Credit Union Recruitment and Retention Tactics Amid Great Resignation

Wage stagnation, long-standing job dissatisfaction, pandemic concerns, and the desire to work remotely are driving people across professions to leave their jobs. As a result, four out of five financial institutions are facing staffing problems, noted John Harris, CU Benefits Alliance CEO and host of the digital roundtable discussion, “How Credit Unions Are Navigating ‘The Great Resignation.’”

The average credit union employee is 39 years old — right in the middle of the age group that experienced the most significant increase in resignations between 2020 and 2021, Harris added. To counteract these statistics, credit unions cannot stand still. That’s why Harris invited Teachers Federal Credit Union’s Brad Calhoun and Kari Stansberry of iQ Credit Union for a 30-minute discussion on real-life examples of how CUs are stemming the flow of resignations.

The trio discussed the state of the industry, its battle for talent, and employee retention efforts.

Stansberry, chief administrative officer at iQ, agreed with Harris’s assessment, noting how the Vancouver, Washington-based CU went from its lowest turnover in 25 years in 2020 to nearly double that number in 2021.

For Calhoun, the pandemic exacerbated existing issues. “I look at it more as the Great Competition,” said the Teachers president and CEO. He added that finding ways to improve employee satisfaction and better compete with other organizations is paramount.

Overcoming the compensation hurdle 

It’s not all bad news at iQ. The CU’s promotion rate rose from 21% to 31% from 2020 to 2021, Stansberry said. She shared several actions iQ’s taken to improve its competitiveness, including: 

  • higher merit increases 
  • more 401(k) matching 
  • adding fully-paid dependant care to its existing fully-paid employee healthcare plan
  • providing enrichment days for team members

However, Stansberry does worry that increasing compensation for new hires can throw off pay equity within credit unions that already lag behind the rest of the financial sector on pay. 

Still, these steps seem to align with what potential employees want. Calhoun said compensation is a factor driving the Great Resignation and acknowledged Hauppauge, New York-based Teachers, and all CUs, must work to compete on compensation. “Credit unions, in general, are still playing catch-up on compensation,” he said. “We already had that hurdle … pre-2020. So, it just widened and became more of a challenge.”

More than money

Calhoun also believes remote work plays a significant role in the Great Recession, as people are more open to shifting jobs if they can have the flexibility to work remotely. Competing for remote opportunities can be difficult for CUs that require certain public-facing positions. Even so, both Calhoun’s and Stansberry’s credit unions implemented programs to make remote work possible for some jobs. 

For Stansberry, culture is also a big piece of the puzzle. “If you check out our marketing and brand, it’s a very strong, fun brand. We have a really big focus on inclusion and belonging. We have inclusion as an operating principle at the credit union,” she said. “We have an inclusion and belonging task force. We’re trying to figure out, as folks reevaluate their lives, what is important to them, and we’re making sure that folks can show up as their true, authentic selves here at the credit union.”

What story are you telling?

The panelists agreed on the need to communicate retention efforts and team member benefits effectively. “It does come down to messaging,” said Calhoun, stressing the importance of accuracy as employees at all levels are engaged in the conversation. He noted that maintaining clear messaging and open communication is essential to prevent rumors from spreading in organizations.

Harris then turned the discussion to recruitment. Calhoun and Stansberry shared some of their tactics: 

  • employee referral incentives 
  • contracting with professional recruiters to source candidates for highly skilled positions
  • partnering with local colleges
  • hiring interns from local organizations

Calhoun also said not to ignore the brand’s position on sites like Glassdoor and Indeed. As he put it, “Part of your broader recruiting strategy is the story you’re telling.” 

Calhoun said potential employees will look at recruiting sites to learn about the organization’s culture and employee experience. CUs should be proactive in approaching these platforms to ensure their messaging is accurate and appealing, he said. 

Harris concluded the discussion by asking if panelists have seen any positive results from this challenging hiring season. According to Stansberry, “Most of it is those internal opportunities that folks have in our organization. … It’s a renewed sense of feeling that family and collaboration that we’ve all been looking for.” 

Calhoun added, “It’s been great to see many people progress that may have not otherwise progressed or been promoted. You’re taking some risks on some folks, but they’re stepping up to the challenge. So, that’s been cool and refreshing to see.” 

Click here to view the digital roundtable discussion in its entirety.