Human Resources

Compensation Caution

CUs continue to be cautious with their salary, benefits, and hiring strategies.

August 09, 2011
KEYWORDS management , staff , wages
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Compensation Caution


  • Seventy-six percent of CUs anticipate increasing some wages this year, but 40% expect to freeze some wages.
  • Many CU employees have picked up the responsibilities.
    of other employees who left or were let go.
  • Board focus: Support staff appreciation events, monetary, rewards, and other incentives to retain quality employees.


Even though economists have declared an end to the Great Recession, most credit unions aren’t buying it. Conservative salary, staffing, and benefit plans indicate credit unions are waiting for stronger evidence of economic recovery before significantly increasing salaries or adding staff, according to CUNA’s 2011-2012 Complete Credit Union Staff Salary Survey Report.

With the chronically volatile stock market, inflation fears, low consumer confidence, and weak job growth, even credit unions on solid financial footing are wary of what the future holds.

“I see caution,” says Beth Soltis, CUNA’s senior research analyst. “Much of the data is the same as last year, which tells me credit unions are in a holding pattern.”

Bill Connor, president/CEO of America’s First Federal Credit Union, Birmingham, Ala., isn’t
optimistic about the overall economy, despite his own credit union’s relative stability and ability to weather turbulent times. In a year when the credit union maintained benefit levels and increased wages 4%, Connor still isn’t acknowledging any light at the end of the tunnel.

“I’m not sure it’s going to get much better,” he says of the economy, adding that he thinks his credit union will see a very slow rebound in consumer lending.

“I’m concerned that housing values won’t appreciate much, if any, through the rest of next year,” he adds. “There are some indications the housing market will come back by the end of this year, but I don’t believe it.”

Connor calls America’s First Federal’s situation “collateral damage.” The credit union didn’t get into risky lending, but the collapse of the real estate and lending markets affected the credit union and its members.

In 2005, for example, the $1 billion asset credit union had only three foreclosures. In the past 18 months, however, it has handled 58. Now the credit union has to manage properties, deal with vandalism, and process insurance claims. “We’re not used to managing 40 or 50 properties at one time,” he says. “We had to take someone from collections, and she’s now exclusively managing foreclosures.”

Next: Steady on Wages

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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 ( 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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