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Employee Attraction and Retention in the Shadow of COVID-19

This report provides guidance for the ways credit unions should endeavor to attract and retain top talent in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Executive Summary

Over the past four years, the Center for the War for Talent has been working on topics related to the attraction and retention of talent within credit unions. More recently, however, the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic has altered our entire society in drastic ways. Externally, the economic downturn as a result of the pandemic has acutely impacted credit union members, and credit unions have quickly mobilized to meet new demands. Internally, the coronavirus pandemic has deeply impacted the workplace and how credit union leaders need to think about managing employees. In this report, Filene Fellow Sekou Bermiss revisits the primary insights from research produced by the Center for the War for Talent and highlights the key issues that credit unions must consider in how they manage the attraction and retention of employees.

What is the research about? 

The coronavirus pandemic has upended the normative structures within organizations. As members have begun to expect better levels of service, credit unions have changed their training practices to better equip employees in providing stellar digital service to the membership (Ogden 2020). Most prominently, the pandemic has forced many organizations to transition most of the workforce to operate remotely. The initial obstacle was learning how to adapt to new workflows while maintaining normal business operations (Bermiss 2020a). As time has passed, however, credit union leaders need to think about how to operate in the “new normal.”

Recruiting and selecting new employees can seem quite arduous under pandemic conditions. Much of the process of recruiting new employees and introducing them to the culture of the organization is hindered by a lack of in-person interaction. Retaining staff during a pandemic can be equally demanding and requires a shift in mind-set from simple retention to addressing and improving employee engagement. This report also outlines how analytics can be leveraged to improve both attraction and retention efforts. Each section highlights important factors that research suggests are likely to impact how credit unions can better address pandemic-related shifts and better position themselves for a post-pandemic future.

What are the credit union implications? 

Recruiting new employees and retaining current staff can seem quite arduous under pandemic conditions. This report provides a number of insights for making adjustments that can help improve outcomes:

  • Improve remote (and in-person) search and screen evaluations by adopting a structured interview process.
  • Signal growth opportunities beyond advertised positions to improve the quality of your candidate pool. 
  • Signal the community impact of your organization to help increase the number of reliable candidates who are sincerely interested in working to advance your mission. 
  • Maintain flexibility in addressing post-pandemic questions and policies around remote work, as needs and outcomes may continue to shift. 
  • Revisit benefits offerings to better align them with changing employee priorities. 
  • Create more equitable outcomes by addressing disparities in how the pandemic is affecting employees and by ensuring fair pathways to promotions. 
  • Address employee burnout and encourage leadership to model a sustainable work-life balance.
  • Realign corporate social responsibility work to address pressing community needs and employee priorities.
  • Foster better use of analytics to identify pandemic-related shifts and assess the viability of solutions to improve employee attraction and retention strategies.

There is a lot of uncertainty about what the economy will look like in the future. Credit union staffing models are certain to continue to shift as leaders address changing conditions and needs. Flexibility appears to be the key to approaching this uncertainty and to determining which pre-coronavirus policies and traditions should carry over and which ones should be done away with for good.

Filene thanks its members and Inner Circle sponsors for helping support this research from the Center for War for Talent.

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