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Competencies Job Descriptions

How Job Descriptions & Competencies Can Help Credit Unions During Turbulent Times

By Onyeka Ndukwe on April, 23 2020
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Onyeka Ndukwe

Just like many client-facing organizations, credit unions are currently facing a dramatic shift in how to best manage their workforce so they can deliver more value to their members. 

This blog post is to help show you how job descriptions and competencies can help credit unions during challenging times. 

In a hurry? Jump straight to your section of interest by clicking on a link (see below).

Article table of contents (jump to a section):

1. Introduction
2. 3 Best Competencies Your Organization Needs During COVID-19
3. Why Should Credit Unions Review Their Job Description Processes?
4. 6 Benefits of Applying Competencies to Credit Union Job Descriptions
5. 4 Tips to Refine Your Credit Union Job Descriptions
6. Conclusion



Just like many client-facing organizations, credit unions are currently facing a dramatic shift in how to best manage their workforce so they can deliver more value to their members.

Beyond the day-to-day tactical (e.g. increased virtual face time, meetings), there are some structural HR aspects that can aid credit unions in navigating through these challenging times.

Two components that can work together to help structurally support your HR objectives and enhance the quality of your current workforce are job descriptions and competencies.

A job description is a complete record of the required skills and behaviors, responsibilities, education, knowledge areas, and more. Using competencies in a job description help identify the required skills and behaviors needed to perform a job successfully.

This can also aid in ensuring that every employee embodies the values of your credit union even when your workforce is more self-directed and dispersed -- like right now, when many are working remotely.

Let’s look at a few examples and tips to see how the right competencies can provide a common structure for employees to navigate the new types of scenarios they’re facing right now.


3 Best Competencies to Help Credit Unions Navigate Challenging Times 

Emotional Intelligence
This competency can be defined as “understanding the emotions of self and others, managing own emotions, and influencing others”.

When it comes to those who manage or supervise others, it is important that they can convey to those on their team that they understand what each individual is going through emotionally. This is not a perfect science. Sometimes, you might get it wrong but that is okay. Learn, adapt and try again. Your growth in this area could help someone who really needs it (both personally and professionally).

Your employees (and possibly yourself) might be feeling stressed about many things right now (including work). If you are a manager or executive, using this competency may involve you stepping up to check up on your team and being open to listen so you can help them alleviate any stress in their lives.

Here is an example of how to apply the Emotional Intelligence competency as a manager:

Setting: Manager talking with employee about work procedure via Zoom

James (Employee): I’ve updated our financial budget for our ongoing campaign and sent those updates to our partners.

Sally (Manager): Thank you, James. (pause) How are things with you at home?

James: It’s okay.

Sally: That’s good. I wish I could say the same but my twin boys keep coming inside my office to play. You’d think they own this whole house.

James: (laugh) My daughter is the same. Right now, she’s using my briefcase to play with her toys.

Sally: She’s been doing that the whole time?

James: Not really. The first week of working from home was frustrating because she kept interrupting me during meetings. So I had to set a rule. If she comes in here and plays quietly for the next two weeks, I’ll buy her favorite ice cream.

Sally: That’s a good idea. I’ll try it on Aiden and John next time. Thanks for sharing.

By sharing her own story about her children and working from home, Sally subconsciously set the stage for James to share something as well. You are not guaranteed a response like the one James gave but it is important to be transparent so your employees can see more of the common ground you both have.

This might lead to a conversation that reveals what is going on and you can follow up on it to see how things are progressing

Some other character traits that go together with this competency are trustworthiness and approachability.

Digital Literacy
This competency can be defined as “engaging with digital technologies to accomplish goals and solve challenges in the workplace”. Its application is essential given the rise of remote work due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Most (if not all) video conferencing platforms such as GoToMeeting or Zoom have easy-to-use tutorials to help individuals working remotely to still collaborate and meet for work-related purposes. Now what happens if an employee is struggling with using their laptop for a Zoom meeting?

Now some of you might say “just Google it and get your answer” but remember that Google can only help you if you type the right keywords.

In a study by Pew Research Center discovered that America’s digital literacy is lacking, with “40 percent of adults answering questions correctly on average”.


