Millennials, the 82-million-strong generation roughly between 18 and 34 years old, are fast becoming one of the most impactful in U.S. history. And because their worldview and approach to the workplace is significantly different from their baby boomer and generation X predecessors, they are often a mystery to many employers. Golden 1 Credit Union is one local company that has succeeded at attracting millennials, retaining approximately 80 percent of workers under 35 over the past year. Millennials now make up approximately 500 of their 1,500 employees, or around 34 percent. We sat down recently with Erica Taylor, Golden 1 Vice President of Communications & Community Relations and last year’s Young Professional of the Year, to talk about the credit union’s efforts to attract and retain younger employees and customers.
One of the biggest questions in business today is how to attract and retain younger workers, mostly millennials and younger members of generation X. What is the Golden 1 philosophy in this regard?
We strive for the ‘people helping people’ philosophy. It’s not just a philosophy for attracting younger workers; it’s a philosophy for the credit union as a whole. It’s helping people with some basic stuff, yet it’s basic stuff that has a profound impact on lives. The things that you think are little things — your first car, your first home, a checking account that doesn’t nickel and dime you — these little things help people with their future. And we think and hope that philosophy is attractive to a generation that wants to make a difference, that wants to do things of substance and that wants to do more than make a bunch of money and keep up with the Joneses.
Generation Collaboration:Unlike baby boomers, who thrived on individual achievement, millennials are renowned for being the generation brought up to love working on teams. That’s perfect for Golden 1’s culture, according to Erica Taylor. “The culture here is very collaborative and like a family,” she says, noting the credit union specifically looks for new hires that can handle working regularly in a team environment. Golden 1 also supports employee growth. “We have a robust training and development program, and opportunities for leadership development and to learn unique segments of the job,” Taylor says.
What are some of the unique challenges related to younger workers?
The challenges we face are like those of any business. We all want the best and the brightest to work for us. But it has to be a good cultural fit or it’s not going to work out for either party. I think doing our due diligence in ensuring it’s a good fit is a big part of it. The culture here is very important. Our core values are service excellence, integrity, respect and financial stability. Those are written everywhere, and it affects our decisions every day and how we treat our members. But it’s not only how we treat our membership, it’s how we treat each other as employees and how we interact. It’s really like a big family and if someone isn’t a fit, it’s not going to lead to success for anyone. I would say that’s our biggest challenge. But again, those are challenges any organization faces. I don’t think they’re unique to us.
Banks, and particularly credit unions, are not always so adept at social media. But Golden 1 seems to have taken to it very well. What is your philosophy around the use of social media for attracting a younger customer base?
We use social media as a listening tool, and I think that’s powerful stuff. If someone has an issue and they’re of a younger generation, it may be more convenient — or it may be just more comfortable — to tap out a tweet than it would be for someone from a different generation, who needs to go into a bank and actually speak to someone. I think we are pretty responsive and listen really well at that level. We have a full-time social media manager who is able to listen and respond in real time and, if it’s a problem that needs to go to a specific area, make sure that it gets followed through on. We’ve also recognized that social media is an avenue for communication, that it’s an avenue to do business. In order to compete with the large banks of the world, we have to offer the same — if not better — tools and resources in that space. And we can use it to tell our story. We get to talk about the great partners we have in the community, though we use different social media platforms for different things. LinkedIn would be where we advertise for jobs or share some thoughts on leadership, things we think are pertinent to the business audience. Twitter can be anything from member acquisition or member outreach to sharing a quick picture from a cool partnership event, or something we were doing with the Kings. It’s the same with Facebook. It can give us a little more room to share the heart and soul of the credit union and what we’re trying to do in the community, and more importantly what our community partners are doing for this community.
What role has your involvement in the new arena played in that?
It’s certainly part of the greater effort to revitalize the downtown core. That effort is, in many ways, about attracting and retaining young talent. It’s about making the Sacramento region a destination, not only for visitors but for people who are looking for a place to live, put down roots, start businesses or to become employees of established businesses. And we’re proud to be a part of it. And it’s absolutely part of the reason we did it. We want Golden 1 to be known by people as a great employer, headquartered here in Sacramento, which is a great community that has amazing amenities, like Golden 1 Center. It all ties in. It’s all a part of this bigger puzzle of making this the very best place it can be, making sure we have a talented and deep bench of employees to bring us into the future. Golden 1 is continuing to grow, and we’re going to have workforce needs. We need smart, talented, driven individuals to join us.
Social media can also be brutal, with one negative tweet or hashtag practically capable of bringing a company down. How do you manage that possibility? Is that even possible?
For one, we have a dedicated full-time staff, not interns like some giant companies you read about — companies who have their summer interns running their social media. We make sure it’s a highly qualified social media expert who is managing that for us here. And they also don’t operate in a vacuum. There are multiple people who touch our social media, whether it’s the original content or responding to a query. That’s less to make sure we don’t make mistakes but more to make sure that our social media use is robust, engaging and relevant. I think also our hearts are in the right place. We’re doing this to have a conversation, to listen to people. Quite honestly, I can say it’s not a sales strategy or a member acquisition strategy. And I think because we are really trying to listen and share the good, and because we manage it as well as we can, we can avoid some of the pitfalls that other companies or politicians have unfortunately fallen into.