Benefits Still Matter in a Down Economy

Without incentives to stay, employees may be out the door when the employment market improves.

January 29, 2013

Constant headlines about stubborn employment numbers shouldn’t prevent credit unions from developing a retention strategy for top performers now.

Focus your retention efforts on making the grass greener on your side of the fence rather than relying on poor conditions elsewhere, suggests Tracy Keffer, human resources manager at Oregon Community Credit Union of Springfield, Ore.

“Even with unemployment high, you must have an incentive to attract good employees,” Keffer says.

“We could definitely have the philosophy that we’re going to take away benefits, lower pay, and it’s OK because … if employees really want a job they’ll put up with it,” she adds. "But how long will the market be like this? Once the market improves, those employees would be out the door and on to a company [that] would treat them better.”

CUNA researcher Beth Soltis points out that some jobs, particularly those in accounting and information technology, remain hard to fill. That, she says, is a good reason to consider the long-term impacts of benefits changes.

“That’s the warning,” Soltis says. “Banks and private corporations that can afford to pay more are looking to steal employees that have those skills.”

And when benefits start to slide, salaries become far more important. “Keep in mind that that’s one thing these organizations can do,” Soltis says. “They can lure employees away with more money.”