2019 Survey Data on American Digital Literacy


The survey question data on this study can be seen in the chart above and the results reveal the following:

  • Americans with higher levels of educational attainment are more likely to answer digital knowledge questions correctly*
  • Americans are more knowledgeable about certain digitally focused topics than others*
  • Younger adults generally score higher than older adults across digital knowledge questions*

*Obtained from Pew Research Center

These results show that digital literacy can be impacted by age, relevance and education (related to use of digital technology).

If you are a manager or executive, using this competency may involve you being available to give team members a solution (i.e. keyboard shortcut) or setting up training classes for those who are struggling with using certain software. Organizations were forced to set up a remote work option due to the COVID-19 crisis but some expect every employee to be well versed in using video conferencing software within 2 days.

This assumption could be detrimental to the cohesiveness of your team or employee’s workflow. Everyone learns at their own pace and having patience (from a manager) with those who take longer to understand a new software will pay off in spades.

Collaborating with Others
This competency can be defined as “working together with others in a cooperative and supportive manner to achieve shared goals”. It is traditionally a universal competency and the application of this competency is important especially for organizations that currently have their employees working remotely.

Here are some statistics that highlight the importance of collaboration:

  • About 75% of employers rate teamwork and collaboration as “very important”, yet only 18% of employees get communication evaluations at their performance reviews*
  • 86% of employees and executives cite lack of collaboration or ineffective communication for workplace failures*
  • 33% of employees say the ability to collaborate makes them more loyal*

*Obtained from BIT.AI Blog

These results evoke several key questions for managers and executives to consider (see below).

  • How do you assess employee collaboration during performance reviews?
  • How does your organization measure collaboration (or the lack of it) across its workforce?
  • How have you factored employee collaboration into your employee retention strategy?

Employee loyalty is worth its weight in gold. If you are a manager or executive, using this competency may involve you doing a check-up of your team and finding out how to add better collaboration into your teamwork culture. It is of great importance as now employees try to balance their work projects with their family life during this season. 


Why Should Credit Unions Review Their Job Description Processes? 

These unprecedented times has led many to face this critical question: just how prepared is my organization for a crisis?

Last month, the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) issued a brief regarding the situation which the credit union industry could face due to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Inside this informative brief by Mike Schenk (Chief Economist/ Deputy Chief Advocacy Officer for Policy Analysis at CUNA), he mentions a crucial sentence regarding the best course of action for American credit unions so they avoid sudden reactions (as a response to the COVID-19 crisis).

According to Schenk, “this will require both a careful review of your credit union’s budget and financial situation and a clearly documented plan”.

If reviewing your budgets & financial situation is an important action to take at this time, how much more the job description process for employees who help your credit union achieve its business objectives/goals?

No job posting makes itself. A job posting needs a job description which acts as the foundation for the content on a job posting or job advertisement. If built and utilized properly, a company’s job descriptions can play a pivotal role in the development and retention of its workforce.

A job description is only as effective as the HR professional who uses it. Think about it. A hammer in the hands of a carpenter is far more effective than in the hands of a pizza delivery guy. The difference between the two individuals is their plan for the tool (hammer) and the knowledge/experience in an industry that uses that tool regularly.

When it comes to reviewing your job description process, here are few questions to consider:

  • Is there a solid plan to properly utilize your credit union’s job descriptions?
  • Are all job descriptions consistently written across your credit union?
  • When last were your credit union’s job descriptions updated?
  • Does your credit union have a regular process to ensure that its job descriptions reflect the latest job requirements?
  • What tools does your credit union use to help manage its job descriptions over time?
  • Does your credit union have a common framework for its job descriptions?

The decision to review internal job descriptions processes (or lack thereof) and the action plan created in response to this review will separate the best credit unions from the modest ones.


6 Benefits of Applying Competencies to Credit Union Job Descriptions 

To elaborate on the last question in the previous section, having a common framework is important for your job descriptions as this helps to consolidate your job positions and descriptions under one general interpretation. 

That is what happens when the right competencies are applied to your credit union’s job descriptions.

