MADISON, Wis. (9/24/08)--Credit union employees have a hard time explaining how credit unions fit into society, according to a new Filene Research Institute study that outlines connections between employees' perceptions of their credit unions and the service provided.
The institute asked anthropologists John B. Gatewood of Lehigh University and John W. Lowe of Cultural Analysis Group to study the dominant views of credit union employees toward their organizations. Results are outlined in a newly released report, Employee Perceptions of Credit Unions: Implications for Member Profitability. The study hypothesizes that credit union success is critically dependent on its employees and is likely to be strongly colored by employee perceptions of credit unions. Employee attitudes influence their work behavior and their interactions with members, and play a significant role in employees' abilities to recruit new members through word of mouth, said Gatewood and Lowe. The findings:
* Employees can't neatly compartmentalize how a credit union fits into society. * Employees agree on the "credit union idea" but have difficulty explaining that idea to external parties. * Employees can identify the parts of the credit union puzzle, but they don't see how they all fit together. * "Trusted" is the highest rated characteristic attributed to credit unions. * Employees younger than 30 and those with higher levels of education are less committed to credit unions. * Significant variance exists across institutions in employee commitment and in the consensus of what a credit union represents.
"Many firms, especially in the financial services industry, present hollow claims on differentiation," said George Hofheimer, Filene chief research officer. "But credit unions are truly different. This study indicates that differentiating factors map very well to what many people view as the ideal financial institution," Hofheimer said. "In short, credit unions have a unique story to tell, and like most really good stories, it takes time to get the pitch right." Researchers asked employees several questions, including:
* How do employees think about credit unions? * What are the areas of consensus and of disagreement? * Do knowledge and attitudes toward credit unions vary in a meaningful way? * How deep does their commitment to the ideology of credit unions go? * How is the image of credit unions projected to members?
The report is available free to institute members and for $125 for non-members. For more information, use the resource links.