Keeping the Young and Talented at Credit Unions

Last week I was talking to some credit union peers and one of the topics of discussion was the alarming rate at which the credit union industry seems to be losing young and talented professionals – not necessarily from Gen Y – but more so from the age group of 30-45.  Most of the people who participated in this discussion were in the Gen X demographic (myself included.)  It wasn’t just the topic that was so interesting.  Rather, it was the depth of concern voiced by everyone.  These are serious credit union professionals – all accomplished and who hold senior management positions at their credit unions.  So what was said should not be taken lightly.  I wanted to share some of the discussion with my readers.

Young professionals are not getting what they were promised when they were hired.  When any of these folks accepted their jobs, they were told that they would be given autonomy, the ability to lead, and the authority to make enhancements to their departments and processes. Unfortunately, when they attempt to bring new life into old institutions, they are stopped in their tracks and challenged by people who just don’t want to change anything.  For the most part, young professionals do not fear changing course when doing so is necessary and when it would benefit the organization. Many are not easily dismayed when they face push-back.  However, a person can only take so much rejection before they start thinking about looking for opportunities elsewhere.

Creativity is being stifled.  This is especially true in the marketing and business development disciplines.  Passionate, creative, and talented professionals are hired to “make things better.”  Yet, when they suggest tactics that could be deemed “out-of-the-box,” they are forced back into the very box from which they are trying to escape.  When they want to take a bit more risk and be a little less conservative with their methods, they are told that “it won’t work with our membership” or are given some other excuse for not being able to move forward.  And then folks sit around scratching their heads wondering why the results aren’t there.  Perhaps they’ve forgotten that age-old definition of insanity…..

It’s just a job.  We need young professionals to want to make their careers in credit unions.  In order to keep them around, they need to see a bright future loaded with advancement opportunities and the ability to further develop their professional skills.  If they don’t see those things, they are going to keep leaving the industry as they have been.

And we may not be able to replace them…..


About Your Full Potential, LLC

I am the President of Your Full Potential, LLC and the Founder of ABSURD! Leadership. I am a professional speaker and have addressed thousands of people throughout the United States and internationally on the topics of leadership, sales, service, business development, marketing, and strategy.
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2 Responses to Keeping the Young and Talented at Credit Unions

  1. Sean, you’re spot-on again brother. I think there are a couple interesting add-ons to what you were saying about push-back on innovative initiatives. First, when we hear the comment, “it won’t work with our membership,” that’s very subjective to the person making the statement. What’s interesting is, most CUs don’t actively mine their membership data, so someone making that comment is likely referencing what the membership was like when they were in frontline service. Also, if the credit union is seeking to lower their average age of membership (which most are), it’s a good thing that the strategy/concept/product/campaign isn’t congruent with the traditional member base.

    Certainly we don’t want to alienate our established members, because they provide the lion’s share of the core deposits and the stability we need to be more aggressive with younger segments. However, we want to cater to the unique needs of the younger segment to build a similar relationship with them that we have with the older segment. The difference between the two is opportunity cost. What we’re failing to see with younger members is that they have so much spending potential to be tapped. I think the same is true of our older and younger employees. Older ones have given so much and built the foundation of a strong organization; they don’t want to see the house that they’ve built compromised in any way. Younger employees may be testing the structure and strength of the house, but they may have the potential to build an even stronger one. Yes, they may break a few things along the way, but it’s part of the learning process.

    What some of these younger employees may want to keep in mind is, sometimes forgiveness is better than permission. It takes SEEING something better in order to buy-in. Rather than outlining an idea, building a proposal or suggesting a change, sometimes it’s just better to stick your neck out there and give it a try. When you’ve done that a couple times and it has paid off, entrenched older employees are more willing to extend the leash and let you play.


    • Great points, Josh. Love that you reminded us that it is easier to ask for forgiveness than permission. One of the hallmarks of great leaders is that they are not afraid to stick their necks out and try new things. Also – you are absolutely right when you point out that most cu’s do not analyze their membership behavioral data. If they did, they would be much more knowledgeable about what will work and what may not.

      Thanks for your input!


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