How to Retain Employees and Members

Fostering a Culture of Belonging

Employee burnout is a pervasive issue affecting organizations across various industries, and credit unions are no exception. The financial sector demands high commitment, attention to detail, and often long working hours, making credit union employees susceptible to burnout. However, creating a culture of belonging can be a powerful antidote to this challenge. This article will explore how cultivating a sense of belonging among employees can play a crucial role in preventing burnout within credit unions.

Burnout might be a big reason why 58% of employee respondents said they plan to explore new job opportunities in the next 12 months. Additionally, 59% claimed they work when they’re sick, 43% would be open to a pay cut if it resulted in a better work-life balance, and 25% said they work in a “toxic environment.” This startling statistic was among the many “ah-has” found in “Uncovering the Significant HR Trends of 2024 to Maximize Your Next-Best Step.” The report went on to say:

  • Most (88%) employees said having a job they find personally fulfilling is more important.
  • More than half (53%) of employees want their employer to provide more opportunities to develop their skills.
  • Over half (52%) of employees crave a more flexible work environment.
  • Nearly 1 out of 5 employees (19%) would like improved internal communications and a desire that takes priority over “pay employees market value” (18%).

Understanding Employee Burnout

Employee burnout is pervasive in the modern workplace, affecting individuals across various industries. However, in the unique setting of credit unions, where collaboration, trust, and community are often core values, fostering a culture of belonging can be a powerful antidote to the detrimental effects of burnout. This article will explore the significance of creating a culture of belonging within credit unions and how it is a crucial factor in preventing employee burnout. Employee burnout is more than just feeling tired or stressed; it is a state of chronic physical and emotional exhaustion, often accompanied by feelings of cynicism and detachment from work. The nature of the financial industry, including credit unions, where employees handle sensitive financial matters and work under pressure, can contribute significantly to burnout. Employee burnout is characterized by physical and emotional exhaustion, a sense of cynicism and detachment from work, and a decline in overall job performance. In credit unions, where employees often work in close-knit teams and serve their community, burnout can have far-reaching consequences, affecting individual employees and overall organizational health.

Importance of a Culture of Belonging

A culture of belonging goes beyond superficial workplace amenities. It encompasses an environment where employees feel valued, respected, and connected to the organization. In credit unions, where teamwork and collaboration are paramount, fostering a sense of belonging is essential to maintaining a motivated and engaged workforce. Belonging refers to a deep sense of connection, inclusion, and acceptance within a community or organization. In a credit union, fostering a culture of belonging involves creating an environment where every employee feels valued, supported, and an integral part of the team. This sense of belonging can be a powerful buffer against the stressors contributing to burnout.

Seven Strategies to Create a Culture of Belonging

  1. Open, Transparent Communication: Encourage open communication channels within the credit union. When employees feel heard and understood, it reduces the risk of burnout. Create forums for team discussions, feedback sessions, and one-on-one check-ins between managers and employees. This provides an avenue for expressing concerns and strengthens the sense of belonging. Establishing clear lines of communication is fundamental to cultivating a sense of belonging. Credit unions can encourage open dialogue, active listening, and transparency. Regular team meetings, one-on-one check-ins, and anonymous feedback channels can allow employees to express their concerns, share ideas, and feel heard, reducing the isolation that often precedes burnout.
  2. Actively Promote Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion with Inclusive Leadership: Employees who know they are represented and understood feel like they belong. The need for diversity, equity, and inclusion is vital for blacks, indigenous and people of color (BIPOC), and other marginalized groups to have a sense of belonging. Leadership plays a pivotal role in shaping this culture. Credit unions must promote inclusive leadership that values diversity and ensures everyone has a seat at the table. When employees perceive that their voices matter, it fosters a sense of belonging and ownership, reducing the likelihood of burnout.
  3. Create a Culture of Collaboration and Support: Credit unions are built on the principles of cooperation and community. By emphasizing teamwork and mutual support, credit unions can create an environment where employees feel they can rely on one another. Collaboration strengthens the bonds within the team and helps distribute workloads more evenly, preventing individuals from feeling overwhelmed.
  4. Provide Professional Development Opportunities: Employees are more engaged when learning, growing, and stretching daily. Investing in employees’ professional growth demonstrates a commitment to their success and well-being. Credit unions should provide training programs, mentorship opportunities, and career development initiatives. This enhances employees’ skills and reinforces a culture where each member is seen as a valuable asset. Investing in employees’ professional growth sends a clear message that the credit union values their contributions and is committed to their success. Providing opportunities for skill development, training programs, and mentorship can empower employees and enhance their job satisfaction, mitigating the factors contributing to burnout.
  5. Make Recognition and Appreciation a Core Value: Acknowledging and celebrating employees’ achievements is a powerful way to instill a sense of belonging. Credit unions can implement recognition programs that highlight individual and team accomplishments, reinforcing the idea that each contribution is valued. Feeling appreciated fosters a positive work environment, reducing the risk of burnout. Acknowledging and appreciating employees for their hard work is crucial. Regular recognition and rewards create a positive work environment, boosting morale and preventing burnout. Celebrate big and small achievements to instill a sense of accomplishment and belonging among the credit union staff.
  6. Make Flexibility of Work Based on Equity, not Equality: Recognizing the demands on employees’ personal lives and offering flexible work arrangements can significantly contribute to a culture of belonging. Credit unions can explore options like remote work, flexible hours, or compressed workweeks. This flexibility empowers employees to balance their professional and personal responsibilities, reducing burnout.
  7. Focus on Work-Life Balance: Promoting a healthy work-life balance prevents burnout. Credit unions can implement flexible scheduling, telecommuting options, and initiatives prioritizing employee well-being. By recognizing the importance of personal time and fostering a supportive environment, credit unions can help employees manage stress and avoid burnout.

In the competitive landscape of credit unions, prioritizing a culture of belonging is not just a feel-good initiative but a strategic imperative. By fostering an environment where employees feel connected, valued, and supported, credit unions can effectively mitigate the risk of burnout. The result is a workforce that is more resilient and motivated, leading to increased productivity, job satisfaction, and, ultimately, the credit union’s success. A culture of belonging plays a pivotal role in preventing employee burnout in credit unions. Credit unions can create an environment where employees feel valued, connected, and resilient by prioritizing open communication, team collaboration, recognition, professional development, and work-life balance. As credit unions continue to navigate the challenges of the modern workplace, fostering a culture of belonging is not just a strategy but a commitment to the well-being and success of every individual within the organization.


Rich Jones is the Founder/Principal of Leading2Leadership LLC. Before starting his strategic planning agency, he spent over 20 years in leadership roles in the financial services sector. Before becoming an executive in the financial services sector, Rich was an entrepreneur, building and selling two businesses and working for early-stage start-up companies in executive roles in marketing, business development, and seeking investment partners. With more than three decades of experience, he brings innovative thought to companies and executives. Rich published “Leading2Leadership, a Situational Primer to Leadership Excellence.” The book is available on and was designed to be used as a book study for leadership development programs; it breaks leadership skills into manageable situations for discussion and reflection. Rich works with credit unions, CUSOs, and vendors, designing digital, data, culture, marketing, and branding transformation strategies. In 2014, Chosen as a Credit Union Rock Star by CU Magazine, and in 2018, Rich received the Lifetime Achievement Award from CUNA Marketing and Business Development Council. A Marine and graduate of Colorado State University, Jones shares his expertise at

Leave a Comment