By. Fred Brown, Northeast Family Federal Credit Union
Have you ever noticed that your front line, generally the first people members encounter when they walk into your credit union, are not the most cheery or personable people in the world?
Have you ever wondered why not? Or do you simply assume, like I do, that I have a terrific job and love to go to work, and they should feel the same way? Yeah, that’s not going to work. I found out, the hard way, that a lot of front line staff don’t share my enthusiasm nor schedule or level of fun at work and as such, tend to dread Monday mornings, whereas I look forward to Mondays.
So what do you think would make these people feel better? What do you think would put them into a better mood to do a better job? Now by better job I don’t necessarily mean selling more. I’d sometimes settle for just smiling and greeting members when they walked in.
- Recognition. Employees have to feel valued, like they matter to the success of the credit union and in life. I’ve worked a couple jobs where the boss and even MY boss didn’t know my name, and that’s probably one of the reasons I’m not still employed at that company. If you not only remember the employees name, but also certain aspects of their lives and then couple that with recognizing what they do, they will see themselves as valued. Continue to do it and you form a pattern of recognition. It pushes them to continually do things for recognition. Because we all like recognition, right? When you see an employee correctly greet a member (or non member) coming through the door, recognize that employee when the transaction has been completed.
It’s always good to ask opinions as well. There is a drawback to this. If you ask opinions and don’t take their suggestions, they could feel overlooked or ignored. It’s a balancing act.
- Continued education. You HAVE to make sure your front line staff is educated. If they don’t know how to do their job, you can’t expect them to do more. Make sure to continually train them through staff meetings, ed sessions your League and send them to state or regional conferences. By sending them to a conference, the investment will return to you two fold. One, they’ll gain more knowledge AND they will feel you value their worth by sensing them to a conference. Do you run the risk of paying to send someone to a conference where they will eat and drink on your dime and learn nothing? Sure, but you should know who to send to what conference. You can also use it as a reward.
- Form an advisory council. Gather three to five people, offer them lunch/dinner to sit and chat about what, in their opinion, needs to be changed. For better of worse, listen. Make sure they know there is no recrimination, no “bad” or “wrong” answer. Just get a pizza or something and sit around a table. Make sure you direct the conversation so you don’t find yourself dissecting the Grammy’s wardrobe decisions. Don’t and I repeat DON’T ask your CEO to do it. I don’t care how big your credit union is, people clam up when the CEO is in the room.
- Incent! Incent! Incent! You may wonder what I’m driving at. Seriously, make sure to give them extra, if they’re doing extra, or going above and beyond. I’m my shop I’ve done something as simple as McDonald’s sundaes and as complicated as paid time off. You have to find what drives your people. For some it’s food, for others it’s money or time off. Just reward good behavior.
I’ve seen CEO’s and upper management give in to their employees. By that I mean, becoming a little lax on rules or procedures. Bending the rules because they feel as if the front line is unhappy, they’ll treat your members poorly. Perhaps, but even if that’s true, it doesn’t last long. Employees will rationalize anything. You have to follow the rules and reward good behavior and correct poor behavior.
This seems barbaric, but you have to create a warm and welcoming atmosphere, while ensuring a positive, rewarding system.
Most importantly, believe in your employees. You put them through hell in the hiring process. Show you believe in them.