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Young Professional Leadership and Career Development in North American Credit Unions

This brief describes efforts to build career development networks for aspiring leaders and raises a number of interesting questions for current credit union leaders about their talent pipeline.

Executive Summary

The Filene report Employee Voice and (Missed) Opportunities in Credit Unions (2010) shows that there are far too many ideas floating around in credit unions that leaders and managers never even hear. In that study of 11 credit unions and thousands of employees, fully 61% of workers reported having at least one business improvement idea that they never shared with decision makers. Many of those ideas were, no doubt, bad; but a few of them were certainly gems. And as credit unions constantly replace their workforces with new or young employees, those employees bring human capital in the form of energy and ideas.

Hiring employees, training employees, and even working side by side with employees are often just precursors on the path toward getting access to those ideas and setting up those employees to be the next generation of leaders.

What is the research about?

The contributors cited in this report acknowledge that they may not be ready for the big job tomorrow, but they still want to make progress in the meantime. They want the next rungs to be accessible, and if those rungs are not accessible, they are willing to work until they are.

But the research is more than a description. It provides a step-by-step guide for concerned leaders, HR professionals, or young strivers themselves to build the steps they feel are missing. And rather than focus on wholesale reinvention, it encourages a measured approach that calls for acknowledging and joining existing programs if they are already in place. But above all, the three case studies and checklists encourage action, which is a direct outgrowth of the Cooperative Trust (formerly the Crash Network), which helps up-and-coming credit union leaders focus on action and creation and ways to make their mark.

What are the credit union implications?

Like any company, credit unions must build ways to identify, encourage, and promote future leaders. But the mandate may be particularly strong at credit unions, whose unique structure and often low profile in the hiring market can make it hard to get and keep the leaders they need.

One of the clearest takeaways is that passion is not enough. Wanting to make a difference and develop professionally are commendable but incomplete. This brief argues for aspiring leaders to learn an early leadership lesson: To be most effective, personal goals must align with company goals. If they don’t, then even well-intentioned projects will probably not attract the attention or support they need.

This report is sponsored by CUNA Mutual Group.