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Credit union challenge: ramping up staff for new branches

Rob Sabo
rsabo@nnbw.biz

When Greater Nevada Credit Union opened a new branch on Mae Anne Avenue in northwest Reno in spring, it faced the task of hiring a full staff to service new and existing members.

And with new branches coming online in North Valleys and Elko later this year, Greater Nevada again must scour a rapidly shrinking pool of talent to staff new locations.

As credit union membership grows and unemployment continues to fall in the Truckee Meadows, growing and maintain staffing levels at area credit unions becomes a paramount issue. Joyce Whitney-Silva, Greater Nevada’s chief financial officer who also oversees the credit union’s human resources and recruitment efforts, says it has become more challenging to fill vacancies in a timely manner at existing credit union branches.

It’s almost easier to staff a brand-new branch with a round of new hires than it is to find that occasional employee to join existing staff, Whitney-Silva says. Greater Nevada Credit Union maps out hiring for new branches well ahead of projected openings, which makes it easier than hiring a single employee when a vacancy arises.

“If we have got eight to 11 people to hire, we are able to do that well in advance,” she says. “Those are much easier than the one-off that comes up unexpectedly.”

Dennis Flannigan, president and CEO of Great Basin Federal Credit Union, says recruitment and retention don’t pose much of a problem since the majority of staff at Great Basin are long-term employees. Management has remained unchanged since Flannigan joined the credit union seven years ago.

“The recession created a place where people were afraid to move, but the people selected to key positions have been in place since I have been president, and 60 percent of the staff has been here over 10 years,” Flannigan says.

If Great Basin does need help with a skilled position, it often uses a subcontractor rather than bringing on a permanent full-time person, he adds.

Finding employees with the skills to work at a credit union is more than just hiring someone with a background in banking, Whitney-Silva says. Sucessful credit union employees have more intangible skills than simply being able to balance a cash till at the end of a shift.

“The whole philosophy of a credit union is people helping people. We get a large number of people who come to us that have been working for large banks and want to leave that behind and work at organization where the focus is on the people. But it’s not about being able to balance cash. That’s not as important as being able to build relationships with members and peers and other staff, as well as in the community. From a long-term basis, those are the quality people we want to get.”

Though the new regional office in Elko does pose some slight geographical challenges, Greater Nevada Mortgage has had an office there, which makes it much easier for the credit union to expand its footprint in northeastern Nevada.

Greater Nevada has moved away from tradition recruiting methods and often uses social media to find new employees, Whitney-Silva says. Referrals from existing employees also lead to many new hires. The credit union also replaced its vice president of human resources with a VP of people to emphasize the renewed focus on the credit union’s employees.