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11 Ideas for Your Credit Union Rewards Program

reward ideas to include in credit union employee recognition programs

In the current market, credit unions have to work harder than ever to attract and retain the very best talent. In this guide, we’ll explore how a credit union rewards program can give your organization the edge. 

The world of work has changed. Generational shifts combined with advancing technology and evolving perspectives following the COVID-19 pandemic have fundamentally altered the way employees think. 

Companies across the globe are grappling with talent shortages and increasing competition to hold onto their best workers. At the same time, employee expectations have shifted. People are no longer looking for a job for life. Instead, they’re looking for a job that fits around their life and they’re not afraid to move in order to secure it. 

It’s a demanding time for employers and especially for credit unions who face unique challenges when it comes to retention and recruitment. So how can organizations leverage their unique proposition and what role can a credit union rewards program play in attracting workers

Table of Contents

The Current State of Credit Union Culture

What is a Credit Union Rewards Program?

11 ideas to include in your credit union rewards program

Best practices for implementing your credit union rewards program


different employee rewards for credit unions

The Current State of Credit Union Culture

A combination of different factors have come together to create a perfect storm in the world of retention and recruitment. 

It all started with the so-called Great Resignation that came in the wake of COVID-19. After lockdowns and restrictions ended, workers across the world began to re-evaluate what they wanted from their jobs. This led to record numbers of people quitting, as they sought fresh challenges and new opportunities. 

Another byproduct of the pandemic was the shift to remote working. Changes that might have previously taken decades to take hold were brought about overnight and even as restrictions lifted, workers continued to expect the same kind of flexible arrangements that they became used to during lockdowns. 

Finally, employers were dealt a one-two punch of falling employee engagement combined with a growing shortage of skilled employees

There are signs that things are starting to improve in 2024 as trends begin to level out. But given the sheer scale of issues facing employers, it’s no wonder that retention and recruitment have shot to the top of organizations’ corporate agendas. 

And credit unions are no different. 

In fact, the financial sector has been hit harder than most with higher levels of employee stress and detachment than many of their counterparts. 

Unique challenges

Which direction the employment market will move in remains to be seen, but one thing that we can be sure about is that credit unions need to focus on attracting and retaining the very best talent to build a resilient workforce. 

The problem, however, is that credit unions face unique challenges when tackling retention and recruitment. That’s particularly true when it comes to compensation, an area where credit unions have traditionally struggled to compete with their commercial counterparts. 

The growing issue of remote and flexible working also presents credit unions with a problem. Today’s employees don’t just want flexible working options, they expect them. But many positions within credit unions require workers to be on-site, reducing their ability to offer flexible working arrangements. 

Unique opportunities

Despite the challenges that they are faced with, credit unions also boast unique opportunities that can help them edge out the competition in the battle for talent. 

Culture is a vital component of the workplace. Workplaces with thriving cultures enjoy a whole host of benefits from increased productivity to burgeoning bottom lines. But one of the biggest boons is in the area of recognition and recruitment. 

That’s because culture is a key part of the decision-making process for modern employees. Indeed for many, it’s the single most important aspect of their decision to stay in their roles or leave for pastures new. It’s information that will be music to the ears of credit unions that can leverage their unique, community-driven missions to attract and retain today’s top talent. 

For a movement that’s been built on the long-held belief of “people helping people” culture can be credit unions’ secret weapon. Now more than ever it’s something that the sector needs to double down on, creating the kind of workplace that employees actively want to be a part of. People love cultures that genuinely care and a credit union rewards program can be a valuable tool to make sure that message is coming across loud and clear. 

current culture at credit unions

What is a Credit Union Rewards Program?

Put simply, a credit union rewards program is designed to acknowledge your employees for their contributions, achievements and behaviors. 

It’s a strategic approach that focuses on building a culture where people feel valued and motivated to perform at their best because when your people feel appreciated at work, the whole business thrives.

Why Do Employee Rewards Matter? 

To understand why rewards matter to credit unions, we need to first understand the role that your employees play. Simply put, your employees are at the core of your credit union’s success. They assist members, sell products and drive every area of your operation. They are the beating heart of your organization, which is why it’s vital to reward them for their efforts. 

But how does rewarding your credit union employees make them perform better? 

Think about the last time someone thanked you for a job well done. It felt pretty good right? It probably encouraged you to work even harder, didn’t it? That, in essence, is the secret power behind employee rewards.  

