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Top Five Plays for Building an All-Star Executive Team

Creating and maintaining an effective management team – with the expertise and leadership skills required to successfully guide your credit union toward its performance and member service goals – can be a bit like building a championship sports team. In both cases, finding individuals with the level of talent and drive to sustain exceptional results over the long-term requires a comprehensive commitment to effective recruiting, onboarding and development.

From my work with clients, I have seen first-hand that the need to replace leadership-quality talent has become more critical as Baby Boomers continue to set their sights on retirement. If your credit union is preparing to induct long-time leaders into your Hall of Fame, preparing to add specialized expertise to keep your service delivery up-to-date, or losing key employees to the competition, the following five steps can help you gain access to the caliber of talent you need to compete successfully for the long term:

  • Define your culture. Every organization has a culture based on the values, attitudes and behaviors that are reflected every day – whether or not it is the result of a well-defined strategy. And culture can play a pivotal role in your ability to attract and retain top-notch leadership talent in today’s competitive environment.

 Do you have a winning culture? Look around your organization, talk to your staff – from managers to entry-level employees – and visit with your account holders to gauge their perceptions regarding whether or not your credit union is a pleasant place to work and a comfortable, secure place to conduct business. If you find a disconnect between your stated values, the actual work environment and the behaviors demonstrated daily, it will be difficult – if not impossible – to maintain the type of culture that attracts and retains cream-of-the-crop employees.

  • Hire complementary talent. No champion-level sports franchise would focus all of its recruiting efforts on one set of skills and forego efforts to build a well-balanced team. Likewise, it is important for credit unions to maintain a management roster comprised of individuals with the expertise necessary to oversee every business and operational sector in the organization. This will help your credit union remain profitable while providing the level of service that account holders expect. Does your organization have the right people in the right positions for optimal performance?
  • Avoid the “one and done” hires. Every college sports season brings a flurry of excitement from fans when their team is fortunate enough to snag one of the year’s top-rated recruits. However, watching that game-changer move on to the professional league after one year can be devastating. Ironically, that scenario is playing out more and more in the financial services sector as the number of Millennial workers has surpassed the ranks of Baby Boomers and Gen Xers in the workplace.

According to the Pew Research Center, Millennials now represent more than one-third of American workers. Some employment estimates project that number to grow to as much as 75 percent by 2025. And while it’s essential to constantly re-green the workforce, the younger generation has substantially different short- and long-term job views and expectations than their elders.

So what can your credit union do to create an environment where younger professionals are assimilated successfully with more seasoned executives to build their skill sets and establish roots in your brand for the long term?

While much has been written about how to successfully manage Millennial employees, the truth is that the workplace population represents a mix of generations – all with different job and lifestyle expectations. So it’s important to provide consistent management strategies across the board. For instance, every employee – regardless of age or job description – needs to have a clear understanding of his or her responsibilities and know what is expected in regard to priorities, goals and performance.

And no matter what level an employee has reached within the organization, everyone needs to receive regular feedback. This can be recognition for a job well done; the suggestion of a new strategy to deliver better results; or available training that can hone new or existing skills that add value to the organization.

Effective two-way communication is also essential for making employees feel like they are valued. While this requires existing leaders to spend time actively seeking out their employees to find out their views and ideas on important issues, the effort can result in new ideas – often based on individual face-to-face interaction with members – that can help to improve service and performance.

Remember, talented professionals in any organization expect to spend their time on worthwhile assignments that motivate them. If the momentum starts to wane and they don’t feel valued, they may start to look for other opportunities – whether they’re 25 or 55.

By taking the time to mentor young employees and help more seasoned professionals perfect their skills, you will have a much better chance of maintaining a multi-generational workforce that is engaged and committed to your credit union’s mission and success.

  • Maintain consistent bench strength. While it would be great if organizations could always count on their “starters” to carry them through to ensure uninterrupted consistency, there will always be openings to fill due to institutional growth, internal promotions and job changes. But you can avoid starting from scratch every time there’s a vacancy in your credit union by developing your employees’ skills and expertise through an internal training and development plan.

Two primary advantages to cultivating budding internal talent for future opportunities are 1) their familiarity with the institution’s culture, staff and daily workflow; and 2) their established working relationships with members. Plus, if they have been exposed to the strategic planning process, they are likely already engaged in moving the credit union toward its long-term goals.

In other words, give the promising rookies the playbook and help them expand their capabilities to fulfill their leadership potential.

  • Recruit with an eye to the future. Staying on top of the game in today’s competitive environment requires playing with a full roster – from the C-suite to the back office, loan department and member service positions. You can lessen the impact of unexpected vacancies and reduce short-term leadership engagements by incorporating succession planning into your credit union’s strategic plan. This will help when it comes to more accurately forecasting your hiring needs to maintain a well-rounded staff that is armed with all of the essential skills.

Rely on professional scouting capabilities

If you don’t have internal recruiting expertise, an executive search and recruiting professional can help you address the myriad recruiting and hiring challenges that your credit union will inevitably face from time to time. But don’t wait until circumstances lead to unexpected openings in important positions. Taking a lead-off position – by giving the experts the opportunity to get to know your culture and hiring needs in advance – will keep you ahead of the curve when a personnel vacancy occurs.

The thrill of the game in any sport involves looking beyond the occasional position changes and replacement players to the overall body of accomplishments. By establishing and nurturing a strong culture, developing realistic job descriptions and providing consistent workplace expectations – all complemented by effective communications practices – you can ensure that your credit union maintains the level of expertise and sense of teamwork necessary to be a leader in the big leagues.

[x_alert heading=”About JMFA” type=”info”]From executive management to contract positions, JMFA offers recruitment services exclusively for financial institutions. Our experienced industry insight plus proven search and recruitment strategies consistently lead us to connecting the best people with the right organizations. To learn more, contact us at (866) 264-5017 or Or, for information about other services offered please visit[/x_alert]

[x_alert heading=”About the author, Charles Shanley” type=”info”]Charles Shanley has specialized in executive recruiting and project management for more than 20 years. He has a solid background in all facets of Executive Search and has extensive experience dealing with retained search at the President/CEO level. His expertise also includes executive assessment/coaching, training and management of new recruiters in the industry as well as client management and development. Charles has been a speaker on HR related topics such as “Succession Planning,” “Retention Strategies,” “Career Advice” and “How to Attract Top Talent.” Prior to joining JMFA, he worked for several years as a recruiting executive in large recruiting firms, specializing in financial institutions for retained, contingency and contract/project placement. Prior experience also includes placing top executives in the areas of finance and accounting as well as engineering. The avid outdoorsman received a Bachelor of Business Administration from Angelo State University, is a member of the Society for Human Resource Management and has received his SPHR (Senior Professional in Human Resources) and CFS (Certified Financial Supplier) certifications.[/x_alert]

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