“Young people were already a part of our demographic within the movement and in need of opportunities to match their growing ambitions and skills,” says Staci Hering, community and engagement coordinator for the ICUL. “We also wanted to attract new young talent to the movement and show them the benefits and rewards of choosing a career path in credit unions.”
CU Reach aims to steep young professionals in the larger movement beyond their individual credit unions. The group’s peer-managed advisory committee plans an annual Young Professionals Conference and a “crash” program at the ICUL Annual Convention.
The conference focuses on peer-to-peer learning opportunities and always includes a community-focused work session. “Young professionals are educated on the importance our movement places on social responsibility and caring for the communities we serve,” says Hering. “We then put that education into practice by teaching them how to execute a service project, which becomes a plug-and-play outreach opportunity for them to put in place at their credit unions.”
Meanwhile, the “crash” program has surged in popularity. “Young professionals get to witness firsthand the scope of our movement and experience it from every angle,” Hering says. This includes networking opportunities with peers and leaders and an exclusive education session. “We’ve been able to bring more crashers year after year,” Hering says. “The number of applicants we receive just keeps growing.”
At $641 million asset Heritage Trust Federal Credit Union in Summerville, S.C., an internal assessment revealed that a professional development program would hugely benefit team members. The eight-month L.E.A.D. (Learn, Excel, Analyze, and Develop) program enables high-potential employees to build soft skills and entrepreneurial mindsets.
“Our goal was to develop a program that would empower participants by providing them with the tools they’d need to be successful regardless of their position,” says Dustin Haynes, public/employer relations manager at Heritage Trust Federal.
Participants in L.E.A.D. are selected by a leadership committee and attend two workshop sessions per month as part of their curriculum. Between sessions, members complete skill-building activities that reinforce workshop lessons. After completing the program, participants generate a capstone project for the credit union “wherever they see a need to increase revenue, manage waste, introduce a new product, do community outreach, or mitigate potential risk,” says Haynes.
L.E.A.D. has also taken steps to give the next generation a better start in the professional world. “Many of our Generation Z student interns came from communities of modest means and couldn’t afford professional wear for the workplace,” Haynes says. “Our L.E.A.D.s were able to implement a ‘Dress for Success’ clothing closet to benefit our local community.”
Several graduates of L.E.A.D. have gone on to success in the CUaware Protégé competition, which reinforces the importance of the program. “The L.E.A.D. program has helped them develop the confidence needed to present in front of large groups,” Haynes says.
Although the Minnesota Credit Union Network’s (MnCUN) young professionals group launched with an advocacy focus, it soon expanded to meet a growing interest in career development. The Crew provides credit union staff in Minnesota age 40 and younger with networking, educational, and training opportunities.
The MnCUN supplies the structure and framework to support programming, but the responsibility for developing those initiatives rests with the Crew’s peer-led advisory group. “It can be so much more relevant to young professionals when they’re the ones telling us how they want it done, as opposed to just assuming,” says Ben Hering, director of engagement for the MnCUN.
Recent programming examples include a speed networking event with executives and a “social media takeover” of the MnCUN Instagram account during the network’s annual meeting. The Crew pitched the “takeover” as a chance to see the event through the eyes of a young professional, and the concept was a success. “Now, each of our major events will hand off our social media to the young professionals,” Hering says.
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The Crew also infused the MnCUN’s peer-to-peer roundtable sessions with new energy. Previously, the events typically averaged about 20 attendees. In 2019, the Crew hosted two sessions for young professionals, and attendance soared. The first event, featuring a panel of CEOs from Minnesota, drew 78 attendees; the second, a breakout session with emerging leaders, brought 65.
“It was cool to see the energy and passion with that group,” says Hering.
For Hartley, the success of the LEAD program in Mississippi has been clear to see. Of the 14 original members, seven have achieved promotions within their credit unions or within the movement.
“When you get good people, and you see that special spark, pour into them,” says Hartley. “Give them opportunities, because they’re not going to let you down. Set your expectations high and watch your people succeed. You won’t regret it.”