It’s all about the “fit” – get the absolute best out of employees!

If you’re a sports fan like me, it’s interesting to see how players can struggle with one team, get traded to another, and all of a sudden blossom into a superstar. That process is especially maddening if a player started with your team and blossoms while playing for your rival! Often, the explanation for this occurrence is that he/she was a better “fit” with the new team.

When thinking about it further, that player could’ve been a better fit with the new team’s coaching, system/style of play, or structure and discipline – in other words, they fit better with the culture. Additionally, the reference to fit could also apply to his/her new teammates or maybe a slight change in positioning – in other words, they fit better into a new role.

Both of these issues – culture and role – are vital to your credit union’s ability to attract and retain the best talent … to produce your version of “superstars”!

Before any long-term success can be attained, you need to do two things:

  1. Clearly define your desired culture. And be specific about the qualities you will demand in future employees who will perform within your culture.
  2. Identify the desired competencies for each role. Again, specificity is important but so is prioritization. Don’t create a list of 20 competencies; create a list of the most critical one or two.

Consider the following retail examples and how they may apply to your organization:

  • For their retail stores, Nike hires people who are passionate about sports. They may not be great athletes themselves, but they love sports, both as a player and fan. Are your employees passionate about working at the credit union and serving your members?
  • Apple knows that most customers come into their stores with a tech problem – either their current tech isn’t working and/or they need new, better tech. As a result, the number one quality they look for in a retail associate is empathy. Your employees are tasked with solving member’s financial problems, too … is empathy the number one quality possessed by each employee?
  • Regardless of the position, Disney says their candidates must immediately demonstrate friendliness in the interview process. If a candidate doesn’t freely and obviously smile, make eye contact, be genuinely warm, etc. they will not advance to a second interview (regardless of how much experience they have). Do your employees immediately and obviously demonstrate friendliness?
  • Unlike other restaurants, Chick-fil-a does not look for previous experience in their recruiting process. In fact, they would prefer to hire someone who has never worked in fast-food before. They don’t want to break old habits; they want to shape new ones. How important is previous credit union or banking experience in your selection process?

As each of these companies has done, your credit union should identify what’s most important to you and your culture. Then, once you’ve identified it, don’t waver from it – don’t give in to the temptation to hire someone who looks/sounds good but isn’t passionate or empathetic or obviously friendly. As an old boss used to tell me, “Your biggest fear will be an empty chair. But don’t make hiring decisions out of fear.” You only get one chance to fill that empty chair; make sure you do it right the first time by sticking to what you said is most important to your culture and organization.

The retail examples above focus on the need for a strong culture fit; now let’s talk about the equally important need for position or role fit. In the sports analogy mentioned in the first paragraph, the new team wants to acquire a player who possesses the talents, skills, and competencies that are appropriate for the game plan they want to deploy – not what the other team(s) deploy. What game plan is your credit union looking to deploy?

During a recent culture assessment with a client, we received the three following responses to survey questions:

  1. I enjoy the sales aspect of my job – 74% of member facing staff and 75% of branch managers could not agree with this
  2. I enjoy the service aspect of my job – 89% of frontline staff agreed with this
  3. I’m motivated by offering the right products and services to members – only 43% agreed with this

Think about the impact of this dynamic and how it would impact your credit union’s ability to execute your game plan. Largely, they have employees who do not like offering or selling products to members. Well, if their “game plan” is to become the PFI for their members, they have people who don’t fit. Conversely, if their game plan is be all about service, they may have the right people fit. At best, the wrong people-fit will restrict your ability to succeed; at worst, it will sabotage all other efforts to become top-of-wallet with your membership.

There are various ways to address this issue of “fit” and there are multiple layers to it but here are four quick recommendations as you think about the culture you need to create for optimal success in 2021:

  • Defining your culture fit and role fit is not something defined and executed by the HR exec only. This must be a collaborative process that is strategic in nature (especially the culture piece of it) and needs to be decided and supported by the entire executive/leadership team.
  • When determining the role fit, be sure to recognize the various sales and service roles within your credit union and accept the fact that the primary talents, skills, and competencies are likely distinctly different for each role. (The top quality for a Call Center Rep is different than a Universal Banker, for instance.)
  • Make the future process of recruiting and selection of talent a highly collaborative one. Yes, it is ultimately HR’s responsibility but everyone needs to play a role in making sure you get the right people for your culture and they get into the most appropriate roles.
  • Referring back to the empty-chair metaphor above, be patient in your recruiting and selection process but also be proactive – seek out talent even when you don’t have an immediate need and when you do find the right fit, act swiftly to hire that person.

It can be very challenging for most organizations to work through this process of defining your culture and role fits. Politics often get in the way; loud voices influence the final decision; execs can get distracted by chasing purple squirrels. If you need an outside, unbiased facilitator to keep you focused and lead you to a successful completion of this critical process, we can help. Please reach out to

Paul Robert

Paul Robert

Paul Robert has been helping financial institutions drive their retail growth strategies for over 25 years. Paul is the Chief Executive Officer for FI Strategies, LLC, a small but mighty ... Web: Details