For more than two decades A Day in the Life of Credit Unions in the Credit Union Journal Program celebrated the magic of the CU difference in action. This characteristic reflects the complexities of changes in workplace culture and the unique opportunities credit unions have to employ both staff and members.
The demand for a healthy workplace culture is not just a trend that will pass. Millennials and Gen Z are driving a fundamental shift in expectations that is quickly becoming the status quo for all workers. Employees expect to work for organizations that prioritize wellbeing, flexibility, professional development, and diversity and inclusion. They are willing to quit their jobs if their employers don’t meet their expectations, and credit unions are not immune to this trend.
Smart credit union executives respond to these rising expectations by prioritizing the resources needed to create and maintain a vibrant workplace culture that ultimately delivers a great member experience.
Defining and maintaining your workplace culture is a long-term investment as it is fluid and changes frequently. However, there are five basic steps any credit union can take to ensure it builds and supports a workplace culture that helps keep members happy and the company healthy.
Start with mission and values
Credit unions are in a unique position to align their workplace culture with their mission and values, as their members often already share a common sense of purpose or experience. This can be a clear and guiding force in developing a culture that is specifically tailored to the needs of these members.
Consider a credit union established to help health care workers make health care more accessible to rural communities. The workplace culture at the credit union should attract employees who are also committed to wellness and have an appreciation for the rural lifestyle.
Organizations that shape the workplace culture according to their mission and values are well equipped to:
- Attract and retain people who believe in the company’s purpose or mission
- Involve and motivate employees
- Differentiate yourself from the competition
- Be clear about employee expectations
- Offer an authentic and differentiating member experience
Evaluate the existing culture
The next step is to understand your existing strengths and weaknesses in order to identify areas for improvement in workplace culture. For that there are different possibilities. It is important to study cross-functional metrics such as absenteeism, PTO and sick time, implementation reports, and recruitment and retention metrics. Learning to read these numbers can help you identify problems often caused by an unhealthy workplace culture, including burnout, low employee engagement, shorter tenure, and difficulty filling vacancies.
Credit unions can better understand how employees are feeling and where there are opportunities to support them by listening to them using a variety of survey methods such as engagement studies and pulse surveys.
Looking at external indicators is another tool. Employee review sites like Glassdoor and Indeed provide a platform for past and current employees to share honest feedback about the company. These can be powerful sources of information that provide insights into the culture that employee reviews or exit interviews have failed to reveal.
Align leadership and communication
The traditional workplace culture was based on top-down hierarchical leadership and indirect communication. Today’s modern workplace culture requires collaboration and transparency. Employees want accessible and authentic leadership that asks for feedback, listens to their input, and takes it into account when making business decisions.
Mutual communication between employees and management promotes connection and commitment. Employees feel familiar when asked to contribute and are more likely to engage when they see leadership is listening. Dedicated employees are more invested in the success of the organization and are inspired to do their part to make it happen.
Organizations that use two-way communication channels effectively create a feedback loop between employees and leaders that builds trust, enhances the employee experience, and enhances workplace culture.
Credit unions, as individual organizations, play a significant role in shaping workplace culture, but employees are ultimately responsible for bringing culture and values to life. Involving employees in improving workplace culture increases the likelihood of successful initiatives.
One way to do this is to gather informal feedback that can provide insights into the culture that formal methods cannot. Once you have it make sure you show how to incorporate it or respond to it.
Recognition is also a powerful way to reward employees who embody the key elements of workplace culture. This recognition reinforces the desired behavior and signals to the employees how seriously the credit union takes the cultural initiative.
Measure and plan future initiatives
Ongoing measurements and benchmarking are essential for maintaining sustainable, healthy workplace cultures. Remember that workplace culture is constantly evolving as people and the market change, which means that cultural work doesn’t end when an initiative is completed. The workplace culture is built and nurtured over time, with mission and values always at the center.
Cultural initiatives are important and complex. Credit unions that make culture a priority will reap the rewards including:
- Attract and retain top talent
- Improve employee engagement
- Improving productivity, profitability and promoting business growth
- Offer a compelling member experience
- Inspirational creativity and innovation