Engage Employees With Creative Compensation Programs

Illustrate a rewarding career path for new staff members.

September 9, 2015

To lay the foundation for better employee retention, illustrate a rewarding career path during the employee onboarding process, advises Carolyn White, training manager at $650 million asset SESLOC Federal Credit Union in San Luis Obispo, Calif.

That includes crafting and presenting creative compensation packages, and touting the value of flexible scheduling—tools that allow your credit union to compete with other employers.

“People don’t come to credit unions to make tons of money, but they need to make enough to be happy with what they’re doing,” White says.

The improving economy has created more job opportunities, which has led to increased turnover at many credit unions.

The 13% industry-wide churn in 2014 among credit unions with $50 million or more in assets represents a slight increase from the previous year, according to CUNA’s 2015-2016 Turnover and Staffing Report. But turnover rates are much higher in certain job areas: annual turnover rates member service representative hover between 25% and 30%.

Expect more turnover in coming years, says White, due to market conditions and a changing mindset among young employees who don’t expect to work for the same employer for decades on end as past generations did.

“We haven’t had to think about a lot of turnover and change,” agrees credit union human resources consultant Beverly Purtell. “Many people have been working in the industry for a very long time. We’ve gotten very comfortable.”

The issue will gain importance in coming years as baby boomers age out of the workforce and millennials have a bigger workplace presence, Purtell says.

“For now, if we can replace a person easily, it’s a momentary hiccup and we move on,” she says. “You’re not going to be able to find that person as easily when the boomers retire. We won’t have enough Gen Xers to take their place, which means more openings, and then we’ll discover onboarding is the most important thing we can do.”

Purtell looks back on the 1990s as the glory days of creative credit union compensation packages, when organizations pitched concepts like four-day work weeks during the summer as “fiscally prudent” ways to work around confining salary structures.

“We were doing lots of exciting things—and not just because we’re good employers,” she says.

Purtell believes credit unions should resurrect and revamp some of those ideas to improve retention in today’s competitive job market. And she and White recommend that credit unions evaluate their salary and benefits ranges against other employers inside and outside financial services, through tools such as CUNA’s 2015-2016 Staff Salary Report.

“Credit unions have always tended to be a tad shy on the salaries, a tad long on the benefits,” White says. “If someone doesn’t need benefits, that becomes a significant issue.”