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The Credit Union World Attracting Gen Y to Ensure Its Bright Future

The Credit Union World Attracting Gen Y to Ensure Its Bright Future By Cyndi Cohen
Published August 14, 2012
Credit Unions Online
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A huge change in America’s economic landscape was put into motion on January 1, 2011. That was the day when the very first Baby Boomers turned 65 and were able and ready to retire. Every day since then more than 10,000 Baby Boomers have reached age 65, and that is going to continue every single day for the next 19 years. That adds up to about 64 million skilled workers who will be able to retire in the near future.

What does this mean for the American workforce and nearly every business or company, large and small? The future of the workforce will depend on the next generation of young workers and professionals - Generation Y. Companies, businesses, non-profits, and other organizations with an employee base (including credit unions) must learn to successfully market to Gen Y in order to attract and retain them, and ultimately ensure their own existence and growth.

Who Is Gen Y and How Do They Relate to Credit Unions?

About 80 million members strong, Generation Y (a.k.a. The Millenials, the iGeneration, Echo Boomers the Net Generation, the Google Generation and Generation Next) are today’s young people, confident, optimistic, diverse, technologically proficient, eager, strong, powerful, socially conscious, team-oriented, ambitious, and the largest group of consumers since the Baby Boomers. Born between 1977 and 2002, the older subset of this group of youngsters is now in the workforce and governing how products, services, and even jobs are being marketed.

Probably one of Gen Y’s most prominent and pervasive features is their ability to master, and love for, all things technological. Born and raised in the age of the Internet, technology is ingrained in Gen Y’s lifestyle affecting everything from how they communicate to how they learn, socialize, work, and even think. Masters of all gadgets from TVs to computers to MP3s to iPods, Gen Y is a generation of quick-thinking multi-taskers who strive to get their job done well and efficiently.

Additionally, Gen Y’ers value work but also care deeply for family and friends, therefore seeking a flexible work environment. Growing up in a volatile world due to terrorism and economic unrest, Gen Y’ers want to make the most of today since tomorrow is somewhat uncertain.

Another notable characteristic of Gen Y, especially as they relate to credit unions as prospective members or employees, is their penchant for supporting social causes. In this respect Gen Y’ers like the idea of working for a not-for-profit, community-centered institution like a credit union.

Credit Unions Winning Over Quality Gen Y Employees

Even with the socially conscious angle on their side, it is still crucial for the credit union world to take heed of Gen Y and make a concerted effort to secure some valuable employees from the group. Already appealing to Gen Y’ers, with their not-for-profit status and people-friendly mission, credit unions should add to this a vast knowledge of these young adults and their workplace must-haves in an effort to make credit union related jobs not only more attractive employment options for young people but perhaps even long-term career choices. And many associations, leagues, individual credit unions, and the credit union world at large have begun putting dedicated efforts in place to do just that.

The Credit Union Association of New York’s Young Professionals Commission is comprised of 29 credit union employees, all under the age of 35 who serve in various roles in their credit unions, from CSRs to CFOs, and are from different asset sized credit unions across New York State.

According to Allison D. Barna, CUDE & Director of NYCUF/Community Development, Credit Union Association of New York, the Commission started in early 2010, after the Association hosted a Young Adult Outreach Initiative through REAL Solutions and in partnership with the Filene Research Institute. The Commission is in charge of the development of strategies and practices that assist the Association and credit unions in recruiting young adult employees and volunteers while developing and promoting young adults into positions of leadership within the New York credit union community and providing input on education programs directed toward young adults and professionals.

“Our goal with the Commission is to find ways to help credit unions attract and retain younger and talented employees -- we are looking to build a network for the young professionals that are already here, to help support them and develop them in their credit union careers, and retention is currently a big focus,” says Barna.

Because they are really focused on engagement of employees, as well as getting information out that is pertinent, the Commission publishes a quarterly newsletter; has a Facebook page and website; hosts meet-ups across the state, with different focuses for each one; looking into a white paper on employee retention; building a statewide “Network” of other young professionals in credit unions across the state; and participated in a mentorship program through the Cooperative Trust.

Barna says that the Commission is focusing on how to get Gen Y involved and engage them, so that going to work isn’t just a job. They want them to feel the passion that people have when they are involved in credit unions, as well as see the opportunity for growth and advancement. “Our goal is to find the people that want to be involved and give them the opportunity…everyone deserves a chance.”

Gen Y’s incredible energy and work ethic coupled with the credit union philosophy make for a good match. “They get that they are part of something global and that makes them want to move it forward - Gen Y employees understand the need for speed and convenience, but they also understand how important human interaction is in this industry,” says Barna.

In terms of helping credit unions to recruit younger employees, the Michigan Credit Union League covers this through their Education department. For example, in September MCUL will hold their Fall Leadership Development Conference and HR, Trainers & Supervisors Institute. At both events author Meagan Johnson who wrote a book entitled Generations Inc. will be appearing to talk about generations in the workplace. There is also a breakout session called “New Generation: How to Think about Learning and Development.” In addition, MCUL’s Social Media marketing consultant advises credit unions on setting up and maximizing their social media messaging which directly impacts the Gen Y demographic.

And, perhaps most notably, the League’s annual Young Professional of the Year award recognizes an MCUL affiliate credit union professional under the age of 40 who has proven dedication and enthusiasm for the credit union movement. Nominations are accepted from the entire Michigan credit union community. The MCUL honored Jeremy Cybulski of Co-op Services CU this year, and hopes it will serve as a way to inspire other young professionals to get involved in the movement.

Meriwest Credit Union (San Jose, CA) has 200 employees with 18% belonging to Gen Y. The credit union’s young employees play some important roles there. “They may be more technologically advanced and are easily trained in the use of our member services program and when our member service awards are given at staff meetings, Gen Y’ers are consistently the stars,” says Lisa Pesta, VP of Human Resources. Gen Y offers the marketing team insights into how young people view social media and its use, and keep the credit union up-to-date on Gen Y trends in social media and culture.

Meriwest’s Gen Y’ers are very community minded and enjoy volunteering at food banks, charity fundraising walks, children’s financial education programs, and other outside community development activities.

In return for their good work, Meriwest’s youngest are rewarded with the following perks from their employer:

  • Tuition Reimbursement Program- MCU will reimburse employees up to $5,000 in tuition costs annually.
  • Flexible Hours – Part time employees going to college can arrange their school/work hours to fit within the hours of the credit union.
  • Exercise/Wellness – The credit union has a small, well equipped gym onsite at the main office for employee use. “We promote total wellness within the institution and many of those participating in the biking, walking, and jogging activities are our Gen Y employees,” says Pesta.

When Meriwest’s Gen Y employees are recognized, it is before the entire main office staff. “We like to make sure they know how important their contribution is to our organization and what an important role they play in helping us grow our member base,” contends Pesta.

The strong relationships Meriwest has built with Gen Y relates back to the company culture. “We value each employee and their contribution to our organization…we give our Gen Y employees challenging work; we mentor them and develop them to their full potential,” says Pesta.

Are you Gen Y’er on the hunt for that perfect job/career? Look to your credit union as a possible candidate. Check out the credit union’s website for possible job openings and send your resume along, or contact their Human Resources Department for details. Not a member? Find a credit union near you, and nab your dream job!

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