Build culture from the bottom up

To strengthen performance, engagement and growth, CUs need to evaluate their organizational health.

If at first you don’t succeed, reevaluate your culture. Culture is a key component that separates the highest-performing organizations from the also-rans. McKinsey & Co. confirmed the connection between culture and performance in a 2018 study of over 1,000 organizations. Those with top-quartile cultures, as measured by McKinsey’s Organizational Health Index, posted financial returns that were 60% higher than median companies and 200% higher than bottom-quartile firms. Unhealthy cultures led to lackluster performance, potentially portending an organization’s downfall.

At credit unions, a strong organizational culture typically correlates with a well-defined mission. “The mission answers the fundamental question of ‘Why are we here?’” says Lesley Sears, VP/consulting services for CUES. “Often missions get rubber-stamped, but they really are the north star of where the credit union is going. I liken the mission to the culture because it relates to things like what products you offer, what type of member services you provide, what kind of bylaws you have, the size of your board and all the operational pieces that are foundational to the organization.”

Tying the culture to the mission helps unite employees behind a common purpose. “Everybody within an organization needs to feel that their work matters and, more importantly for a mission-driven industry like credit unions, that their work is helping to further the mission,” says Vaishali Jadhav, MBA, founder of Mandalight Learning, a leadership and team development company based in Austin, Texas. “Great leaders can create a strong culture by helping people understand the impact of their work, even for the smallest of tasks. When you have a population of people who know their work matters, they feel more confident in helping to steward a strong organizational culture.”


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