How to retain good staff when turnover is high

Stacks of various coins

“Our credit union is understaffed. We just can’t find enough people!”

If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard that statement from credit union leaders over the past few months, I’d be a very rich person right now. I’m not a recruiter, so I won’t dispense advice on a topic I know others are better versed on in terms of finding new team members. However, one thing Your Marketing Co. has tremendous experience with that has paid huge dividends over the last 12 months is marketing to your frontline team.

Even if your marketing plan does a great job bringing in new members and loans, without focusing on marketing to your team you are missing out on invaluable opportunities to provide a better member experience, plus engage and retain your best frontline team members.

Did you know that more than 70% of employees in US organizations are not fully engaged at work? While they may be physically present in your credit union and doing the job you’re paying them to do, they’re not living up to their full potential or delivering their best performance. And that means your members are not receiving the best possible experience, leaving both your credit union team members and actual members vulnerable to poaching from other financial institutions. Improving employee engagement crucial, strategic aim for your credit union. Better engagement results in higher productivity, but also happier and healthier employees, fewer sick days and lower staff turnover.

Gone are the days a good salary and benefits package were enough to retain your best talent. Studies show that millennials change jobs more frequently than any other generation before them, but they will stick around longer with organizations that value corporate ethics, transparency, and work-life balance – more so than for the traditional job perks. Even if you think your credit union is doing all the right things, beware: You may not be communicating them very well to the frontline employees. Your credit union marketing team can play a critical role here.

Typically, employee communication has been nothing more than a box to tick through a memo, a poster or flyer in the break room, or simply a company email. For credit unions realizing that stellar growth and lower staff turnover are worth the credit union’s investment, your team can grow the credit union and its positive perception through a great member experience. Frontline employees are a significant entry point to your credit union, not just cogs in a delivery wheel. Credit unions that have found success with this have started communicating to their employees in as creative, engaging and interesting ways as they do with their members.

Two credit unions that have successfully done this come to mind. Express Credit Union ($15 million, Seattle WA) completed its strategic planning for 2020 in August of 2019 and set some lofty goals, especially in terms of membership growth. Seeking 3% membership growth was really stretching some of their team but landing on 5% made them downright nervous. But come yearend 2020, the credit union celebrated average membership growth of 6.52%, even with branches closed most of the year.


The credit union began communicating goals to the frontline. Starting in January, every team member knew what the membership growth goal was for the month, for the week, and even down to the day. A combination of:

  • Transparency from leadership as to why the goal was important to the credit union
  • Frequent marketing to the staff, reminding them of their mission and their “why”
  • Two-way communication with the marketing team to ensure:
    • The frontline team understood what marketing was doing to support them, and
    • The marketing team gleaned what was working and what was not from the front line.

This was not a one-time fluke. Mint Valley Federal Credit Union saw the same kind of results. Leveraging a strategic marketing plan focused on its goals to bring in new members combined with the frontline staff engagement by the leadership team and the team at YMC to communicate goals, was the winning combination to infuse new energy into the team.

Change is hard for everyone, but ultimately my goal is I want it to be fun for everyone to come to work. By doing all those different things, we had fun stepping out of our comfort zone, and it really boosts the team’s confidence when they hear members’ appreciation and the comments that Mint Valley has been life-changing for them,” Dori Harvel, Mint Valley Federal Credit Union said in a recent interview.

The examples that Express and Mint Valley prove the concept that investing in marketing to your frontline staff, making sure they understand their “why,” and infusing some fun and gamification into the process engages your frontline team members and yields amazing results.

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Alex VanHaasteren

Senior Web Developer

Alex is YMC’s Senior Web Developer and, as the title suggests, she is an absolute pro! While she initially started in graphic design – working long and hard to expertly bring concepts to life – she also felt drawn to technology and applying her natural ability to problem solve. Web Development proved the perfect blend of her creative passion and technical savvy.

When Alex is out with friends – including her YMC colleagues – she’s up for Greek cuisine or some good pulled pork BBQ washed down with Diet Coke. Or an Old Fashioned, if the occasion demands. Someday, she hopes to go to Africa on a safari. Hopefully she’ll see a giraffe in the wild, because – as she’s pointed out – its neck is too short to reach the ground!

When she isn’t jamming out to T-Swift, she’s happy to impart some marketing words of wisdom, “Aim to create something unforgettable.” For day-to-day inspiration, she would remind you of two fundamental truths: You decide your happiness, and Ice cream is its own food group—not just a dessert.

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