Benefits Still Matter in a Down Economy

Without incentives to stay, employees may be out the door when the employment market improves.

January 29, 2013
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Constant headlines about stubborn employment numbers shouldn’t prevent credit unions from developing a retention strategy for top performers now.

Focus your retention efforts on making the grass greener on your side of the fence rather than relying on poor conditions elsewhere, suggests Tracy Keffer, human resources manager at Oregon Community Credit Union of Springfield, Ore.

“Even with unemployment high, you must have an incentive to attract good employees,” Keffer says.

“We could definitely have the philosophy that we’re going to take away benefits, lower pay, and it’s OK because … if employees really want a job they’ll put up with it,” she adds. "But how long will the market be like this? Once the market improves, those employees would be out the door and on to a company [that] would treat them better.”

CUNA researcher Beth Soltis points out that some jobs, particularly those in accounting and information technology, remain hard to fill. That, she says, is a good reason to consider the long-term impacts of benefits changes.

“That’s the warning,” Soltis says. “Banks and private corporations that can afford to pay more are looking to steal employees that have those skills.”

And when benefits start to slide, salaries become far more important. “Keep in mind that that’s one thing these organizations can do,” Soltis says. “They can lure employees away with more money.”

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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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