NAFCU Services Blog

Sep 30, 2021

5 Tips on Staying Competitive from Industry Leaders

By Randy Salser, President, NAFCU Services

When we asked leading CEOs to talk about the future of the workplace at the recent CEOs and Senior Executives Conference, we got a lot more. We got their insights on what it will take to compete with that workforce (wherever it lives and gathers), and the kinds of opportunities that are ripe for the taking. Here are their top tips for gaining a competitive advantage this year.

1.  Stay aggressive when others are tentative

Our CEOs were unapologetic about pursuing growth during the crisis, and made it clear that they’re angling for more. And they didn’t mind dancing on the missteps of banking competitors. One leader said that a growth emphasis served their institution well coming out of the global financial crisis, and running the same playbook during pandemic response was equally advantageous. Another made clear that maintaining continuity of service while some competing banks closed branches led to market growth.

Infographic2.  Think twice about grading performance on a curve

Unprecedented disruption called for unprecedented shifts in not just how work is done, but on how results are measured. But there’s a risk of getting too comfortable with fuzzier expectations. Leniency in the face of unusual circumstances has an expiration date.

One leader said they’re getting back to tangible metrics and quantifiable results, even if the method of getting there remains outside the in-office mold. Without those anchors, the entire purpose could continue to drift, particularly as the world opens up and new distractions and options present themselves. There will always be leisure activities that tempt someone away from job responsibilities.

Another said that their organization remained committed to budget goals and growth plans, and so built maintaining those performance goals into the three pillars of pandemic response, along with employee protection and team building.

3.  Be ready for things to move fast—really, really fast

Our CEOs looked skeptically on the idea that the reopening of the economy will mostly be characterized by a gentle, gradual return to normal. One leader said that consumer patience is primed to be shorter than ever after a year-plus of frustrations, so the organizations ready to meet those demands whenever and wherever they occur will be the ones who join in the growth they see ahead.

Speed will challenge credit unions which highly prize the balance of the traditional nine-to-five workday. Everyone will have to face the growing reality that when members are ready to talk about loans at 7 PM, someone will be out there willing to service that need.

4.  Don’t lose sight of the resilience and flexibility you’ve already demonstrated

One of the interesting themes we heard a few different ways was how smoothly so many credit unions were able to pivot at least some of their workforce to remote settings. Organizations feeling tentative about disrupting either their old model or any emergency measures would do well to remember that people can roll with more than one set of changes, and that so many credit unions pivoted operations to home offices in the span of a single day.

There’s still room to pay more attention to mental wellness check-ins and sensitivity as people adjust to yet another set of working conditions. But sensitivity can also come with the understanding that good teammates are flexible as well.

5.  Use the disruption of changing workforce dynamics to your advantage

Our CEOs didn’t all agree on the best workforce model or back-to-office priorities. But they were all savvy enough to recognize that the path they’ve chosen might appeal to talent from other industries and organizations. The ability to recruit talent from around the country is a reality that some of the CEOs plan to leverage. 

For more predictions on workforce structure and operations, check out my other post about the panel here or view the entire session here.