Challenge: Keep Staff Engaged, Productive

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SAN JOSE, Calif. — The HR challenge for 2011? Ensuring employees are "engaged" and as productive as possible rather than just being happy to have a job.

That is an issue Michelle Greear will be tracking in 2011, both in her position as VP of learning and development for $1.4-billion Technology CU, based here, and as a member of the executive committee for the CUNA Human Resources/Training and Development Council.

Greear said the key metric for the year ahead is going to be "employee engagement," a term which will be defined differently by various departments of CUs, including recruiting and employee relations.

"I anticipate a modest recovery in 2011, so the challenge for employees will be to stretch out of the slumber they have been in," she said. "There are some folks who have been nervous about exploring other opportunities because having a job is better than not having a job, but that can make people complacent."

Over the past two years, CUs have been positioning their employees to develop their technical and professional skills due to layoffs or attrition, Greear noted, therefore there will be opportunities for advancement or increased leadership, whether as part of the home credit union or elsewhere.

"There may not be money for promotions for the next two years, but there is an opportunity for credit union employees to increase the depth and scope of what they do and indicate their value," she said. "It is up to the management team to look at the depth of their employees and examine how they define job enrichment and employee contributions. Senior leadership must be aware there is a distinct possibility our valued folks we have groomed the past couple years might be lost when the economy improves."

To stem this potential brain drain, Greear recommends management making a special effort to recognize the potential of employees at all levels of the organization, acknowledging staff and providing them with professional growth opportunities.

There is a two-way street, Greear continued, as each employee has a responsibility to let his or her manager know what opportunities he/she should be considered for, and management should "focus first on the talent within the organization to provide cross-functional teams and look at collaborative efforts across the organization."

"Keep the engaged folks engaged again, almost like a recommitment ceremony," she said. "Let people know they are engaged through the next wave of opportunity. There needs to be loyalty on both sides, which will mean different things to different organizations."

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