When you proactively take the time to show your employees that you appreciate their hard work, those employees will feel good about themselves and their efforts. When you show them the role they play in your success, they’ll feel like active stakeholders in it. And when you recognize them for embracing the kind of actions and behaviors that you want to be inherent to your organization’s culture, they’ll amplify those behaviors, setting a positive example for others to follow.

It’s not just hearsay either. The psychological evidence shows us that from engagement and retention to productivity and even profits, employee rewards can have a significant impact on every aspect of your organization. 

How Does a Credit Union Rewards Program Work?

Employee rewards are nothing new. For decades businesses have been giving their people bonuses, service awards and gifts to recognize their efforts. 

And it’s worked.

However, the problem with this kind of ad hoc approach is that it’s scattershot rather than a clearly defined plan. It’s also traditionally something that’s conducted from the top down – reserved for managers and senior leaders rather than the rank and file. A modern credit union rewards program is different because it transforms appreciation into a strategic directive. It also empowers everyone within your organization to celebrate the work of their colleagues and peers. 

When combined it transforms recognition and rewards into a culture of gratitude where employees feel valued and that their efforts, not just their outputs, are appreciated. Best of all, putting your credit union rewards program in place is relatively simple, especially if you use the help of a dedicated platform like Bucketlist. 

employee reward options on the Bucketlist platform

Why Your Credit Union Needs A Rewards Program 

The science behind the power of recognition and rewards is simple psychology. You see, our brains are hardwired to respond to recognition which is why rewarding employees results in higher levels of motivation, engagement and productivity

But the benefits don’t stop there. Here are just some of the ways a credit union rewards program can benefit your organization. 

Supports company culture

Despite the benefits of a thriving culture, building and maintaining one over the long term can be tough. However a credit union rewards program can help you to lay the foundations for your success. 

By rewarding your employees you’re building an environment where people feel appreciated. This in turn helps to foster a sense of belonging, strengthening the bonds between employees and the company they work for. 

Boosts retention

When it comes to boosting retention, a credit union rewards program can play a vital role. It’s about more than just offering financial incentives, instead, it’s the act of acknowledgement that makes a real difference. By consistently reinforcing the feeling of appreciation among your workforce you show them how much they matter to your organization. It demonstrates that you care about them and are committed to their success. This in turn strengthens the bond between employer and employee reducing turnover and improving retention. 

Strengthens teams

Traditional rewards programs take a top-down approach where managers show their appreciation for employees based on their efforts and outputs. However, most modern credit union rewards programs take advantage of the growing trend for peer recognition, where employees are empowered to appreciate one another. Often informal, peer recognition encourages colleagues to recognize each other’s achievements, skills, or efforts. 

This democratizes the act of recognition, but it also strengthens the bonds between people across your company.

Enhances employee engagement

Every organization wants their employees to be engaged.

When your employees are engaged they enjoy their work, but they also work harder, learn faster and are more resilient. There’s a clear link between employee engagement and successful businesses, which means that a credit union rewards program could help to motivate your people. It does this by creating a cycle of positive reinforcement. People are rewarded for their efforts which makes them feel good about their work, which in turn encourages them to feel more invested in the company’s success which makes them work harder in search of further recognition.

Promotes growth

Credit unions understand that happy members are vital to success. When people are happy they share their experiences with friends and family, creating word-of-mouth recommendations that can supercharge your growth. The same is true of your employees. When your employees feel rewarded for their efforts they speak positively about their experience, becoming brand ambassadors that can help to spread that positive message within their own networks.

Improves performance

One of the most significant benefits of a credit union rewards program is that it can have a tangible impact on your bottom line. When your people feel appreciated they’re motivated and engaged. They also know their efforts will be rewarded, which incentivizes them to go the extra mile to achieve objectives. All of this adds up to increased productivity and a noticeable boost to your organization’s performance. 

productivity increases from having a credit union rewards program

By the Numbers: The benefits of implementing a credit union rewards program

68% of HR professionals believe that employee recognition positively influences retention. 

82% of employees consider recognition an essential part of their happiness at work.

Companies with high levels of recognition have a 31% lower turnover rate than those with low recognition.

More than half (53%) of employees would stay longer at their company if they felt more appreciation from their boss. 

40% of employees state they’d put more energy into their work if they were recognised more often. 

25% of employees want recognition for their day-to-day efforts, not just the big wins. 

81% of employees will work harder for an appreciative boss.

11 Ideas to Incorporate Into Your Credit Union Rewards Program 

If you’re looking for inspiration to help create a credit union rewards program that truly engages your people, here are 11 ideas to help get you started. 

