Serving Those Who Serve

CUs face many challenges as they serve members deployed around the world.

August 10, 2011
KEYWORDS family , services , troops
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Deployment challenges

The challenges of dealing with deployment have changed dramatically since Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in the 1990s, says Chamberlin.

Then, troops went overseas and their families went back to their hometowns, leaving the credit union to scale back operations and cope with staff vacancies as employees who were military spouses departed. Today, families are more likely to stay in the Camp Lejeune area that Marine Federal serves.

“Since we went back into Iraq and now into Afghanistan, the troops and particularly the Marine spouses and their families have become accustomed to deployments,” Chamberlin says. “We have 24- and 25-year-old Marines and Navy Corpsmen serving with the Marines who have had two or three tours in Iraq and are now going into Afghanistan.” Most families stay in the Jacksonville and the Onslow County area, he adds, because “the best support they’re going to get will be here.”

Deployment sometimes leads to loan delinquency, although Chamberlin says strong lending policies and financial counseling helped restrain delinquencies to 0.78% as of May 2011. When members fall behind, Marine Federal provides loan modifications or offers a short-term payment hiatus while members sort out their personal lives. “Members appreciate that and will go the extra mile to try to pay their debts,” Chamberlin says. Marine Federal encourages savings by inviting members to join the Deployment Club, which offers 3% interest on deposits up to $25,000.

Educating members

Financial counseling has been removed from formal military training so troops can better focus and prepare for combat.

“The training tempo in the Marine Corps no longer allows time for financial education and won’t in the foreseeable future so long as deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq continue,” Chamberlin says. “The Marine Corps is focused on keeping these kids alive with proper weaponry and making sure they can take care of one another as opposed to making sure they can balance their checkbooks.”

To help fill the gap, Marine Federal participates in predeployment and postdeployment briefings and offers financial education classes. Chamberlin says the most effective financial counseling often occurs one-on-one, such as when a loan officer persuades a young Marine who wants to buy a new Mustang that purchasing a used vehicle is both a better deal and a better match for his salary and credit rating.

Technology plays a major role in retaining military members, whose paychecks arrive via direct deposit. Online banking, shared branching, and ATM networks keep members connected after they move to a new base or deploy overseas. Today, only 40% of members use brick-and-mortar branches, causing Marine Federal to close two branches in recent years.

Next: Reconnecting with the core

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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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