Changing Faces on the Teller Line
It's not news that tellers often leave their jobs on the front line for positions with more prestige and pay. What is news: strategies credit unions use to reduce teller turnover—in some cases more than 50%.
Credit union employee retention dropped to 78% in 2005 from 84% in 2004 (figures available at press time), according to the Credit Union National Association's (CUNA) 2006 Complete Credit Union Staff Salary Survey Report. At the teller position, overall retention averaged 67% in 2005. That means roughly one-third of tellers left their posts last year.
How much does teller turnover cost? A conservative estimate is $2,000 per departing teller, says Mark Twisdale, senior vice president of human resources at $13.8-billion-asset State Employees' Credit Union in Raleigh , North Carolina . That includes training, recruiting, and testing costs, plus intangible factors such as the impact of teller turnover on accuracy and member service.
State Employees' had a turnover problem in 1999, when 44% of its tellers left the credit union. Adding the folks who moved from the teller position to other jobs at the credit union meant the teller turnover ratio actually was about 65%. About one-third of the credit union's 3,370 employees are tellers, so that meant a lot of new faces greeting members.
In response, the credit union organized a teller focus group to identify teller issues and concerns, brainstorm remedies, and develop solutions. The focus group findings were somewhat surprising to management, says Twisdale.
“Pay wasn't the No. 1 issue,” he says. Lack of respect and recognition were the top issues the focus group recognized for why tellers were leaving. “One of the comments we heard at the first meeting was, ‘I'm just a teller.' Well, nobody is ‘just' a teller,” says Twisdale. “Our tellers are critical to us. Most people remember their tellers. They have a greater impact on the member satisfaction level than anybody.”
Suggestions resulting from the focus groups:
In response, State Employees' implemented a Teller Career Path program in 2000. By the end of the first year, teller departures fell to 34% from 44%. By 2003, teller turnover decreased to 18%, where it has remained since.
Now tellers can advance their careers without moving away from the teller line. The Teller Career Path includes various grades of teller positions, from teller trainee to teller services manager and beyond.
Part of the program includes internal training. All employees must complete the base modules within two years to stay at the credit union. From there the training advances to increasingly complex teller operations coinciding with specific job titles, position grades, and compensation levels.
Although compensation wasn't identified as the top incentive, tellers who advance now have the potential to earn more money than member service representatives, which is a disincentive to leave the teller ranks, says Twisdale.
“Not only do we have a philosophy of promoting from within, it's the way we do it,” he says. All new employees start at entry-level positions, except for the information systems department. All employees, including tellers, can earn their CCUE (certified credit union executive) designations, qualify for merit increases, and receive appropriate tuition reimbursement for education and training. Employees receive the same health benefits at the same rate and are fully vested with the credit union's 401(k) plan on their first day of work. “We're also very egalitarian with our benefits and pay structure,” Twisdale adds.
This story first appeared in Credit Union Magazine at www.creditunionmagazine.com and is reprinted with permission.
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