By. Mark Arnold
“A zombie film is not fun without a bunch of stupid people
running around and observing how they fail to handle the situation.” – George A. Romero
The zombie genre is all the rage these days and the undead’s grip on the pop culture psyche shows no sign of slipping. From the classic 1968 Night of the Living Dead to more modern tellings like television’s The Walking Dead and the upcoming summer blockbuster World War Z, reanimated corpses with a peculiar hunger for the living take a real bite out of our cultural mix.
All fun aside, the thought of a zombified credit union movement, coupled with the above quote from zombie guru George A. Romero got me to thinking: is our industry stuck in a zombie rut?
You know what the routine can be like. People arrive each morning at the credit union to work. Many of us are extremely zombie-like (e.g., slow, sluggish, bleary-eyed, babble-speech) until we get a cup or two of coffee into our systems. Then we tend to shamble sloth-like through the day, from task to task, whether its front-line teller transactions, back-office loan decisions or management team planning sessions. Sure, we might manage a brief burst of energy when it’s our turn to talk at team meetings or right before lunch. Other than that, for many of us, our daily routine as credit union professionals might resemble the slow-paced walking dead of the Thriller video (before they really hit a groove and start shaking it, of course).
What can we do to avoid this? How can credit union professionals prevent a zombie culture from taking root at their organization? Even more challenging, if such a culture already exists, how can we wrestle it from its moldy grave garments and energize our staff, management and, as a by-product, members?
The solution lies in enthusiasm; an infectious enthusiasm that carries energy and positive momentum to everyone in your organization. The trick is, for this enthusiasm to be legitimate and long-lasting, it must come from the top-down and it must be maintained. “Hawaiian Shirt Day” and new upholstery for the break room chairs just won’t do.
The following are a few ideas for your credit union management team to help break the organization from its undead doldrums and propel it forward as a dynamic entity.
- Look for ways to put more fun into every activity. Yes, I said fun. Coming to work need not be like reporting for duty at the salt mines. While credit union professionals must be serious and conscientious about our work, there’s nothing that says we cannot (or should not) have fun in the process. Ideas abound and are limited only by imagination and practicality.
- Take meetings outside. If there’s anything people dread, it’s being cooped-up in a meeting room for hours on end while person after person drones on about this and that. You’d be surprised how a change of scenery can help revitalize your meeting atmosphere. Be like Professor Keating in Dead Poets Society and take your pupils/employees outside when possible. Breathe the fresh air. Enjoy the feel of the sun or the wind on your skin. Let the change of atmosphere bring an enhanced sense of meaning and purpose to your staff.
- Encourage outside learning. It’s all too easy for employees to become hopelessly, dispirited and disengaged by the monotony of work. One way to combat this is to offer educational opportunities that help broaden horizons, perk-up attitudes and improve job performance. Think about providing a library of materials (books, magazines, course guides) on topics related to the credit union industry. Engage an outside speaker to come in and energize staff with an educational and inspiring message. Look for opportunities to attend many of the great training events offered in the movement by CUNA, CUES, NAFCU, your state league and local chapters.
- Acknowledge employee success in very positive and public ways. If a staff member goes above and beyond providing superior service (both to members and to his or her fellow employees), make it a big deal. Recognize achievements in company-wide emails and meetings. If you spot a teller giving exceptional service to a member, or you hear about it via a member compliment, celebrate the positivity and give them a mini-party. Recognition goes a long, long way towards keeping workers happy and productive.
- Ensure employees know what they do is more than “just a job” at your credit union. It’s all too easy for people to fall into a rut and start feeling more like zombies and less like people in their daily routine. While this can impact anyone, it’s especially true of front-line staff who must flawlessly execute a series of very similar tasks on a daily basis. Help them know that what they do matters more than just a balanced drawer or completed spreadsheet, both to members and the credit union. For example, if a teller successfully cross-sells an auto refi to a member and you can track how much money that saved them, circulate the good news! Similarly, if a back-office staffer comes up with a new way to speed up a particular process, celebrate and share this good news. Helping people know they are more than just a cog in an endlessly grinding machine is critical to a steady flow of workplace enthusiasm and purpose.
Zombie movies. Zombie television shows. Zombie apps, games, books, college courses and survival 5K races. Yes, the zombie virus is spreading like wildfire in our current pop culture. By following the simple steps above, you can protect your credit union culture from the undead attitude onslaught. Keeping your employees enthusiastic, energized and committed is tricky, but the alternative – a zombie credit union, is even less appetizing.