Six Concerns Your CU's Employees Have, And What You Can Do About Them

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While speaking to the staff at a Midwest CU recently, I asked the question, "How many of you have someone in your direct family who is unemployed?" More than half the hands went up. 

A few years ago, the city of Bloomington Minn. asked me to train all their employees on how to give exceptional service.  Now, they have asked me to come back to speak on the theme "Giving Great Service to Stressed Out People."

This is the first of two articles that will look at the dramatic changes across the American landscape that are having a major impact on your employees.  When pay increases and bonuses are in the deep freeze, and travel and training budgets have been slashed, that deeply impacts the morale, teamwork, and productivity. Couple that with the rising stress in personal lives, and it is easy to see that maintaining a healthy, proactive workplace requires some real attention.

Overall, we will look at six things that are having a major impact on your workers, beginning with three of the six here.  After I point out the areas of concern, I will share solutions you can institute even in these very lean times. 


Diagnosis: Recently, the theme at a statewide Human Resources Conference was entitled "Civility in the Workplace."  Three days were spent sharing ideas on how to counteract the growing tide of rudeness in the workplace. And what does rudeness in the workplace look like? Coworkers speaking harshly to each other, greetings not being returned, doors not being held open, employees using inappropriate language, etc. Stress leads to rudeness. 

Cure: Take a page from the No. 1 ranked training company in America - the Ritz-Carlton.  They live by the motto, "We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen." It is one of the most potent, impactful statements I am aware of.  The mission for all is to serve.  And our mission is "people helping people." According to the Ritz philosophy, we see ourselves as a lady or gentleman. And we see every guest (member) - no matter their socio-economic standing - as a lady or a gentleman.  And we see every co-worker as a lady or gentleman. In other words, the only way to treat a fellow worker is to treat them the same way you would treat your very best member.


Diagnosis: Here are some change issues I have discussed with CU CEOs in the past 30 days. One did a study and discovered he was greatly overstaffed. He is trying to figure out how to proceed. Another opened a new branch and coupled it with a café that has the best coffee in the community and focuses on financial education for its members.  Another has directed their managers to be involved in community events. 

It is certainly not business as usual for all in the financial services industry.  And what does change look like?  It is like the trapeze artist who swings out on a bar and has to let go of that bar before grabbing the other bar. It is not that we are so in love with the past, or so fearful of the future, but it is that in between time that is very unsettling. Many of your people have a very unsettled feeling right now.

Cure: You can not do change to people, but you can do change with people. People can navigate through turbulent times if they are kept in the loop and given real information. Your best chance of coming out of this in a healthy fashion is to tap their creativity when comprising a solution. I was so impressed with the CEO of Wright Patt CU when I heard him address his employees about the NCUA assessment fee. After he laid it all out and explained how it would impact them, he finished by saying, "This is going to be very challenging but I am betting on you!" They stood and gave him a standing ovation. 


Diagnosis: Two years ago, 75% of CNN respondents said that stress was rising in the workplace. Can you imagine what that figure is today?  Members are nervous, cutbacks are a reality, drastic actions are being considered, the future is uncertain, and employees are dealing with mounting pressure at home. You can't just hope these issues disappear. Your members can tell when they interact with your staff if they like each other, if they like their job, and if they have a positive outlook on life.

Cure: Managers must do more than communicate through staff meetings. They must schedule one-on-one coaching. It's crucial for setting the employee up for success, removing de-motivating conditions, instilling confidence, and dealing with the stress and uncertainty the employee may be facing. I encourage managers to meet a minimum of once a month with each employee.  Coaching is ultimately the most important thing a manager does.

Rick Olson is a speaker and business consultant specializing in helping credit unions create healthy, dynamic workplaces, and creator of the quarterly program entitled The Coaching College. He can be reached at 800-325-4007 or at

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