As some organizations start bringing employees back to the office, many are finding that not all team members are excited to be transitioning back to an office environment full time. Although many employees struggled over the past year to balance work with children learning at home, they also experienced some benefits from a more flexible work environment and no commuting. Employees have gotten used to focusing on results rather than hours worked and have adapted their lives to a more flexible environment.
You’ve probably heard of “The Great Resignation”—a record amount of employees are quitting their jobs. Four million employees quit their jobs in April, and another 3.9 million quit in June. Employees are looking for better opportunities, citing better pay and more flexibility as the top two reasons for quitting. Over half of employees say they will look for a new job over the next year.
Organizations are struggling to find great talent, and several companies that employ front line staff like Dunkin’ Donuts and Subway are cutting hours or closing dining rooms due to lack of staff. Many credit unions I work with are struggling to find candidates to even interview for job openings. Employees have more choices, and they aren’t settling for a job just to collect a paycheck.
Workplace expectations and culture are evolving and if you want to compete for the best talent, your credit union or organization will need to rethink how you work and focus on the employee experience. Employees have experienced work in a different way over the past year, and many don’t see the benefits of the way it used to be.
In credit unions, we put a heavy focus on the member experience, and this is important. Technology is changing how your members want to bank, and younger generations have different expectations for their financial institutions. Yet many credit unions don’t put as much attention and focus on their employee experience, and that is a mistake. Your employees play a major role in delivering member service, and have a significant impact on how your members experience your credit union.
Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin, is known for an employee first approach. He has said if you put your employees first, they will take care of your customers. One of my favorite leadership books, Firms of Endearment, has proven that companies that focus on all stakeholders—employees, vendors, customers—significantly outperform companies that focus primarily on the customer (note: every credit union executive should read this book!).
Here are four considerations for elevating your employee experience:
- Rethink your work model. Technology is not the only thing that has changed over the past few decades. Our society and family dynamics have evolved too. And this has impacted the expectations people have for work. Both parents are employed in nearly 60% of households. Even though research shows that most women still bear the brunt of most household duties, many men want to be more active in family life than ever before. The modern family is stressed out, overwhelmed, and exhausted. This is driving employees to prioritize quality of life and seek out employment opportunities that support flexibility. To be seen as an employer of choice, credit unions need to rethink how employees can successfully do their work, and offer flexible options, when possible. Several credit unions have already instituted hybrid work models that include a mix of onsite and virtual work. Credit unions that are proactive in creating a modern work model will be positioned to attract the best talent, even in a tight labor market.
- Upgrade your leadership team. Society is evolving, employee expectations are evolving, and leadership needs to evolve. The traditional style of leadership is not effective in today’s environment. Effective leadership focuses on development, coaching, support, accountability, and feedback. Essential skills like flexibility, empathy, and compassion are essential for managing today’s workforce. The direct manager of an employee has the biggest impact on their experience at work. You can have great benefits and compensation, but if you don’t have great leaders, the best employees won’t stay. Invest in your leadership team to upgrade their skills so they can be a positive influence and bring out the best in each of your employees.
- Listen to your employees—actively ask for their feedback. Take time to understand what is important to your employees. This is the first time in history that there are five generations in the workplace. Your current employees may value different things than your workforce from ten years ago. Make sure your managers are consistently connecting with employees to understand what is important to them. At least every two years, conduct an employee engagement survey to ensure you have objective data for designing your benefits and employee experience.
- Analyze the employee experience. The experience your members have are based on the touchpoints they go through as they interact with your credit union, like your online loan application, your website, and interactions with your team members. The employee experience is influenced by how they are onboarded into the culture, the benefits you offer, interactions with the direct manager, and overall communication, to name a few. Very few organizations take the time to map out an exceptional employee experience that will create a positive connection with each employee. For example, one of my credit union clients sends an edible arrangement to a new employee’s home the week before they start work. This creates a great first impression. The small and the big things matter. Take time to proactively create an experience that will attract and retain the best talent in the market.
Credit unions in particular have an incredible opportunity in our current market to attract exceptional talent. The credit union philosophy of “people helping people” can be attractive to potential employees who crave meaning in their work and a connection to their company. If you are proactive in designing a modern employee experience where each person feels valued and can develop and grow while having the flexibility to enjoy life, you can truly create a place where people love to come to work.