Focus on employees in these challenging times

We know that brighter days are ahead (these skies will clear!), but that positivity is tempered by the realities of the unique and unprecedented challenges we face today. As you look at your 2020 business plan and wonder what’s going to come of such great ideas and planning efforts, what can you do to at least stay the course, if not move in a positive direction? 

Undoubtedly, business leaders will need to focus on our most critical financial metrics and creating positive and memorable member experiences has never been more important; yet we can’t forget about that third element of our survival and success equation – our employees! Employees need to be at the same level of focus. Don’t just hunker-down on the financial and member sides of your business, stretch-out to the employee side, as well. They can make or break our business now and into the future. 

Someone once said, “We don’t grow when life is easy, we grow when life throws us challenges.” Your employees are experiencing today, right this moment, many of the same challenges your business is experiencing. Where’s my future income going to come from? How am I going to pay our expenses? What will this do to our savings? Will I still be able to fulfill my financial dreams/goals?

Just as community leaders need to bring people together right now, credit union leaders need to bring everyone together, even if we’re not physically within the four walls of our offices. It can be easy to get distracted by what we can’t control when we should be laser-focused on one thing we can control: deepening our relationships with employees and showing them as much empathy and love as possible.

Following are three specific steps you should take with your teams today and over the next few months:

  1. Be as empathetic as possible. Make sure every employee knows you care about them and their situation (at and away from the office). Don’t just send out an email; get out of your office and physically meet one-on-one with each (stay six feet away!) to express your appreciation and empathy. If meeting face-to-face isn’t an option, call them. Ask them how you and/or the credit union may be able to help them deal with their challenges. Show them you value them as a person, not just an employee. 
  2. Maintain optimism. Unfortunately, most of the news we see and read today is negative. Fortunately, that creates a wonderful opportunity for positivism to shine through. Leaders should be optimistic anyway and now is an ideal time to refocus everyone on the positiveness that is your mission and the role everyone plays in executing that mission. Interject fun into the office, when possible. Don’t allow work to be more stressful than it needs to be during this time. Whether it comes naturally or not, during this time leaders need to be empathetic, compassionate, positive, and loving.
  3. Initiate brainstorming sessions. This may seem like an odd way to show staff that you care; but getting their input on improving work will serve as a distraction and can distance them a little bit from their stress. Ask them for their ideas on how to do their work better in the short term, during this challenging time, and long term, once things return to normal. Ask two simple yet powerful questions, “What can the credit union do to make your job better?” and “What can we all do to better serve each member and co-worker?” (Again, think today and into the future.) Try to use this time like many of us use our vacations: to stimulate fresh, new ideas to make us more successful at work.

At this time, showing employees that you care about them as much as you care about members and the balance sheet is the right thing to do – for them and your business. What you do for your members, you should do for your employees. You have the ability to “touch” each and every one of your employees . . . so make the time to do it! Help them survive and prosper during this challenge. Help position them and you and your credit union to soar when the skies clear.

Thinking back on the financial crisis of ’08 and ’09, many financial institutions floundered coming out of the gate after the economy began to improve. They weren’t prepared to take off like they should have. This time make sure your organization is not mired in the present or locked into the rear-view mirror; set your sights confidently on the future and positioning each employee to be as successful (personally and professionally) as they can possibly be. 

Another great anonymous quote: “Challenges are what make life interesting. Overcoming them is what makes them meaningful.” As an industry, economy, and country, we will overcome this challenging time. Staying focused on people’s wellbeing – at work and away from work – will maximize their loyalty and position your credit union to triumph and thrive in the future.

We know you’re too distracted right now to need our services. But, when the skies clear, let us know how we can help you get those great 2020 plans back on track. We can be reached at 636-578-3280 or

Paul Robert

Paul Robert

Paul Robert has been helping financial institutions drive their retail growth strategies for over 25 years. Paul is the Chief Executive Officer for FI Strategies, LLC, a small but mighty ... Web: Details