Thriving employees will result in thriving credit unions

When you think about what will make your credit union successful in the future, there are numerous keys to success. To some extent it could be marketing, products, financial management, pricing, and, of course, member service. And as you prepare for strategic planning in this extraordinary time you’ll need to strategize on ways to maximize performance in each of these areas (and still others, of course).

However, there’s one success key that trumps them all. Meaning optimal performance in this one area will make up for any performance deficiency in all the others. As we know all too well today, strive as you may to meet or exceed goals in every business component, you will always be at risk of something outside your control taking firm control in determining your success … can you say, pandemic?!

Strangely, the majority of key success factors for your credit union are largely out of your direct control. They’re mostly dependent on the winds of economic change in your markets, current and shifting political environments, compliance and regulatory burdens, and, of course, competitor aggressiveness and performance, among others. Even meeting your stretchiest stretch goals won’t be sufficient for making a successful year if a wave of these external circumstances swamps your credit union.

Ready to hear what the king of keys-to-success is? At first, you’ll probably say you already know what it is and that you’ve already been focused on it. Individually and as an industry, credit unions often talk about the important role their employees play in their overall performance. Many leadership teams and Boards have talked proudly for years about how much they value their employees and the critical role they’ve played in the credit union’s growth.

Today, however, we’re not just talking about the importance of employees … we need to be talking about a new dynamic: creating cultures where employees can THRIVE. In the past we’ve focused on “satisfied” employees and in more recent years the talk has been about “engaged” employees; but, starting today, we need to be focused on thriving employees. A single thriving employee will make a noticeable impact on your credit union’s success; but a credit union full of thriving employees is a transformational force and creates a differentiation impact no external force can offset.

What do we mean by “thriving” employees? It can take many forms, depending on the individual: employees who clearly feel good about themselves or are consistently performing at a high level or are a pleasure to be around or are infectious with their happiness. They regularly have a genuine vitality for their life and their job; their production is steadily at a high level with rare, if ever, hiccups; and they are your most dependable employees – rarely sick and always present.

Thriving employees don’t have to worry about work/life balance because their work life and personal life are blended in an obvious state of harmony. They work vigorously to attain greatness at work and at home. They’re consistently finding new and better ways to up their game. They exude optimism and confidence in themselves today as well as their prospective accomplishments in the future … even in the midst of a pandemic!

Why are thriving employees so important to your near-term success in 2020? Because those outside factors that have always influenced your performance are now directly affecting your employees, as well. If the past four months has shown anything, it’s that your employees’ lives can quickly careen out of balance, directly impacting their ability to continue to perform and produce at consistently high levels. 

The one thing you can control as a credit union leader is how you deal with those employee’s distractions and challenges and put them in a position to thrive (not just survive!) in their life. Focus on the whole person, not just what you’re seeing at work. Focus on making them happy in their entire life, not just their work life. In any time, but especially during these stressful times, if you don’t have the whole person, you likely won’t get their whole effort or performance.

Following are four things you can do today to create a culture that will make sure you get the “whole person” and produce a thriving culture that differentiates your credit union:

  1. Maximize Empathy – Whether it’s in your coaching or just regular communications, try to acknowledge the personal challenges and hardships each employee is experiencing. This isn’t about sympathizing; it’s about putting yourself in their shoes and respecting what they’re feeling both at home and work. Let them know that you’re feeling with them.
  2. Make a Difference – Once you understand what they’re feeling, create solutions to help them improve the situation(s). And personalize these solutions whenever possible. Working from home may be the best way to help some employees but not others. Show each employee you’re willing to accommodate their unique challenges by developing unique solutions.
  3. Get Consistent Feedback – There has never been a greater time to be conducting employee surveys and focus groups across your organization. Especially in a time like this, keeping your finger on the employees’ pulse is critical to knowing their issues and gathering their ideas. Now is not the time to skimp on employee feedback channels!
  4. Involve Them in Changes – As employees have adjusted to their new working routines over the recent months they’ve experienced first-hand what’s worked and not worked. Rely directly on them for critical insight on what processes need to be changed going forward to best serve your members and make everyone’s life easier. Don’t make systemic changes without their involvement – now is the time to collaborate with them on changes.

Richard Branson is credited with saying: Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of your clients.

We’ve often been focused on taking care of our employees while they’re at the office and haven’t given too much concern to their life away from it. As long as they were productive, we were happy. But that dynamic is changing right before our eyes – worries about finances, family, and health are threatening every employee’s work performance to some degree and credit union leaders need to act quickly and decisively to ward off the potentially corrosive impact.

We’re instructing our clients to begin today on creating thriving employees, focused on developing the whole person. If you need help strategizing to create this type of transformative culture at your credit union, let’s talk. Please reach out to or call 636-578-3280.

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