In today’s marketplace, one of your greatest competitive advantages is your company culture. It speaks volumes about you. Culture tells employees what it’s like to work with you, and culture tells members what it is like to do business with you. And whether you know it or not, your credit union has a culture, a way of telling the world who you are, what you stand for and what they can expect.
Let me give you an example. Last week I wanted to take dinner to a sick friend and his family. Notice I said take not cook! You didn’t really think I was going to cook did you? So, I called a restaurant that I know has take-out and ordered ten dinners to go. Within an hour of placing the order, my sick friend called to say their kids would not be home for a few days, so please do not bring too much food.
Not a problem, I simply called the restaurant back and asked to move my order from ten to five. Without taking a breath, the employee said no, she said our “policy” is that to-go orders had to be six or more. Frustrated I called another restaurant.
This time, I chose one of those healthy grocery stores that had salads, meats and vegetables already prepared. Their response? Their response was that they needed 24-hours’ notice to do to-go orders. Really? Twenty-four hours’ notice to put five pieces of chicken (that is already prepared) in a box?
Whatever, so I called restaurant number three. A small place my husband and I eat on occasion and I was not even sure they did take out. I explained the situation to the employee answering the phone, and she said absolutely we will have everything ready to go by 5 p.m. At five I walked into the restaurant not only to find my to-go orders ready, but a get well soon card signed by all of the employees for my sick friend.
Now as a customer, I can tell you what the culture is for all three of those restaurants. Having never been to a team meeting, never read their vision and mission, and never interviewed a single person on the team. The first two restaurants have a culture of policy, procedure and command and control. The last one, the one where I finally got my order, has a culture of customers first, experience focus, and employee engagement. Guess which one I will be returning to?
How do I know? Because culture is displayed by how your employees actions, and what your member’s experience. This is a marketplace where culture matters, because the only thing differentiating you from your competition is the experience you provide. No matter how unique, spectacular or amazing you believe your products or services are, to the average member they are a commodity. So it’s not what you offer, but how you offer it. And how you offer it is culture.
Why Culture Matters
1. What Attracts Great Employees – to provide an amazing customer experience, you need to have amazing employees? And what attracts great employees? A culture they believe in and one they want to be a part of. Great pay, strong benefits, those are all icing on the cake, culture has got to come first if you want to attract, engage and fully retain top-talent.
2. What Attracts Members – like it or not the experience your members have is dependent upon how much your employees care. The stronger your culture, the better your member experience. The better your member experience, the better and more loyal your members will be.
3. What Gets Strongest Return On Investment For Both – great employees are more productive and more efficient. They are as passionate as you are about the growth of your Credit Union. And when your employees are engaged that drives the member experience. The better the member experience, the more your members buy, the more loyal they are and the more referrals you will receive. All of which grows your credit union.
Again, in a world where the products you sell have become a commodity, and the competitive landscape is increasing, the only differentiator you have left is to build a culture that engages top employees, and attracts top members. So how do your drive culture?
4 Strategies To Drive Yours
1. Define It – first things first, and that is that you need to define it. What do you want your culture to be? A great exercise to do is to have your team write down the five words that they think defines your culture now, and then you write down the five words that describe your perfect culture – what you want it to be. The difference can be powerful. Culture is not what you say, it’s how everyone on your team acts.
2. Create The Why – with your culture defined you need to give your team a reason to engage in it –give them a why. Employees want to be a part of something, to a reason believe in your company, and reasons to choose you over working somewhere else. And that reason is your why – your purpose. If you hire a loan officer to make loans – that is all they will do. Hire a loan officer to make a difference in the financial lives of your members and they will go above and beyond.
3. Develop Ownership – when employees believe in your culture, when they have bought into the why they are ready to be a part of it. It’s time to develop ownership, give them skin in the game. When you lead you get to define the “what” but the question of “how” you should give to your team. When you ask employees how you simultaneously give them voice and responsibility, and those are two strategies to create skin in the game.
4. Offer Potential –last but not least you have to provide next steps. A strong culture is one that provides a future for employees, identifying and investing in their potential. Programs like mentorship, performance planning and on-the-job training for career advancement, all tell employees they should invest in you because you are invested in them.
Credit Unions have a powerful mission, and a strong purpose. Bringing that to the forefront of what drive employee engagement, and member experience is how to build a strong a culture. A culture that ensures growth and competitive advantage.
This is an economy where culture is the only differentiator you have left, and it is a powerful strategy for success no matter what this economy does.