Credit unions, faced with a smaller technical talent pool, must look to current trends to win over candidates.
Since mid-2022, the talent trend nationally has swung from a shortage of technical talent to layoffs at large technology companies. The US tech sector has cut more than 136,500 workers by April this year on top of more than 93,000 in 2022. These cuts are from large companies, including Meta and Amazon, and startups like Shift and Roofstock.
It’s a different story for credit unions. No matter the credit union size or location, tech employees are still difficult to find and retain. But why? Anecdotal evidence suggests that many laid-off tech workers have severance packages and are not immediately looking for work. Meanwhile, many who are still working are trading happiness for stability given the unknowns of switching jobs in a tough economy. The result is a smaller tech talent pool for credit unions.
There are three ways you can take advantage of current trends to attract and retain valuable tech team members.
1. Look at the Cloud
Secure, compliant technology systems are a must, regardless of the size of the credit union. Big problems can occur if you are short of workers with the right skills to do the job. Budget constraints, especially in an uncertain economic climate, mean that tech teams of two to three do the majority of day-to-day IT work, even at mid- to large-sized credit unions. To stay effective and engaged, technical workers must stay abreast of new cyber threats and technology, and have time to look for ways to make IT more efficient. They cannot do that if there is little time available to venture away from daily IT maintenance. Losing even one disgruntled person from a small team can leave a credit union in crisis.
If your credit union is in a similar situation, consider a move to the cloud. Rapid technological changes compounded with economic and workforce ups and downs are driving more credit unions to outsource IT functions. Good outsourcers become an extension of your team. Look for an outsourcer that knows credit unions and can provide a ready-made environment and customized services to meet your compliance and operational requirements.
Operating in a public cloud environment will not eliminate your IT responsibilities. It only changes the skills you need to perform them. But credit unions moving to custom private or community cloud environments are reducing the challenges associated with retaining and improving tech team members by shifting a majority of this burden to their outsourcer. More importantly, it enables them to focus their valuable technical workers on more strategic and engaging priorities tied to their core business rather than routine maintenance.
Recognizing that they are not in a tech environment where they can easily find technical resources to manage their own environment, the leaders of the University of Hawaii Federal Credit Union ($807 million, Honolulu), for example, have partnered with our CUSO to access to cloud technology and world-class data centers, as well as specialized technology that protects against ransomware. They have since been able to refocus their tech staff on more rewarding work like mobile and self-service banking, making it easier to retain the team they have.
2. Make your technical roles more attractive
The news is full of stories about companies’ back-to-the-office mandates. Many are the same companies that are also laying off technical talent. The unemployed say goodbye to the balance between work and life. Increased workloads and 10-hour days are the new norm for many of these technical workers. It’s no surprise that more than 37% of workers say they are “very likely to look for a new job in the next 12 months, and they will look for higher pay, flexible work hours and remote work options,” according to a 2023 Bankrate survey.
Consider the back-to-office trend to make your tech positions more attractive to current employees and new tech talent from companies scaling back on flexible work options. According to a Labor Department survey conducted in August and September 2022, approximately 33% of financial institutions had some or all employees working remotely. If youare among the 67% that do not offer flexible work models, transforming operations to support hybrid environments for your tech roles can boost morale and help with recruiting efforts.
We continue to offer the hybrid work model we have perfected through the pandemic, asking employees to come into the office for team building events and as needed to support our business. Giving our technical teams the flexibility they desire helps keep our turnover at 4%, well below the double-digit technology industry average. It also enables us to hire technical staff to work remotely from other cities or states.
Here are a few more tips to make your tech roles more attractive:
- Use well-defined goals to attract talent. Technical workers prefer to judge their performance on specific outcomes, not subjective measures.
- Commitment to growing skills. Strengthen career paths for new and permanent employees. Budget for entry-level positions and grow their skills through individual development plans.
- Leverage your credit union’s positive impact on the community. Include these and other messages about your culture in messages.
- Recruit tech hubs to your city, highlighting benefits such as lower living costs, good schools or other quality of life benefits.
- Offer competitive wages and value the skills. Employees want fair compensation as well as a positive culture.
3. Improve Morale
Quiet shutdown is real, and it often happens when employee morale is low from overwork, frustration, or outside circumstances. Build relationships of trust with your employees to give them reason to stay loyal and engaged.
Showing empathy for all employees helps maintain and improve morale. We encourage leaders to meet one-on-one and hold team meetings in person rather than virtually. Even though many members of the tech team don’t report to me directly, I check in with them regularly to see how they’re doing. I enjoy building relationships with them, and the personal interaction lets them know I care and helps me understand how to make their experience better. We also plan team building and community service events every quarter. These events build camaraderie, help maintain morale, and contribute to the positive company culture that tech employees seek.
These suggestions require thoughtful analysis of your credit union’s goals and culture, and your decisions can have a lasting impact on your technical workforce. Credit unions that create and maintain sustainable relationships with their employees can thrive and better prepare for what may come next.
Ron Parker COO SwitchThink Solutions Phoenix, Ariz.