say they will allocate more resources to leadership development initiatives in 2013. Additionally:

  • 67.6% will allocate more resources to employee engagement; and
  • 49.3% will increase succession planning resources.  

These numbers indicate credit unions understand the need to develop and help employees plan for the future.

When it comes to employee engagement, leadership development, and succession planning, you can’t simply focus on planning for senior leadership’s eventual retirement. If we consider each of these areas as one goal, our employees will be better for it. When we develop leaders and build career plans, employee engagement will take hold.

DIANA WOZNIAK is human resource manager at Tampa Bay (Fla.) Federal Credit Union and chair of the CUNA HR/TD Council. Contact her at (813) 383-2364. For more information about CUNA Councils, visit