Credit unions are highly people-focused (member and employee). I am not impartial since my whole career has been in the credit union industry, and I believe it is filled with amazing, caring, and empathetic people. It is an industry that understands more than most that internal focus leads to external results. A highly engaged and passionate employee base will typically result in highly engaged members and strong financial performance, which is good for all stakeholders. It is a competitive advantage that is hard to duplicate, however can be equally hard to execute and accomplish.
Why? Because employee engagement is founded in human dynamics which are not as clear or clean as strategies related to numbers and operational functions. It can be hazy and difficult to navigate effectively.
Here are a few steps to being intentional about if you want to focus on employee engagement:
- Measure where you are today. It is easy to assume or even state that employee engagement levels are high. However surface level satisfaction and contentment, and even passion, do not necessarily equate to true engagement. You need solid data to help you understand where you are at team levels, as well as organizationally. It can be beneficial to outsource an employee engagement survey to be facilitated through a third party to help encourage open and honest feedback, which is what the goal needs to be. Additionally, a third party specializing in this work can provide significant value in helping you decipher the data, and patterns that may exist within the data. It is a lot of information, and to fully understand and utilize it, having objective experts alongside you in the analysis is a wise move. Your internal expertise and understanding of the organization naturally provide great value, and so does having a partner outside of the organization with objective eyes.
- Do not find justifications for the story the data is telling you. In my experience the data will provide valuable insights into the strengths and opportunities that exist at the organizational level, as well as at team levels. Typically everyone loves to see those areas of strengths so clearly displayed and do not spend too much time questioning those. However, when it comes to areas of opportunity, time spent analyzing and discussing it within leadership teams is not where all the answers reside. I do not mean that those meetings and discussions are not important because they certainly are. There needs to be clarity and commitment from the leadership team, clarity on the areas of challenge and commitment (and leadership accountability) to working on those areas. These need to be very intentional and forward thinking discussions – not focused on explaining away those areas of opportunity that have surfaced, but to determine how to dig deeper and then make progress. Keep in mind, the feedback you are working with came from all levels of the organization and valuable insights and & ideas also exist beyond those at the leadership table. Encourage and facilitate impactful conversations across the organization to help determine productive direction.
- Communicate, communicate, and communicate. If you do not plan to communicate the survey results and work on areas that can be improved, you may want to consider not investing the time and money into doing a survey at all. It can negatively impact employee engagement levels if you ask people for feedback, and then say nothing (or do nothing) about it after they’ve taken the time to provide their feedback that you asked for. Ideally you should have a clear communication plan set up before you even roll the survey out, and the entire leadership team should be very clear on the survey’s intent, process and value. The messaging needs to be consistent and clear from the leadership level at every touchpoint. Employee meetings should be scheduled to share the aggregated survey feedback, and plans for using the data moving forward, preferably with touchpoints and metrics included. Ensure you allow plenty of time for analysis of the data and planning prior to these meetings so that communication to employees is thorough and precise. And ensure communication continues throughout the year so that employees can see that this was not a “feel good” initiative, but rather a strategic priority that is just as important as financial metrics and member satisfaction. And if employee engagement is not a strategic priority you may find that the financial metrics and member satisfaction goals may fall short.
“There are only three measurements that tell you nearly everything you need to know about your organization’s overall performance: employee engagement, customer satisfaction, and cash flow. It goes without saying that no company, small or large, can win over the long run without energized employees who believe in the mission and understand how to achieve it.” – Jack Welch, former CEO of GE.