1. Recognition can be its own reward

It’s only natural to worry that your budget (or a lack of it) might hamper your credit union rewards program. But the good news is that while money is important, the real value of employee rewards lies in the act of recognition and not the reward itself. Yes, it really is the thought that counts. So make sure that your rewards program offers plenty of opportunities for employee appreciation. Perhaps it’s a company-wide forum where colleagues can thank each other for their efforts or a special shout-out in company meetings, the more touchpoints you create the better. 

2. Additional time off

When it comes to employee rewards, credit unions aren’t always able to offer the same kind of financial incentives as their competitors. But as the old adage goes: “Money doesn’t equal happiness” and that’s particularly true when it comes to engaging your employees. So instead of focusing on dollars and cents get creative with your reward offerings. Paid time off is a great tool to help credit unions make their programs more attractive. Offering extra leave as a reward for a job well done can be a huge incentive for staff who increasingly value work/life balance. 

3. Retention rewards

A Trillion dollars. That’s the cost of voluntary turnover in US businesses every year. It’s a staggering figure, particularly because it’s a problem that is largely avoidable. It’s no wonder then that retention is front-of-mind for credit unions, but alongside your other efforts to hold onto your top talent why not bake retention into your employee rewards program? Rewarding staff for remaining in their roles for 90 days, 120 days, six months and even a whole year is a great way to incentivize new starters and ensure that more people stay in their roles during that difficult onboarding period. 

4. Make the most of milestones

Milestones matter. Whether it’s a birthday or a work anniversary, some occasions are unique to every person in your organization. Often these milestones are a time to reflect, to take stock of achievements and to track progress. By building milestones into your credit union rewards program you can ensure that your people feel recognized. It’s a simple act that shows your people you genuinely care about their personal and professional progress. 

It’s up to you to decide which milestones should be recognized. Celebrating someone’s work anniversary is a great way to show employees how important they are to the organization. While, at the other end of the spectrum, celebrating someone’s birthday or another personal milestone shows them that you recognize them as a person and not just an employee. 

5. Connect your people with your purpose

When it comes to compensation, credit unions can struggle to compete with their commercial counterparts. But one area where they hold a distinct advantage is company culture. The vast majority of employees say that they would consider taking a pay cut to join a company with values that align with their own. That’s why credit unions should lean into their unique proposition. By building your employee rewards program around your ethical and social commitments you can connect people to their purpose creating a recruitment and retention tool that money simply can’t buy. 

ideas to include in your credit union rewards program

6. Reward what matters the most

What matters most to your managers and employees? Is it innovation, hard work, collaboration or going above and beyond to get the job done? By asking your people what they care about you can take their input and put it into action as a dedicated reward. It’s a great way of ensuring that your credit union rewards program actively engages your people from day one. 

7. Professional development 

Like other sectors, credit unions are currently experiencing a widening skills gap. As the industry continues to evolve with the adoption of new technology, training and employee development are increasingly vital to your organization’s health. So why not incentivize your employees to learn on the job with professional development rewards? Whether it’s recognizing people who are actively engaging in training or rewarding people who prioritize their professional development, it’s a great way to motivate your people to develop the skills and experience they need to fuel your organization’s success. 

8. Tuition reimbursement

In the same vein as professional development, your credit union could include tuition reimbursement as part of its rewards program. By actively supporting your employees’ efforts to gain the accreditation they need to advance their careers, you can help to close the skills gap while improving engagement. It’s a win-win for everyone involved. 

9. Wellness and mental health incentives

Absenteeism costs businesses billions of dollars every year. Ensuring your employees stay healthy both physically and mentally is key to your organization’s success. But it’s also an avenue that credit unions can explore for their reward programs. Incentivising your workers to follow healthy habits, engage in an active lifestyle and safeguard their mental health can create a culture of wellness that has knock-on benefits for the whole organization. Credit unions are also expertly placed to support their employees with their financial wellbeing too, providing a unique opportunity to stand out from the competition. 

10. Money talks

Sometimes money talks. But instead of offering people cold hard cash why not personalize their prize by rewarding them with something they actually want? So rather than simply adding a few bucks to their pay packet, do a little research to offer them a reward that’s truly unique. At the most basic level, this could be a gift card to their favorite coffee spot or store. Or you could go more in-depth and match your reward to their individual interests. If your person is a fitness fanatic then reward them with a paid gym membership. If they’re foodie, why not pay for an experience at a local fine dining spot? A little extra effort can go a long way to ensuring that the memory of the reward far exceeds the monetary value. 

