I love what I do. As an entrepreneur who loves credit unions and loves helping them create great culture, implement leadership & organizational development programs, and cultivate healthy teams, it’s so ridiculously fulfilling and humbling being part of such deeply meaningful things with my credit union clients.
Along with those things, though, comes the immense responsibility to be aware of trends, studies, and research that might help us understand where the future of work is headed, especially as it relates to the aforementioned areas of emphasis. With that in mind, here are the things I believe successful credit unions of the future will do.
Successful Credit Unions of the Future Will Prioritize People
Credit unions strive to create value for their members and communities, but ultimately, the way we do that is through our people, right? It stands to reason, then, that attracting and retaining them, engaging them, and developing them will be of paramount importance for organizations and leaders.
If any of those pieces is off, people won’t be able to fully realize their potential to do amazing work in the service of their credit unions, members, and communities; and consequently, neither will their credit unions.
Successful Credit Unions of the Future Will Reimagine Employee Engagement
We have to challenge ourselves to conceptualize engagement in different and meaningful ways that will be sustainable in the rapidly changing talent environment.
The credit unions that will be successful in the future will be the ones that can provide a compelling narrative explaining their purpose, what they do, their culture, and what they’re offering to people who are willing to join in their mission.
At the same time, credit unions should provide a clear and compelling picture of what’s expected of people who join them in the pursuit of that mission. Part of that is made clear through a distinct purpose, identity, culture, and core values.
Successful Credit Unions of the Future Will Create a Coherent Identity by Integrating Culture and Brand
Organizations are realizing that a key to success is having a clear and distinct organizational identity, and the only way to do that is to fully integrate your credit union’s culture and brand.
Often, credit unions are tempted to only really invest time and resources in one of the two – say brand, for example – without realizing that simply building a brand without it being rooted in the culture will result in a brand that is largely detached from the organization’s DNA and daily employee life. It’s only when the brand is fully integrated with the culture that its real potential is unlocked, turning it into something far more powerful and sustainable than it would be on its own.
Successful Credit Unions of the Future Will Take a Hard Look at Leadership
Being a smooth talker with the ability to wine and dine the board may be enough in a few credit unions today, but it’s not going to cut it for credit unions wanting to build sustainable success and high performing organizations going forward. Similarly, other leadership behaviors that perhaps were swept under the rug in the past won’t be overlooked in the future, as dictatorial, manipulative leadership can and should be rejected by people, organizations, and boards.
Organizations in the broader business world have begun to realize how critical it is to see demonstrated leadership competence – not just operational competence – prior to putting people into critical leadership positions. Increasingly, executives and managers are being exposed as woefully inadequate leaders as people have new and different (and wholly appropriate) expectations of what leadership should look like.
Credit unions seeking to have strong, sustainable organizations will need to rethink leadership and seek out leaders with demonstrated leadership ability, self-awareness, humility, and a track record of healthy, engaged teams.
Successful Credit Unions of the Future Understand that Technology isn’t a Department Anymore – It’s a Strategic Enabler and Driver.
(Thanks to my friend Christian Marcussen for suggesting the term Strategic Enabler.)
Technology use is accelerating. (I know, I know. Thanks, Captain Obvious.) Understanding that, though, should really cause us to examine our mindset relating to technology. It has to be an enabler and driver of the organization’s work, not an obstacle to it getting done.
This mindset should also force us to rethink our posture towards technology in regards to staffing, budgeting, and projects. Everything and everyone in the organization will continue to become increasingly dependent on robust technology – not to mention data and analytics – to function, form strategy, make decisions, and so on; so it stands to reason that the credit unions whose focus on technology increases will be the ones who will be successful.
Successful Credit Unions of the Future Understand That Culture is Everything
While it’s exciting to see that culture is becoming more and more widely accepted in the broader business world as a critical component of a successful business, it has yet to gain that same level of acceptance within the credit union landscape. That’s not to say there aren’t credit unions doing a fantastic job with it. There definitely are, and there are more who are working right this second on creating clarity around their identity and cultivating healthy, unique culture (here’s looking at you, Mojo clients).
But as the pace of change continues to accelerate, culture is what will anchor your credit union. Culture is what creates and clarifies that sense of purpose for your people, and provides a compelling context within which they can live and work every day.
Culture is also the single thing that no other financial institution can copy. Everyone has similar, if not identical, products and services. Others can copy strategies, tactics, marketing ideas, etc. Culture, however, is the hardest to duplicate. That’s because it’s unique to your credit union, with your people, your core values, and your identity.
Consequently, culture is the foundation and competitive linchpin for credit unions that create their own future. Successful credit unions will consciously and proactively cultivate healthy, unique, culture, baking that identity into every, single aspect of organizational life.
So what’s the bottom line? There’s obviously so much we could talk about, but I’ve tried to highlight some of the bigger things that I think could be the most helpful. Feel free to add more of your own ideas in the comments!