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The secret to Listerhill CU’s success with hiring millennials

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A growing number of organizations are adjusting operations to attract and inspire millennials, a demographic with different workplace expectations than previous generations

Muscle Shoals, Ala.-based Listerhill Credit Union began having conversations on the topic as early as 2008 – when the youngest millennials, now in their early twenties, were still in middle school. According to Heather Swann, SVP of people operation at the $845 million-asset institution, Listerhill partnered with the University of North Alabama to open a student-run branch on campus as a way not just to expand its reach to potential members for financial services and education, but as a recruitment strategy.

Swann explained that the branch was unlike any traditional model the CU had designed to date. Located in the student union building, Listerhill installed large charging tables so that students could eat or study while charging their devices, along with comfortable couches, TVs and deposit-taking AMs with smaller denominations “since college kids need cash for laundry, snacks and coffee,” said Swann. “Instead of a traditional teller line, we manufactured a kiosk so that our members can walk up to for service, enabling our staff to have conversation-style transactions with our members.”

The staff at the university-based branch is comprised of a director of financial wellness and several part-time “financial gurus.” The latter position was specifically designed with students in mind, explained Swann.

“These gurus are full-time college students who are trained and well-versed in ‘finlit’ strategies like budgeting, credit scores, how to buy a car and investing. These students actively teach and guide their peers as to how to manage their money while also participating in university events sponsored by Listerhill,” said Swann. “With all these contributions to the credit union, to their fellow classmates and to our communities, this makes them perfect permanent hires upon their graduation.”

Listerhill subsequently hired several part-time financial gurus on a full-time basis thanks to that partnership with the university. Two of those hires have even moved up the ladder, with one now leading the credit union’s education department while another has been named a specialist in the payments department.

Millennial recruitment efforts on the rise

According to Andrea DiGiacomo, chief operating officer at the Baltimore-based consultancy Think Stack, a growing number of financial institutions are increasing their efforts to hire younger workers. Many organizations, she said, onboard millennials for front-office roles such as tellers or member service representatives.

“From there, we have seen millennials grow very quickly if they are willing to put in the work to learn and given the opportunity to expand their impact,” she said. “One of the most successful ways we have seen credit unions ensure millennial employee satisfaction is by showing them the growth opportunities and pathways for the millennials to grow within the organization. This would also include increased training opportunities.”

Credit unions, DiGiacomo added, have also retained millennial talent when they adopt a more “laid-back environment,” which could include flexible schedules, remote work opportunities and the ability to leverage technology to complete their jobs.

Listerhill CU has 254 staff members, 97 of which are millennials. Over the years, Swann said, the credit union has learned how that demographic differs from other generations such as baby boomers, which in turn has increased retention rates.

“Millenials are much more socially conscience and usually need a philanthropic cause to support. They do seem to require more feedback and positive reinforcement,” she said. “And, they prefer to work in teams as opposed to working autonomously.”

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