As the economy gradually improves and hiring plans slowly rebound, credit unions are trying to envision what life after the recession might look like.
One strategy many credit unions are embracing is to become much more intentional about retaining top talent and employees with essential skills.
Credit unions also are rethinking their front-line staffing strategies to meet members’ changing preferences.
Historically, staff turnover among credit unions has been low compared with other industries, says Beth Soltis, CUNA’s senior research analyst. Currently, the overall turnover rate for 2012 is 10% among credit unions with more than $1 million in assets, according to CUNA’s 2012-2013 Credit Union Turnover and Staffing Survey. The rate was about 15% before the recession.
Even at credit unions, however, Soltis says turnover is likely to increase as more employers accelerate their hiring plans in 2013. “Studies show many employees are waiting for more job opportunities to become available to seek other employment,” she says.
The turnover rate among senior managers is expected to increase.
“Executives are in high demand right now,” says Soltis. “With a current lack of management expertise in the job market, it’s taking a long time to fill executive positions. This is leading some companies to actively lure qualified executives away from their competitors instead of conducting extensive searches for qualified candidates.”
So, if hiring gains momentum, credit unions could lose key employees, putting them at a competitive disadvantage.
Staff turnover at Allegacy Federal Credit Union, Winston-Salem, N.C., has steadily declined in recent years.
“We hire people who fit our culture well, and the result has been a continuous decrease in turnover,” says W.K. (Ike) Keener Jr., president/CEO.
Allegacy Federal, with $966 million in assets, uses Profiles XT—a culture-assessment tool from Profiles International. The tool measures and analyzes a candidate’s behavior traits to ensure they align with the credit union team.
Since we started using this tool in 2009, our turnover rate dropped from 24% to 14%,” says Keener. “It’s down to about 8% in 2012—well below the national level reported in CUNA’s recent turnover study.”
Credit unions with strong cultures that support employees are in a good position to retain staff and help the organization thrive.
“At Allegacy Federal, we take a holistic approach by taking care of our employees’ minds, bodies, and spirits,” Keener says. “Our training and education are designed to help employees feel comfortable in their environment and believe in their ability to succeed.”
Not only does Allegacy Federal provide training and education to improve employees’ job performance, it helps employees manage their own financial lives through its nonprofit entity, The Center for Smart Financial Choices.
And to improve employees’ health and well-being, staff can join the Allegacy AllHealth Wellness Program, which offers a wellness coach, workshops, free gym membership, and health and wellness discounts.
Keener says the credit union’s philosophy of people helping people plays a strong philanthropic role in its community as well. More than a decade ago, credit union employees began raising awareness about the importance of breast cancer screening after three employees were diagnosed with the disease.
They rallied together to support organizations such as Cancer Services and the NC Triad Affiliate of Susan G. Komen, donating more than $1 million to fight breast cancer and raise awareness.
Ventura (Calif.) County Credit Union has also seen a decline in turnover, according to Joseph Schroeder, president/CEO of the $625 million credit union. The credit union’s turnover rate was 33% in 2006, 20% in 2008, and 16% in 2009.
“In 2010, which was my first full year at the credit union, our turnover rate was at 14% and last year we had a record low of 13%,” Schroeder says.
In 2007, the credit union’s human resource department instituted applicant testing to measure candidates’ customer service skills. The tests revealed employees scoring high in empathy, trust, tact, and flexibility not only provided excellent member service, but also fit extremely well into the credit union’s corporate culture.
This year, however, Ventura County expects turnover to rise to 17%.
“From exit interviews, we know about 43% of employees who left the credit union did so because they moved out of the area for personal reasons, like going back to school,” notes Schroeder. “About 26% left for other positions, and 17% were asked to leave.”
Whether it’s replacing employees who leave or filling new positions, Ventura County looks for the necessary job skills and three other factors when hiring or promoting employees: initiative, adaptability, and constant improvement within an employee’s position.
Ventura County also looks for “team players” (“Top competencies companies seek in new employees”).
“The employees who can really hurt your organization aren’t the ones who quit and leave; they’re the ones who quit and stay,” says Schroeder. “If you’re going to continue to work here, we need you to work hard, work smart, and pull in the same direction. I’m willing to let the loner superstars go in favor of those who can roll up their sleeves and be part of a team.”
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