Editor's note: this is the second of two articles exploring how the financial crisis impacts CU employees. The first article can be found here.
Members Ask Tougher Questions
Diagnosis. Every CU I travel to, I hear the same thing. Members are asking more questions and tougher questions than they ever have in the past. The era of excess and surplus are over. As things tighten financially, members are asking questions that are much more challenging than simply asking about a transaction. They are very aware of their need to become much more savvy concerning budgeting, investing, and their credit score. They want to simplify their lives and discover ways to save money and time. And they consider the credit union employee an expert in financial matters. It appears that the questions will only increase in upcoming days.
Cure. The questions are coming and will keep coming. Are your employees equipped to answer those questions? Those questions represent a fantastic opportunity for your credit union. When members receive the help they need, your employees become invaluable and are seen as trusted advisors. A healthy way to view sales is this; discover the pain and provide the cure. To insure that your employees are well equipped to deal with the questions that arise, begin to make a list of the questions that all employees are being asked. Create a response sheet of well-worded answers to those same questions and get them to all employees.
Technology and New Systems
Diagnosis. I work closely with a CU that went through a technology conversion last year. The experience was brutal. When it finally took place, many things went wrong. The weary team members were then forced to put in long nights and weekends to try to fix it. It is surprising that there was no mass defection.
Cure. Techno-stress is a very real issue. While a number of your employees are 100% energized by technology, many others may be traumatized. It is imperative that all are comfortable with your technology. One Indiana CU has built one hour of training time into every employee's week. That training time instills confidence and allows them to be very comfortable with all their various technologies. A confident employee would answer a member question about bill pay by saying, "I love bill pay. I can't imagine not having it." An unconfident employee would say, "Let me see if I can find a brochure on bill pay." Ultimately, sales is really a transfer of enthusiasm.
Cutbacks on Pay and Perks, Travel and Training
Diagnosis. The training plans you had for 2009 were probably altered by the announcement from NCUA that your CU would be assessed a hefty fee. With the new developments, you may be living under a "travel freeze." That impacts career development and their morale. Perhaps your employees have been accustomed to receiving significant end of the year raises that may not be an option this year.
Cure. The cost of not training is found in loss of morale, turnover, declining service standards, and missed growth opportunities. Branch expansion and additional ATMs may be on hold, but staff development can never be ignored. They represent your most precious corporate asset. It may be your most challenging financial year, but don't ignore the staff that got you here and the same staff that will get you through these tough days. It may be time to make a renewed commitment to internal staff/management training. I have discovered two creative alternatives this year that may be an option for you. I am conducting a program I call the Coaching College for a credit union in Louisiana this year. Two thirds of the cost of the training will be paid for by a grant that they applied for. That may be a solution for you. I am doing training in Nebraska at a community college. They are able to offer the training at a greatly discounted rate. The college is reimbursed by the state for number of adults who come through their learning center. Just as your credit union is looking for new revenue streams, you may profit greatly by exploring creative ways to finance your training.
In summation, these are lean, restrictive days. Your options may be limited, but you do have options. And doing nothing would be the worst possible choice. Be vigilant about your most precious corporate asset - your people.
Rick Olson is a speaker and business consultant specializing in helping credit unions create healthy, dynamic workplaces. He can be reached at 800-325-4007 or at email@example.com.