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Where Do Breakthrough Strategies Come From?

Via Credit Union Magazine
April 1, 2015

Breakthrough strategies—such as those that Ford, Apple, Netflix, Starbucks, and Google used to disrupt their respective industries—are rare, according to strategy business. So where do they come from? How were they developed? And what can leaders learn from their example?

While each is distinctive, breakthrough strategies generally share four characteristics, according to Ken Favaro, a senior partner with Strategy& (formerly Booz & Co.):

1. Responding to a big problem sparks a flash of insight.

2. Precedents from unexpected places—perhaps another industry or field of study—offer at least a partial solution.

3. Creative combination of ideas, products, and design allows the idea to take shape.

4. People, not companies, develop them. Breakthroughs are often disruptive and markets and organizations often respond with barriers. A person who believes in the strategy must fight for it.

The bottom line: Breakthrough strategies aren’t born in boardrooms, on executive retreats, or during brainstorming sessions.

“Instead, they start with individuals working on big, specific challenges who find novel ideas in unexpected places, creatively combine them into innovative strategies, and personally take those strategies to fruition—against all odds,” Favaro says.

Empowering Your Teams

Lana J. Chandler
March 30, 2015

Empowerment is allowing employees to make day-to-day decisions that affect their job duties, within guidelines and parameters established by management,” explains Gayla R. Sherry, president of Gayla R. Sherry Associates in Edmond, Oklahoma. When leaders effectively empower employees, the organization reaps multiple benefits such as improved client service, more productivity in performing job duties, better teamwork, self-motivated teams, and creative problem solving.

Empowerment—done correctly—can impact your bottom line. Clients and employees are more likely to stay with your organization when they don’t have to waste time and effort jumping a lot of hoops for every decision. “If an employee is trained, authorized and empowered to make decisions, generally the client will achieve his/her goal expeditiously. For example, if an employee can make a decision ‘on-the-spot,’ the client does not have to wait for management approval, which in some cases can be miles away. Also, the employee’s morale is likely to be high, as the employee will have a comprehensive understanding of how his/her work affects the ‘big picture,’” says Sherry.

Real-World Examples

“As a customer, I really resent a customer service person who has to go to the supervisor for every decision, even when it is a small issue. I had a problem with the dry cleaners as they lost an outfit. I asked for a refund, and the cashier had to ask a supervisor. After I waited, the cashier told me they don’t do refunds but just credit the account,” Sherry continues. “This seems to me to be an area ripe for empowerment, with guidelines of price, how long the customer has done business, if it was clearly the cleaners’ fault, etc.”

With front-line employees constantly processing transactions and interacting with clients, financial institutions offer prime opportunities for empowerment. Sherry cites these examples:

Two Essentials

“Empowerment and how to use it effectively can be developed in employees. However, the parameters, guidelines and training must be in place for empowerment to be effective,” says Sherry. She highlights two major essentials:

1. Trust.

The organization’s culture must be one that includes a high level of trust between the manager and the employee. “The employee has to earn the trust of management that he/she can handle the decisions that are empowered to them. The culture cannot be one that causes fear of making mistakes,” explains Sherry.

“I won’t mention the company or department where I was a manager, for confidentiality reasons. This was a department where I was transferred to become manager,” Sherry says. “I thought it would be a great idea to ‘empower’ the bookkeeper to make decisions about how her work was done, within the parameters I had set. The outcome was a complete bust.”

“After the fact, I learned the previous manager had established such an atmosphere of fear and punishment for making mistakes, to the extent this employee was paralyzed at the thought  of making her own decisions. Apparently, the previous manager told this employee, ‘You don’t get paid to think, you get paid to do what I tell you to do,” Sherry continues.

“While my intentions were good, I was naïve in believing that empowerment is always a good thing. As I slowly built trust with the employees, we ultimately were able to establish some decision-making at the employee level. I had operated under the myth that employees will jump at the chance to make decisions that affect the work they do. While this is true to some extent, there are other factors that must be in place.”

2. Training and tools

The employee has to have the training and tools to make decisions in order for empowerment to work. “Employees need to understand regulations and policies that affect decisions, and also need to have the knowledge of how their decisions affect other employees, departments and the organization,” Sherry says. “A high level of knowledge about the processes involved in the work, as well as software and other ‘hard factors’ are important for the employee to know before empowerment will be effective.”

How to Determine Empowerment Levels

Empowerment levels should vary by employee. In other words, smart leaders don’t take a “one-size-fits-all” approach when it comes to either new or long-term employees. It has to be tailored to the individual. Sherry offers these guidelines:

Most employees already feel bad when making a mistake, so there is usually no productive outcome from “beating someone up about it.” Learning from mistakes is one of the most effective methods for development.

Tips for Success

Empowered employees are typically more productive, loyal, and enthused about contributing to the organization’s success. To reap the benefits of empowerment, Sherry offers these tips:

Gayla R. Sherry Associates is an Oklahoma-based HR consulting firm. Contact Sherry at 1-405-208-2679 or This story appeared in Branch Manager’s Letter at and is reprinted with permission. Contact publisher Lana J. Chandler at 304-343-0206 or


Tips for Keeping New Employees Happy and Productive after They Are in Place

Charles Shanley
March 25, 2015

Getting new employees in the door is just the initial step in maintaining a high-quality workforce. Once you have the right people in place, it is essential to help them transition successfully into the organization’s culture, provide them with the tools they need, and support their skills development in order for them to be productive and happy for the long term.

