Since 2019, the Cooperative Trust hosted roughly 580 young professionals and emerging leaders through its award winning Crash Program. With each new Crash, we welcome new community members, and new Crash cohorts are created. It is not uncommon for Crashers to leave an event feeling inspired, motivated, and like their career and life has changed.
But how does the Crasher experience affect the credit union industry? Why should credit unions continue to take advantage of the Cooperative Trust and Crash Program? The short answer: these emerging professional are working to create a better, more inclusive world. The long answer is below.
Crashers Stay Connected
Crashers connect on a deep level because they experience a profound moment in time together. Crashers journey through each event learning new information and ways of thinking they can bring back and apply to their day-to-day work in at their credit unions. It's through these shared moments where people begin to open up and allow themselves to be vulnerable. It is not unusual for Crashers to share personal experiences ranging from tragedy to monumental successes. Through this vulnerability, Crashers build relationships with each other based on mutual respect and trust.
For many, Crashers become family. Hence, #CrasherFam (you can read more Crasher comments by searching for and following #CrasherFam on LinkedIn). On the outside, this may seem a bit cheesy; I get it. But, I cannot count the number of times I've heard Crashers say how they thought it would be impossible for a group of strangers to become family in a matter of days. It happens at every single Crash, more than once. Crashers leave each event with a robust network of passionate and supportive peers. Not a day goes by where we don't see communication taking place between Crashers, whether it is a motivational message or someone asking for help - the family is there to respond and support.
Crashers Get Involved
After Crash the GAC comes to an end, the industry sees an uptick in participation. Local young professional groups get new members, credit union leagues and local league chapters see new names and faces at their meetings, and social media is buzzing with messages of gratitude and a renewed sense of meaning. Crashers are notorious for getting involved in their communities. Whether they're helping build homes for Habit for Humanity, donating clothes for Dress for Success, or spending time at their local food banks, Crashers are involved and supporting the communities they serve.
They show up for more education, clamoring to join The Foundation's Credit Union Development Educator program, Filene's i3, and CUNA Management School. Crashers are like sponges. They will soak up all the goodness our industry has to offer. It's at this point where we and as a collective, fail our young leaders. We douse their fire because we don't know what to do with their passion. Perhaps the organization has more critical strategic initiatives, and the Crasher needs to get back into production. Crashers often return to their credit union only to find that no one understands their experience. This issue is so commonplace among Crashers that we solicit author and photographer Andy Janning's help to offer them a method for working through the return to office. We have to temper their excitement, so we do not extinguish their fire.
Crashers have Crucial Conversations
The Crash Program's focus on supporting connection plays a role in the honest and productive conversations we share. No two Crashers are the same. We come from diverse backgrounds - some easy to spot on the surface, the tip of the "diversity iceberg" others are not seen like talents, family status, and education.
Andrea Finley, Training and Operations Manager for AACUC and contributor to the Cooperative Trust, has guided more than 200 Crashers through a Code-Switching and Covering session. It is a course designed to shed light on how BIPOC and white people all change parts of themselves to fit into the dominant culture. The dominant culture is defined as white, straight, and male. Andrea, an esteemed Crasher alum, breaks the ice by sharing a story about how her mom begged Andrea not to dreadlock her hair in fear that Andrea would be fired from her job. From there, Crashers dive into dress code issues, how they hate to kill spiders, and even call out how expecting everyone to know Journey's Don't Stop Believing is an example of white privilege. We even dive into the ways the dominant culture changes parts of themselves. These conversations are for everyone.
This makes me the proudest of our community, and it should make you proud too. The talent we're working with is willing to learn from each other, talk about things that make everyone very uncomfortable, and we leave as family. We have constructive conversations that are respectful and allows each person to share their point of view. We don’t see Crashers being "canceled" or blocked. We aren’t going "off on" and unfriending each other. We're creating a cooperative and collaborative community that truly celebrates our differences.
So, what can your Credit Union do?
To answer this question, I'll adapt past Filene Fellow Hope Schau's research, For the Long-Run: Leveraging Reflexive Opportunities in Consumption Journeys, to help your credit union's talent retention strategy. Her research states, "that facilitated moments of self-reflection that connect a brand to a person’s life experience— these reflexive opportunities—can increase the perceived value of a brand and of a consumer’s long-term bond with that brand."
- Take a long view on your relationships with your team.
Consider what it would take to keep team members at your organization for the long-haul. The benefits and experiences that kept your most tenured team members loyal are NOT a one-size-fits-all. Start by holding focus groups, soliciting feedback from your emerging talent, and involve them in co-creating a talent retention strategy.
- Align your brand identity with your teams’ development and career goals. Identify opportunities where your brand identity aligns with your team member’s lives—for instance, creating community volunteering opportunities. We see CUNA and CUNA Mutual Group doing this very well. These organizations find local non-profits that matter to their teams, and they provide opportunities for their team members to give back.
- Create specific opportunities for your team to reflect on their lives and your credit union's ongoing presence along the way.
For instance, once your team members come back from a Crash, offer them the opportunity to explain their WHY to senior leaders and the other emerging leaders at your credit union. You took the time to ignite their fire by giving financial support to attend a Crash—stoke the fire by giving them opportunities to share their experience and what they’ve learned.
- Customize and enhance development journeys.
Work-life balance—work-life synergy, whatever phrase you prefer, life is more than just the job. Career development and personal development are forever coupled together. To deny team members the freedom to be authentic, to explore and be curious will result in people looking outside your organization. If people have to leave the credit union, let it be because they soaked up all the goodness your credit union offered, not because their sponge soaked up all the muddy water.