Culture Shock: Hiring new leadership can make or break your credit union’s culture

While there are many challenges ahead for credit unions to address in planning for the future, one of the biggest risks they face is the inability to maintain good leadership in the event of the departure of a long-time CEO or other key member of the management team. And while a great deal of time and effort is often placed on searching for the right skills and experience to guide the organization through whatever circumstances it may encounter, too often not enough attention is paid to finding an exact match for the credit union’s culture.

Failing to find a candidate with the leadership style, workplace philosophy and team-oriented outlook that complies with the existing culture can result in much more damage to the organization than the level of his or her financial acumen. In addition to gauging financial and technical skills, using a cultural match as a screening measurement can increase the odds that a new management hire will quickly assimilate into the institution’s culture, make positive contributions to strategic initiatives more quickly and earn the trust of employees throughout the credit union. Because of this, successful organizations will oftentimes select a candidate who may not have the highest skillset if he or she is believed to be a more exact fit to the organization – because, skills can be taught, but culture cannot.

Following are tips to make sure your next leadership search goes smoothly and results in finding the best possible cultural match for your credit union:

Be clear about the characteristics you are seeking

Develop criteria for each leadership position, based on characteristics that are required for the eventual hire to be successful. For instance, if a CEO will be expected to represent the credit union in a community leadership position or in public functions, you would expect a successful candidate to be out-going and a good communicator. If the credit union is active in local charity work, an effective team leader would be charismatic and a proponent of philanthropy.

The credit union’s social network is a great place to talk about the institution’s culture, mission and values. In addition to providing more information than a simple list of the credit union’s values, this venue allows you to tell actual stories about how the workplace functions. This will paint a much more accurate portrait of your organization’s culture for candidates who might be interested in learning about the organization. Plus, posting information about your civic involvement will help to reinforce your commitment to members and existing employees, and provides an opportunity to shine the light on their efforts to give back to the community.

Write a to-the-point job description

You can fine-tune your applicants list a bit by clearly describing the type of individual – as well as the work ethic – you are seeking in the job description. Use terms like “team environment” to describe the daily workplace operations, and “results-oriented” or “proven track record” to convey that your credit union is committed to growth. Including your mission statement in the document will also stress the importance you place on this aspect of your business for potential new leadership.

Delve into an applicant’s personality

While a candidate may talk the talk in an interview, it isn’t unusual for a highly-qualified candidate to miss the mark when it comes to a cultural match. Incorporating personality testing into your search process can help you go beyond an interview conversation to determine whether an applicant is introverted or extroverted, a team player or a lone wolf, pleasant or gruff, open to new ideas or close-minded, easy going or uptight.

You can also identify whether candidates will fit into your culture by learning about their workplace philosophy. The following questions will be helpful in identifying whether or not someone will fit into your organization:

  • What’s the candidate’s ideal work environment?
  • How does he or she interact with co-workers?
  • What is the best work experience he or she has ever had?
  • What is his or her work style?
  • What are characteristics of his/her ideal boss?

Professional advice can help to ensure a strong cultural match

Finding the right skills and cultural fit can be difficult if you don’t have access to a broad candidate base. By establishing a relationship with a professional recruiting firm – before there is an opening in your organization – you can develop a partnership with proven professionals who will get to know your institution, its culture and specific needs, to understand the exact talents and qualities you are seeking. As a result, you can stay on track to maintaining a competitive institution and consistent culture for your employees and your members.

Charles Shanley

Charles Shanley

Shanley Search is a nationwide financial services consulting and strategic advisory firm that specializes in Executive Search, Recruitment and Leadership Development for Credit Unions, Banking and Fintech. We put our ... Web: Details