Below are some benefits of using competencies as the foundation for your job descriptions:

  • It can give HR professionals a better grasp on the job roles, levels, and dependencies between jobs in credit unions
  • It can help credit unions create a visual roadmap for in-house career advancement of its employees (based on competencies)
  • It can give credit unions the ability to hire based on relevant competencies by interviewing candidates using specific behavioral interview questions
  • It can help credit unions properly assess employees based on job-relevant competencies
  • It can give structure to the HR programs of credit unions
  • It can aid with the creation of employee development plans

Why Should Credit Unions Review Their Job Description Processes? 

Here are a few simple steps to help your credit union start refining its job descriptions

  • Review your company’s core competencies
  • Update your current job descriptions with relevant competencies
  • Update the responsibilities section of your current job descriptions
  • Create development plans based on updated competencies


Review Your Company’s Core Competencies

You can’t track or measure what you don’t know.

If you want to augment your job descriptions with competencies, the best place to start would be with your credit union’s core competencies.

As a refresher, core competencies are important to organization because they identify the key values and strengths shared by everyone in the organization, regardless of the job they perform.

Review your organization’s core competencies to see if they are still relevant to your industry (especially during turbulent times). You can also check to see if your core competencies are well translated into the job descriptions at your credit union.

For example, let’s say that Fostering Learning and Development (leadership competency) is a core competency at Trustcove Credit Union. If you send a survey to your workforce and 90% say their managers failed to mention any learning and development opportunities at your credit union, this represents a gap between Trustcove’s core competency and its application in the organization. Upon further review, you (the HR professional or manager) now realize why there was a low turnout for the last company training session. It is because most of your employees did not know a training session was happening.

Don’t let your core competencies gather dust in your filing cabinet. Put them to good use.

For an example of how core competencies can help an organization during a crisis, take a look at this blog post here.


Update Your Current Job Descriptions with Relevant Competencies

Check to see if your job descriptions have any of the 3 competencies mentioned earlier in this post or relevant leadership competencies. You can also update your job descriptions for future hiring (depending on the situation in your credit union).

It can be a labor-intensive process to select the right competencies and the appropriate levels for individual roles. Not to mention merging this rich information with your job descriptions (if they are stored as a Microsoft Word document).

Thankfully, modern technology has advanced to help organizations properly map the relevant competencies to their job descriptions.

Check out the video below to get a sense of how your credit union can create competency-based job descriptions in minutes by using HRSG’s job description software.

Update The Responsibilities Section of Your Current Job Descriptions

If there is a discrepancy between your credit union’s core competencies and their application on your job descriptions, updating this section can help reduce that gap.

It is possible for job responsibilities to change for a job position depending on several factors including changes to an industry, organizational changes or when two job positions are merged into one single position.

For example, if there is new legislation introduced in your state regarding remote work and customer care, aspects of this new legislation should be updated in the responsibilities section of the relevant job descriptions for your credit union. This helps to safeguard your organization as failure to adhere to such legislation may result in hefty fines and bad PR.

This is also an opportunity to remove responsibilities on your credit union’s job descriptions which mention outdated software or internal policies.

Create Employee Development Plans Based on Updated Competencies

By applying competencies in your credit union, you can better identify the connections between roles in different departments and can help employees see what applicable competencies they have for other job positions in your organization.

This can also help you (the HR professional or manager) show employees the competencies they lack to do better on their job or if they desire to advance their career at your credit union. Using this information, you can create a specified employee development plan either for career advancement or to address competency gaps in their current job position.

Formal employee development programs can include a variety of training, assessment and learning options. This can also involve customized learning programs, mentoring, job rotations or tuition reimbursement for educational purposes.

The ripple effects of a strong employee development program can go beyond your credit union’s employees. Assisting in the development of your employees can have a positive impact on member experience and increased member satisfaction.



One of the greatest tools to help your credit union right now might be wasting away in your work laptop folder or in your filing cabinet.

As was mentioned before, a job description is only as effective as the manager or HR professional who uses it.

Be a different type of manager or HR professional at your credit union. Think differently about your job descriptions and use them (along with competencies) to help your workforce get through these challenging times.

You can do it. Your credit union has overcome previous challenges and this current situation is no different.

When thinking about your credit union and its employees, it is important to ask this question: How much better would your credit union be if its job descriptions were based on industry-relevant, quality competencies?


Learn More About Competencies: 


Post last updated: January 7, 2021