11. Reward top performers

The great thing about your credit union rewards program is that you can make it anything that you want to be. But one thing that should always be recognized is your organization’s top performers. These people are the North Stars of your business, the guiding lights that provide an example that everybody else can follow. Traditionally this kind of reward has focused on sales and other tangible deliverables, but don’t be afraid to expand your offering to recognize the best of the best in other areas of your business. Perhaps you want to recognize the employee who has delivered the best customer service, the colleague that’s accelerated innovation or someone who has cut costs by streamlining strategies and processes – it’s up to you to decide what and who should be rewarded. 

rewarding a top performer in your company

Best Practices for Implementing Your Credit Union Rewards Program

So now that we know what a credit union rewards program looks like, what it can do and how it can benefit your organization. This should give you an excellent starting point to build a plan that unlocks the benefits of employee rewards for your credit union.

But putting together a plan on paper and implementing it in reality are two very different things. So what challenges might you face when rolling out your credit union rewards program and what best practice can you follow to ensure that everything goes off without a hitch?

Select a platform that works for you

The good news is that there’s plenty of support on hand to help you make your credit union rewards program a reality. Today there is a wide variety of platforms, tools and technologies that you can employ to bring your ideas to life. Not only do these make it easier to unlock the power of employee rewards, but they can also make your efforts more effective. 

The key is to find a platform that works for you. You want something that’s intuitive so that it’s easy to understand and use. Something that’s customizable, so that it can be adapted to meet your specific needs. And above all something that your employees are going to want to use. After all, you could have the best credit union rewards program in the world, but it will be worthless unless you people actually engage with it. 

Communicate internally

When you begin to roll out your credit union rewards program, make sure that you have a plan in place to communicate it effectively to your people. You’re going to want to make sure that everybody knows about it, how they can access it, how it works and why you’re doing it. It could be an email campaign, a post on the intranet, an all-staff meeting, a dedicated training session – or a combination of a host of different tactics. But whatever approach you take, just remember that communication is key. 

Make it public

As we’ve explored in this guide, rewarding individuals can have a huge impact. But if you want to amplify the effect then you need to go public. When you recognize your employees publicly you enable the whole organization to join in the celebration. This helps to build bonds between workers and spread the feeling of gratitude across the entire business. So be sure to recognize your people publicly, and remember to get your managers to lead the way by spreading appreciation as far and wide as they can. 

Make it personal

It’s not just how you reward your employees that matters, it’s what you reward them with. Should you give them a trophy? A gift card? A mention on the company Slack channel? 

It’s a tough decision, but the key is to make it as personal as possible. The true impact of your efforts is not the monetary value of the reward but the memory it creates. The feeling that your people have when they are rewarded will stick with them for longer if you’ve thought about making it extra special. As the old adage goes: “It’s the thought that counts” so put a little extra effort into coming up with appreciation awards that are truly memorable. 

Be ready to evolve

Even if your credit union rewards program gets off to a strong start, it’s no guarantee that your system will succeed over the long term. To achieve ongoing success you need to plan for the future, ready to evolve your efforts based on feedback. Whether it’s the rewards that you offer or the frequency that you offer them, be ready to listen to what your people are telling you and put their ideas into action to stave off fatigue and keep your rewards program fresh over time. 

Align everything with your company culture

If you truly want your credit union rewards program to be effective then you need to align it with your company culture, your values and the kind of environment you want to create. By rewarding key values you’re not only telling your people how much you appreciate them, you’re creating a virtuous cycle that constantly encourages and reinforces those behaviors. 

aligning your credit union rewards program with your culture


What is a credit union rewards program? 

A credit union rewards program is a strategic approach that’s designed to acknowledge your employees for their contributions, achievements and behaviors. 

Do credit union employees care about rewards? 

Rewards and recognition are increasingly important to credit union employees because they are looking for more than just a job, they’re looking for a place where they feel like they belong. 

How can a credit union rewards system help your organization?

From engagement and retention to productivity and even profits, a credit union rewards program has been proven to have a significant impact on every aspect of your organization. 

How do you implement a credit union rewards system? 

There are platforms available to help you make the most of your credit union rewards program, but the key to implementing it successfully is to ensure that your employees buy-in from the start. 

The Bottom Line 

A credit union rewards program is so much more than a nice-to-have, it’s become an essential tool for organizations that are looking to get ahead of their competition. In the current climate, where credit unions find it increasingly difficult to retain and recruit talent, an employee rewards system can make a tangible difference. 

As we’ve explored in this guide, appreciation can go a long way. Rewards can motivate your people, give them a purpose, keep them engaged, decrease turnover and improve productivity. And the best thing is that it doesn’t take much to get your credit union rewards program off of the ground. 

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