Credit unions don’t just happen. People get up in the morning, rub their eyes, look in the mirror and wonder what they are going to do that day. Will they be challenged? Will they be up to the challenge? Will they be bored? Will they help some people over rough spots? Will their own families intrude upon their business day? Will a child call from school? Will a sick brother call to say he is sicker? Will a nursing home turn away the application of a frail mother? Will the basement leak when the approaching rain arrives?
Credit unions don’t just happen. They are put together by people like this. They don’t get dressed wondering if their scheme is going to make a lot of money. They really don’t do what they do for the money. If that were the case, they would be working for banks.
They get up and work not just because it is a job, and not just because they can make a good living – it should be a good living – and not just because they can be proud of the skills they exercise, but also because they work to raise the quality of life of a community of people. It’s easy to forget sometimes – amid the thousands of transactions, the search for being more efficient, the work of creating better loan products – that without the credit union, many of the members would be paying higher loan rates, receiving lower savings rates, suffering small financial gouges all to pick their pockets or even to deny them credit. Credit unions make a huge impact on members’ lives and it’s credit union employees who make it happen.
Keeping Them On Board
Still, you might say the biggest challenge we as managers face is losing valuable employees to higher pay. Everyone who has seen a skilled person walk away for a larger salary knows what I am saying.
It’s all too easy, especially when a credit union is working well, to take the employees for granted. But when a person walks, it’s too late.
This is a season of thanksgiving and of counting blessings. All managers should take time to truly and sincerely thank persons who work in credit unions. They need to recognize these people, who likely could sell their skills to a higher bidder but who take lower pay for the satisfaction of lifting a community of members.
How do you thank them? Pay is one form, giving raises a part of that. Stretching to give the best benefits you can afford is another. Developing an institution in which they can grow, in which they can be themselves is another intangible form of recognition. Throwing the occasional party, especially after a period of stressful work, inviting family members (who are always the unseen co-bearers of that stressful work), is another form of recognition.
Good leadership is not only setting an example of hard and decent work. It is making sure that the persons you are leading continue to feel good about what they do, continue to feel they have a mission, continue to feel they are moving in the right direction and bringing their friends along in that direction. It means stepping out of the corner office and walking the corridors, knowing what is going on in the cubicles and behind the teller gates and letting employees know you understand and share their concerns.
Good people are willing to work for less pay than they might reap across the street. But they want occasionally to be recognized for their accomplishments and their sacrifice. No one can give it to them the way a manager/supervisor/CEO can. An employee who feels under appreciated will be the first one to walk out the door.
This is a time of thanksgiving and counting blessings. Count the blessings of your employees and give thanks for the sacrifices they make. Recognize their efforts in as many ways as you can: with salaries, with benefits, with creating an institution they are proud to work in, with fun, with respect, and, yes, even with calling employees together and awarding a prize for a decade’s worth of service, or two decades or three.
People make credit unions. They are people with stresses, foibles, vulnerabilities. But they make sacrifices to sustain something of tremendous value to their communities and the nation. Make sure they know you know.