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Does your credit union really have a member-centric culture?

By Charles Shanley, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, CFS 
Executive Vice President-Recruitment Services

Financial Institutions of all sizes and typesand really, businesses of any kinduse an array of quantifiable measures to evaluate performance. It’s typically an alphabet soup of sortsthe Key Performance Indicators like ROI, A/R and EBITDAthat guide the organization’s vision, strategy and tactics.
  

But where does culture fit in, and how does it impact your credit union’s members?

While not as quantifiable as dollars, culture is perhaps the biggest influence on how credit union associates treat members. And it’s those members' reactions and perceptions of the organization that ultimately impact those benchmark statistics.

Definitions of culture at dictionary.com include, “the behaviors and beliefs characteristic of a particular social, ethnic or group.” Applying that version to credit unions, below are some questions to ask to assess if your credit union has a member-centric culture:   

Q: Does our culture align with our strategy?

A: If your institution’s goals and strategies emphasize the quality of member relationships instead of quantity, its culture may be noteworthy for thoughtfully and methodically performing procedures such as associate training, member onboarding, community-building and respectful time management for meetings or flexible working conditions. If internal behavior is otherwise, then treatment of members will surely follow.

 

Q: Are the right people in the organization establishing the culture?

A: If the culture is not being led by the CEO with strong support from the head of HR, it may be time to hit the reset button. Increasingly, CEOs are hired or promoted from within due to their vision, their willingness to continue a good culture or even to correct a failing culture that’s not serving its members. While some may believe that an organization’s board of directors should set the cultural tone, the board’s role typically comes from the 50,000-foot view, and they’re not in enough proximity to members to have direct cultural influence. Instead, look for examples of collaboration and accountability initiated by the organization’s everyday leaders.

 

Q: Is our high regard for our members reflected in our hiring practices?

A: From top to bottom, vacancies should be filled by those who prove to be concerned and responsive to members. A “good fit” goes well beyond matching candidates to operational skills or the immediate task. It’s more about their willingness to get to know the members and their needs, and how best to  make them aware of helpful products, particularly as long-term employees retire or exit the industry, and newcomers help lead a transition from order-taking to a consultative, sales and service approach. During the hiring process, are you asking the candidate about their values, their intentions or even their willingness to complete a trial project? Their answers may well indicate not only their capabilities, but their compatibility with members who may represent either a geographic community or a dedicated segment such as teachers, law enforcement or similar.

 

Q: Though led by a few key associates, is our culture felt company-wide?

A: Since your organization exists to either fill members’ needs or solve their problems―and likely a combination of the two―it’s imperative that everyone feels they’re a participant in the culture.  Culture is shaped by both daily and occasional events. It may take one person to conceive an idea, another to authorize it and another to execute, but everyone should have a participatory role in order to have a member-focused mindset. An easy way to engage associates and even members is to establish a blog that gives associates an opportunity to express their interests and relevant views, while also communicating a sense of openness about the organization.

 

Q: Is a member–centric culture being communicated consistently, and through examples?

A: Both reinforcing values and effecting change require constantly laying out the current status, desired direction and reasons for any change. Tactically, this can occur through emails, blog postings, newsletters, team-building exercises or other activities. Member success stories and feedback are opportunities that beg to connect associates with each other and other members. Committing to frequency or a specific day-of-the-week can help build anticipation and curiosity. 

 

In summary, if your organization is not creating an internal culture that reflects the needs of its members, it may be an ideal time to re-think its priorities and reason for being. In that case, the facilitation skills of an external consultant and business partner experienced in the industry can not only be helpful, but invaluable.


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