According to HR industry data, half of outside senior hires fail within the first 18 months and nearly half of all hourly workers leave new jobs within the first four months. Banks and credit unions can avoid such high turnover rates and transition new hires into productive team members by implementing an effective on-boarding program and making it a priority throughout the organization.

Begin the Process before a New Employee’s Start Date

A successful on-boarding process begins before a new hire officially accepts the job and continues past the 90-day orientation and evaluation period. To begin, make sure you have a job description for every position that specifies such things as a job title, where the position falls on the organizational chart, the assigned supervisor, job qualifications, position overview, physical requirements, as well as salary and benefits.

Next, develop a check list of everything that needs to be covered when a new staff member comes on board. The list may vary, depending on an employees’ position, but it should guarantee that all new hires are provided the information, resources and support they need to help them get up to speed as quickly as possible.

Before the new employee’s first day, make sure his or her office is ready to go with all the necessary furniture and technology. And don’t forget to supply important information such as a computer user name and password, software and user manuals, printer access, email and phone logins. Supplies, such as business cards, desk or door name plaques, and ID badge should be ordered and in place. Also provide any keys the employee will need and explain if there are any areas he or she will not be able to access, and why not.

Also, consider having the employee visit the office before the first official day on the job to receive the employee handbook and complete some of the HR paperwork. This will allow him or her to spend the first day in more productive activities.

Make a Good Impression from Day One

Make sure new employees feel at home as soon as they step into the door on Day 1. Designate someone on staff who will be responsible for on-boarding new hires. This person will serve as a buddy throughout the introductory period and be the go-to resource whenever the new employee has any questions or needs.

Plan a facility tour that highlights the location of the restroom, kitchen or lounge area and offices of key personnel. Introduce the new hire to the entire staff – including leadership, contemporaries and subordinates. Explain the role each employee fills in the organization and how he or she might interface with the new employee. A good way to help the new employee get acquainted with co-workers is to make lunch plans for the first week. Whether one-on-one or in small groups, this is a great way to build working relationships, help familiarize the new staff member with the area and avoid the awkward feeling of being left alone when everyone else leaves over the lunch hour.

Provide an explanation of the institution’s history, goals, business philosophy and organizational chart. This will immediately provide the new employee with an idea of how he or she fits into the big picture. Set aside time for the new employee to ask questions about the organization, as well as the expectations for his or her role and the opportunities for growth within the organization.

After the initial introductions and training are complete, it’s important to set aside some time to review the information that has been provided during the first few weeks of employment. Don’t assume that new staff members will remember everything they have been told as they were getting accustomed to their new work environment.

For C-level personnel, provide an overview of any committees or special projects they will be assigned. Identify the institution’s board members and explain a little about their history with the organization, along with their strengths and community involvement. As soon as it can be arranged, provide introductions to board members, community groups and civic leadership, especially if the employee is new to the area.

Getting Started on the Right Foot Can Result in a Long, Steady Employee Relationship

Remember, first impressions are lasting. While many organizations spend time and money searching for, recruiting and hiring a new employee, many drop the ball when it comes to making that new hire feel at home and providing the tools and work environment necessary to ensure that he or she will be happy, successful and a long-term asset to the organization. On-boarding is the number one thing that banks and credit unions can do to make new employees feel like an important part of the team right away and set the stage for a long-term, productive workforce.

Charles Shanley is executive vice president of recruitment services for John M. Floyd and Associates, a Baytown, Texas-based consulting firm that provides comprehensive services for earnings enhancement, expense reduction, organizational workflow, executive recruiting, account acquisition programs, and sales and service programs.


CUNA Mutual partners with D+H

CUNA News Now
March 25, 2015

CUNA Mutual Group announced it will offer a new mortgage payment protection insurance product to credit unions and their members through an alliance with D+H , a CUNA Strategic Services strategic alliance provider.

Through the alliance, CUNA Mutual Group will integrate its new mortgage payment protection insurance product directly into MortgagebotPOS, D+H's residential mortgage protection product to cover members in the event of unexpected job losses, death or disability.
"This alliance means that credit unions will have a new critical service to offer their members. It also provides a strong competitive advantage for the credit union industry," said Chuck Cashman, vice president of business development and strategic alliances for CUNA Mutual Group.
Through the alliance, credit unions can provide quotes and enroll members in the new insurance offering. CUNA Mutual Group plans to launch the product later this year and will include complimentary loan officer training for the credit unions that leverage it.
Mortgage payment protection is voluntary insurance designed to cover mortgage payments following a borrower's death, disability or involuntary unemployment.
"Just as today's potential homeowners are concerned with their ability to secure a mortgage, they're also concerned with their ability to keep their home," said Alan Bahr, director of product management for CUNA Mutual Group. "It is important that we help credit unions ensure members can maintain the security of their families' long-term financial health, including their home."

Reprinted with permission from CUNA News Now.

CUs Struggle with Rising Health-Care Costs

Credit Union Magazine
March 18, 2015

Rising health-care costs are taking a toll on the ability of some credit unions—particularly smaller organizations—to provide group health insurance, CUNA’s E-Scan reports.

The overall prevalence of some other major benefits also declined slightly, according to CUNA's 2014-2015 Staff Benefits Report.

“Generally speaking, modest declines for various benefits are more apt to be found among credit unions with less than $100 million in assets than among their larger counterparts,” the report says.

Here's a breakdown of the benefits credit unions overall offer their employees:

Credit unions budgeted an average of about $575,000 for staff benefits expenses. The average expense per full-time employee is roughly $12,750.

(Via Credit Union Magazine)

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