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CUs and Young Adults

July 18, 2010
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An interview with Brent Dixon, young adult adviser for the Filene Research Institute

CU Mag: How different is an under-30 member from an older member?

Dixon: Young people today live in a different cultural context. Growing up and becoming financially independent in a broken economy can give birth to short-sighted financial behaviors and a general fear around money.

Between credit card and student debt, young people are jumping into the real world already carrying a massive financial burden.

But at the same time this is one of the most entrepreneurial and expressive generations. Technology makes it easier than ever to express yourself, gain an audience around a creation, and execute an idea.

It’s a perfect storm: the “we can change the world” optimism of youth (something shared across each generation) combined with low-cost, and sometimes free, tools to act on that optimism on a large scale (something new to this generation) means the culture this generation is creating and enjoying is faster-paced and more fragmented than ever.

CU Mag: What are the biggest barriers for getting young adults to consider a credit union?

Dixon: Some barriers are:

  • Culture: On average credit unions have aging members, boards, and employees. This means the cultural fiber that drives each organization is becoming further removed from that of young people.
  • Credit unions need to reach out directly to young people through recruiting. Young adult member and board advisers also can fill this cultural gap.
  • Resources: Credit unions can’t compete individually against large banks on marketing and technology.
  • But through their collective strength combined with their individual understanding of each community they serve, credit unions have an opportunity to become the most relevant and simultaneously accessible and convenient institutions out there. But collaboration is key.
  • The times: Right now, many credit unions are completely focused on keeping the lights on—and rightfully so. For many shops, reaching out to new markets isn’t a priority. But if you’re not growing, you’re dying.

The credit unions who survive will be the ones who recognize the need to reach out to new markets with a mind for the future right now.

CU Mag: If you had to sketch a composite of a credit union getting it wrong, what would it look like?

Dixon: The main thing I see many credit unions doing wrong is trying to “look cool” without paying mind to their actual products and services.

Credit unions focusing on cosmetics first—launching an edgy marketing campaign, designing a “hip” microsite, launching a Facebook or Twitter account because they’ve heard they’re supposed to—before fixing their foundation.

CU Mag: Who is doing a great job of getting young members? How are they doing it?

Dixon: Credit unions that listen and act on what they learn will always do a better job.

This means setting up a youth advisory group to guide the culture and initiatives of the credit union, looking deep into your product and services and assessing them for relevance, and communicating with relevance by reaching out to specific life stages and behaviors.

The biggest barriers for getting young adults to consider a credit union?

Jeffry Pilcher | TheFinancialBrand.com
July 13, 2010 10:58 am
What is the biggest barrier for getting young adults to consider a credit union? Easy. That would be awareness and knowledge of credit unions.


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Great article! Unfortunately, most employees don’t feel valued or appreciated by their supervisors or employers. In fact, research has shown that the predominant reason team members quit their jobs is because they don’t feel valued. This is in spite of the fact that employee recognition programs have proliferated in the workplace – over 90% of all organizations in the U.S. has some form of employee recognition activities in place. But most employee recognition programs are viewed with skepticism and cynicism – because they aren’t viewed as being genuine in their communication of appreciation. Getting the “employee of the month” award, receiving a certificate of recognition, or a “Way to go, team!” email just don’t get the job done. How do you communicate authentic appreciation? We have found people have different ways that they want to be shown appreciation, and if you don’t communicate in the language of appreciation important to them, you essentially “miss the mark”. Additionally, employees need to receive recognition more than once a year at their performance review. Otherwise, they view the praise as “going through the motions”. A third component of authentic appreciation is that the communication has to be about them personally – not the department, not their group, but something they did. Finally, they have to believe that you mean what you say. How you treat them has to match the words you use. If you are not sure how your team members want to be shown appreciation, the Motivating By Appreciation Inventory (www.appreciationatwork.com/assess) will identify the language of appreciation and specific actions preferred by each employee. You then can create a group profile for your team, so everyone knows how to encourage one another. Remember, employees want to know that they are valued for what they contribute to the success of the organization. And communicating authentic appreciation in the ways they desire it can make the difference between keeping your quality team members or having a negative work environment that everyone wants to leave. Paul White, Ph.D., is the co-author of The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace with Dr. Gary Chapman.

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