Jan 01 2006

Employee Perceptions of Credit Unions: A Pilot Study

Report  
Number  
113

This project evaluates how credit union employees think about credit unions in general, about their own credit union in particular, and to what extent those beliefs are shared.

John B. Gatewood
Lehigh University
John W. G. Lowe
Cultural Analysis Group
Report Number 113

Executive Summary

In the world of credit unions, there are over 200,000 staff members. Each one of these credit union employees serves a functional purpose: Debbie is a lending officer, Kathi is a teller, Bob is a marketing manager and Lois is a chief executive officer. Beyond these functional roles, your employees also represent the credit union to the membership and general public. When a member walks into a credit union to close a loan, deposit a check or withdraw funds, a credit union employee is usually involved in the process. With the advent of remote technologies, the human factor of member-to-employee contact is still present, since the design of technology solutions is facilitated by credit union staff. One could make a strong case that credit unions should market the credit union to the staff before marketing it to members, because the most powerful impression that members and potential members hold of the credit union comes from interaction with the staff.

The Filene Research Institute believes that credit union employee attitudes about credit unions are an important managerial issue and the Institute should take an initial step in researching this topic. Clearly, the influence that 200,000 individual credit union employees have on the image of all credit unions cannot be understated.

What is the research about?

This pilot study worked with a group of 30 credit union employees from two credit unions, at all levels of responsibility and with a variety of ages, gender, length of employment, and professional experience. In this report we provide results and implications of what credit union employees think about their credit union, and about credit unions in general. When we say “what do employees think” about the credit union, we mean more than a superficial response. The most important motivators and influences are often subconscious images and values that an employee may not be aware of, or may be unable to articulate.

What are the credit union implications?

Some of the key potential implications from this report include:

  • Credit unions can leverage employees’ beliefs to distinguish their institution from the competition.
  • Credit unions can put employee beliefs to work in member interactions, thereby increasing the level of service effectiveness and in explaining the “credit union difference.”
  • Credit unions can better educate employees about the “member.” Past empirical evidence indicates credit union employees provide excellent member service; however, a better understanding of members’ needs could help transform “fast, accurate and friendly” service into a deeper, more memorable experience. Additionally, credit unions may want to better encourage employees to use the services of the credit union to grow the first-hand appeal and benefits of being a credit union member.