5 creative compensation tips

How to improve benefits, attract talent, and retain employees.

April 11, 2023

The workplace has shifted significantly in recent years as the pandemic led many employees to recalibrate their workplace environment, schedule, values, and philosophy.

Further, the Great Resignation, labor shortages, and inflation created a perfect storm that exerted upward pressure on salaries, according to a CUNA Councils white paper, “The Evolution of Compensation & Recognition.”

Some employers have kept pace, some have adapted slowly, and many have found creative ways to attract staff and keep their current employees happy and motivated.

With the new environment in mind, the white paper offers five tips for credit unions seeking solutions to compensation issues:

1. Define the value

Make sure every employee understands the full value of their benefits.

Dupaco Community Credit Union provides employees with a total value statement that shows what they’re getting in terms of salary, bonuses, 401(k) matching funds, health insurance, short- and long-term disability insurance, paid time off, training and development, and more.

“We assign a dollars-and-cents value to their benefits so employees can get a full picture of what they’re receiving,” says Lisa Bowers, chief people officer at the $2.7 billion asset credit union in Dubuque, Iowa. “It’s not just their base wage. It’s the total value of employment at Dupaco.”

2. Provide incentive programs

Incentive programs can be a strong motivator for employees, who may improve their output if there’s an opportunity to earn a bonus.

Credit unions can adjust incentives to appeal to certain employees or departments. The white paper includes these examples of incentive programs:

  • Management incentive compensation program—an annual bonus program covering supervisory positions and up with payout based on organizational and individual performance.
  • Department sales incentive—a traditional sales incentive program based on achieving a flat-dollar target with payout based on individual and/or team results.
  • BCU incentive program—a discretionary award, generally 2.5% to 3.5% of salary, based on organizational performance.

3. Be flexible

CUDoctor Principal Diane Reed advises credit unions to embrace workplace flexibility and be open-minded to remote or hybrid employees.

“My philosophy is, if it doesn’t matter, then acquiesce,” she says, stressing the importance of proper security precautions and a work-for-home structure that supports the credit union’s business model. “As long as they’re getting their work done, allowing them to have flexibility in setting their schedule is a benefit you can provide at no cost to the credit union.”

Credit unions can also provide flexibility in health and wellness, time off, retirement funding, tuition reimbursement, childcare reimbursement, and more.

4. Be transparent

Policies of salary transparency allow credit unions to communicate equitable compensation practices to employees.

“If employees ask us for their salary ranges, we’ll work with their managers to share that information with them,” says BCU Executive Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer Lisa Baron. “To me, that shouldn’t be a secret. We should be able to articulate why they’re paid what they’re paid.”

Keep in mind that internal employees will see the same salary information that job candidates see in job postings, making it important to address any pay gaps between new and current employees.

5. Promote career development

Reed says combining salary transparency with a career-pathing program enables employees to see how professional development can lead them to a higher salary.

“You want employees to see that ‘we have a clear career path for you,’” Reed says, suggesting components of a career-pathing program include mentoring, coaching, networking, classes, seminars, conferences, and tuition reimbursement.

Dupaco’s training and development program is based on a three-part philosophy:

  1. Know:Take initiative to learn what it takes to be successful.
  2. Show:Demonstrate learning through daily interactions with coworkers and members that will make an impact in the credit union’s mission.
  3. Grow:Develop and enhance through continuous improvement.

“This philosophy takes a partnered approach to an employee’s career development,” Bowers says. “It’s not just up to the employee’s supervisor to determine their career path. Employees are empowered to ask to shadow other jobs, take courses outside of their job requirements, and interview for open positions to see what career advancement opportunities are available.”