Looking for a Lending Rebound

Members are paying down debt at unprecedented rates, wreaking havoc on CU loan portfolios.

March 31, 2011
KEYWORDS cuna , loans , market
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A work force revival

Another way to keep members happy—and reap the financial rewards of doing so—is to ferret out members’ needs and work to exceed them.

Creating a member-focused sales and service culture has helped 1st MidAmerica Credit Union, Bethalto, Ill., boost assets, loans, and deposits. Plus, the effort has prompted a work force revival as employees embrace a new way to work.

Creating this culture required employees to adapt to a new approach to member service. To guide the process, the $430 million asset credit union used organization-wide training and complementary materials that gave employees a common language and shared references.

Employees were introduced to the change process in January 2009 with training based on the book “Who Moved My Cheese?” by Spencer Johnson. The credit union also developed a product manual and a “Team Leader Coaching Guide” to provide a foundation for sales and service tools.

Managers began holding bi-weekly coaching meetings with employees to provide information about products and services, and tips for interacting with members.

Also playing an important role were new tools such as:
• Referral goals and incentives, which reward employees who reach goals with cash, paid time off, or gift cards;
• Cross-sell pop-ups, delivered via the core computer system, that remind employees of marketing promotions, suggest products and services to cross-sell, and offer scripts to initiate conversations; and
 A monthly newsletter with articles and success stories.

During the 12 months following the culture change, 1st MidAmerica grew membership from 38,970 to 41,343, increased products per household from 3.49 to 3.59, grew deposits 12.69% (vs. a goal of 9.84%), and increased loans 8.31% (exceeding its 7.38% goal).

The credit union won a 2010 CUNA Operations, Sales & Service Council Best Practices Award for its efforts.

Next: What to expect in 2011

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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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