Create a joyous culture at your credit union

Far too many workers think their job is “just a job”. They clock in at 9, clock out at 5, and forget about everything from work on the drive home. The next day the drudgery starts all over again. 

While that may be true for a lot workers in our economy, to what extent is it true for employees in our industry? How many of your employees are just serving time and getting through until 5PM? The tragic part of that answer is that just one zombie employee at your credit union can have a devastating effect on your performance.

Think about it: one employee just getting by can make life miserable for their teammates, frustrating for their bosses, and create forgettable experiences for every member they come in contact with. One employee with an unmotivated, disengaged, and negative attitude can have an incredibly corrosive impact on numerous aspects of your credit union’s performance.

“Too often I have seen a high functioning team fall apart with just one wrong hire,” Says Jayne Hitman, National Relationship Manager for CUNA’s Creating Member Loyalty. “Don’t be too hasty to hire just on experience – make sure your new hire fits your team culture and dynamics.”  

It may be easier said than done but your performance culture needs to be populated by employees who are ready, willing, and able to make a significantly positive contribution on a consistent basis. In a recent article in Harvard Business Review, they referred to employees as needing to “feel joy” in order to be successful in their jobs. 

I don’t know about you but I’ve never been one to think about the need to create joy in employees but there’s certainly a lot to say about the benefits of a joyous culture. A joyous culture should bring everyone together and fuel future success. It should get employees going that extra mile to help members. It should get them to step outside their box and try new ways of doing their job and get teams working together for each other’s success instead of pitting them against each other.

“When people find joy in their work, it’s contagious!” said Hitman. “The team strives to increase their individual performance which leads to a positive work environment – and your members are the beneficiary.”

Whether you call it joy or satisfaction or engagement, taking discernable steps to optimize your employee culture is a critically important focus in today’s banking environment. In the not-too-distant past, the focus could just be on business strategy to succeed; today, however, credit union’s need to be equally focused on creating the culture that attracts and retains top talent and puts them in a position to excel.

In a recent Employee Engagement Study we conducted with a credit union, 93% of employees said they “enjoy the work they do every day”. In focus groups and open-ended questions we heard numerous comments about employees enjoying their co-workers and boss and described their work environment in glowing terms. How would your employees describe the working environment you have created?

Regardless of where you’re at on the culture development continuum, here are four critical components to creating a joyful and successful culture in your organization:

  1. Set the Vision – Employees want and need crystal clear direction of what they and the credit union want to accomplish. The Walt Disney Company calls it their common purpose: …“We create happiness by providing the best in entertainment for people of all ages everywhere.” Whatever you call it, it needs to define your goal and desired outcome as simply as possible. Create the “way” of delivering on the vision at your credit union; build enthusiasm around it; and communicate it often. Employees of all generations need to see the mission behind what you’re doing – they need to understand the “why”. 
  2. Focus on the Fit – Employees need to feel like they’re in the right position with the right opportunities to succeed in order to be joyous about their job. Take great care to clearly define the expectations and profile for each role – frontline and back office. Make sure you know the key characteristics you will expect from each employee in each role. Then, as Jayne noted above, embark on a regimented testing process when promoting and hiring candidates to make sure you select the absolute best candidate for your culture.
  3. Recognize Often – When an employee does well, recognize their accomplishment. Too often, however, we take employee’s performances for granted (“That’s what they get paid to do.”). Whether it’s a pat on the back, a thank you, or a shout out in the company newsletter, make sure you recognize strong performance from all employees. And be ready to personalize the recognition – not everyone likes it the same way. Look for new and different ways to recognize staff. Have fun with it. Some credit unions have a “fun committee” to help identify ways to recognize employees and create a joyful culture.
  4. Encourage Teamwork – Employees want and need a culture where they get along with their teammates and their efforts will be fully supported by others. This is especially true in frontline positions where they need regular support from back office staff to fully service the members. Few things are less joyous than being in a job where you’re not supported by peers or coaches. Create and promote a culture where employees work with each other, help each other, and learn from each other; not one where they stand guard against each other. 

That article in HBR referenced an A.T. Kearney survey that found that 90% of employees expect to find joy in their work but only 37% actually do. The difference – 53% – is the “joy gap” that prevents so many credit unions from realizing their full potential. Their employees don’t feel joy in their work which leads to demotivation which leads to less than desirable performance which leads to underperforming organizations.

If your credit union wants to see how close you are to creating a “joyous” culture and how well you stack up to the guys above who scored 93%, we should talk. If your credit union needs to assess how “joyful” your culture is and where your performance gaps are, we should talk. Please contact us at

Paul Robert

Paul Robert

Paul Robert has been helping financial institutions drive their retail growth strategies for over 20 years. Paul is the Chief Executive Officer for FI Strategies, LLC, a small but mighty ... Web: Details

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