Moving the big culture rocks at your credit union

Change can be tough, especially when it comes to changing the culture of your credit union with a new brand and/or revised member engagement plan. When visiting recently with the Chief Experience Officer of a billion-plus dollar credit union in upstate New York (with whom we have partnered for several years in an ongoing marketing audit, brand and member engagement training initiative) this idea of the challenge of change was summed up nicely when he remarked “our new brand meant changing and moving a lot of the big rocks we’d grown used to over the years.”

The resonance of the gentlemen’s comment is truly applicable to change in general and to cultural change in credit unions specifically. Credit unions can fall into the trap of becoming creatures of habit. The mindset of “what worked well yesterday will always work well tomorrow” can permeate the minds and habits of credit union boards, executive leadership and staff. Over time, much like the slow drip-drip-drip that creates many cave structures, the hearts and minds of everyone involved with the credit union solidify into the “big rocks” mentioned above.

These “big rocks” take different forms. At some credit unions it can be a rigidity that relies too heavily on the past, such as primary sponsor organizations or SEGs that may no longer apply to an evolved field of membership. At others, beware the potentially inflexible mindsets of leaders (both on the board and the executive team) that have fallen to a silo mentality over time. Still other credit unions allow fear of change (specifically cultural and technological) to stymie their efforts to evolve and grow.

Specifically as it relates to cultural change stemming from brand and member engagement, credit unions must avoid allowing these “big rocks” to stand in the way. Following are some best practices for credit unions to consider when thinking about potential “big rocks” standing in the way of their brand and member engagement initiatives.

  • Secure involvement and accountability at the top first. Your credit union’s leadership team (critically including mid-level managers such as branch managers) must fully understand the importance of brand and member engagement. Taking it a step further, they must be willing and able to both coach and encourage staff to the brand and hold staff accountable when the brand is not properly executed. The staff of your entire credit union will take their cues on the brand from the leadership team. What is important to the leadership team will trickle-down to the staff as important. 
  • Develop and implement a full-time training program. Given that a brand and member engagement program does represent significant change from the past, your credit union must be willing to invest in a customized and dynamic full-time training program that, as a best practice, is spread out over a period of at least a year. Your staff deserves a full opportunity to learn about the brand and member engagement program, be trained to it and ask clarifying questions. Your brand and member engagement training program empowers staff to learn the brand so they may, in turn, live the brand with each other (internally) and with your members (externally). 
  • Expect great things. Your credit union’s investment in brand and member engagement is substantial. After securing support from the leadership team and implementing your training program, you have every right to expect great things. After all, your pursuit of a new brand and member engagement program wasn’t just for grins and giggles — you expect big results. Don’t settle for less. An engaged and well-trained staff combined with a fearless leadership team can achieve substantial results for your brand and member engagement investment.

Yes, moving the “big rocks” that can delay or derail brand and member engagement cultural change in your credit union pose a challenge. However, it is a challenge that with grit, determination and guidance your credit union can overcome.

Mark Arnold

Mark Arnold

Mark Arnold is an acclaimed speaker, brand expert and strategic planner helping businesses such as credit unions and banks achieve their goals with strategic marketing insights and energized training. Mark ... Web: Details

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