Positively Impact Your Credit Union’s Productivity and Performance by Working Smarter, Not Longer

Discover four areas to help you boost your productivity that simply requires putting some standards around the work you do right now.




Working for a credit union used to be a 9-to-4:30 job. Today, people work considerably longer hours, snuggle in bed with their Blackberrys, and cope with more stress because there is so much more to do. And this heavier workload probably isn't going to change. If anything, it will continue to grow. So how can credit unions work smarter and get more “bang” for their resources spent?

Now is the season when most credit unions put their pencils to their Excel spreadsheets and ask themselves some important questions: Are we getting pretty much the same budget we had last year? Does our strategic plan list more and/or bigger initiatives than we've had in the past?

Just like other industries, credit unions are at a time in their history when improving productivity is an important factor in determining success. Improving productivity is not just working faster. It means generating better results without more people, more resources, more money, more time, or more energy. And in every credit union, as strategic plans are being developed, there is always more and more work to do.

There are four areas to help you boost your productivity that simply requires putting some standards around the work you do right now:

1. Team Leadership: Leadership in a highly productive organization is the result of the leadership capabilities of everyone in the organization who holds in any kind of supervisory role. According to current research, how effective a credit union's leaders are can be determined by how well they “communicate and engage” employees in the following areas: the organization is and teams' purpose/goals; specific goals/accountabilities for each employee; on-going feedback between boss and employee regarding the employee's work, employee recognition; employee support (processes, tools, etc.); employee recognition and rewards; and employees meeting their customer's needs and expectations.

Ultimately, being clear about the work you want people to do, having an accountability system in place to ensure the work gets done, and requiring behaviors that are critical to the culture of the organization always rank at the top of good leadership skills. Use Employee Engagement surveys to identify areas that need improvement and work on getting employees deeply engaged in the business.

2. Project Management: More work is being done through formalized project management. Significant productivity gains will follow when the credit union that standardizes a project management process (standardized like the lending process) throughout the credit union – including department projects. Industry research has shown that financial institutions have done a poor job of post-project evaluations and consequently missed critical benefits of real potential value. Steps in a basic project management process should include: project filter, business case and ROI, prioritizing projects, project scope, project phases, project tasks (issues and risks), project meetings and communication, and project close-out and lessons learned.

Each step is scaleable within the breadth and importance of the project. Standardizing the project process will actually yield 30 percent more projects completed at a higher quality – and provide managers about 10 percent back in time to do other more important things. Determine a project management process and make sure everyone is trained on the process, and that it is used throughout the enterprise for ANY project undertaken – and ensure there are consequences for not following the process.

3. Running Meetings: Most research finds more than 50 percent of management's time is spent in meetings. The first questions usually asked are, “Is this meeting necessary? Can we accomplish our goals without spending time in a meeting?” The following are some tips to improving the productivity (and quality) of people's time spent in meetings. Common keys to successful meetings include:

  • Set a firm agenda – make sure the agenda is prepared and communicated ahead of time. Agendas are a good tool to force people to think about what they want to accomplish in the meeting.
  • Assign a note taker – capturing the notes of the meeting can be invaluable as archives for decision-making outcomes, as well as providing outcomes from the meeting for those who could not attend or those who have an interest in the outcome.
  • Stick to the clock – this is important key as it forces people to start the meeting on time and end it when the meeting is set to conclude. This makes everyone much more efficient if they don't have to waste time waiting for the meeting to start or end.
  • Manage all three parts effective meeting management – the actual time spent in meeting is only a third of the time necessary for productive meeting results. This includes keeping to the agenda, and taking meeting minutes to share with others after the meeting. The other two parts include: preparing for the meeting (agenda preparation, meeting logistics, meeting materials, etc.) and meeting follow-up (distributing the minutes, tracking/following up on actions established in the meeting, determining next steps). Use a check list as part of the minutes to rate the last meeting – are you following the best practice steps for productive meetings?

4. Managing Your Time: The first step in effectively managing your time is to identify what your goals and priorities are – and the clearer those are, the easier managing your time will be. In your work environment, several categories of work that need to be managed together. They are not discrete elements, as you are the one person doing the work: your job responsibilities, your committee and project responsibilities, your meeting follow-up responsibilities, and your personal responsibilities. Use tools available to “capture” the work required for each of these categories – then if there are conflicts, use the reports from those tools to “manage up” and help reset the priorities looking at your entire “plate” of work.

So if you find yourself consistently working longer hours and/or habitually snuggling in bed with your Blackberry because there is so much more work to do, consider the four areas discussed above to help you boost your productivity, lower your costs, and enhance your operation efficiencies. It simply requires placing some standards around the work you do right now.

For more information on impacting your credit union's productivity by working smarter, please contact Jim Cardwell or Karla Norwood at Cardwell, 800-395-1410. Or visit our Connections Online website: www.connectionsonline.net.





Aug. 11, 2008


  • Great reminder.......Thank You.....Getting back to basics....
    Linda Ponzo
  • Nice job. Concise and to the point. Pretty basic stuff really, but great as a reminder and getting back on track.