It’s no secret that culture and all that jazz is what floats my particular boat. One of the things that’s really struck a chord with me is an extension of something I’ve believed for a while now. Boiled down, that belief is this:
Organizations can help make the world a better place by continually evolving into better places to work. However, that won’t happen by accident most of the time. It requires an organization to think differently about organizational identity, culture, and people.
Right there is where we might be missing an opportunity. Not everyone would agree with me, and that’s fine; but I believe that the best business models are the ones within which organizations and individuals exist for each others’ mutual benefit. Part of that benefit is on the organizational side; obviously, organizations typically need people to do their thing. When that happens, they generate revenue.
Another facet of the benefit is on the employee side. People don’t leave their humanness at the back door when they come to work; understanding that compels us to provide work environments that are conducive to humans living and working there the bulk of their waking hours.
And then — and here’s the thing that’s been resonating with me lately — there’s the potentially mutually beneficial relationship between organizations and the world around them. Some call it corporate social responsibility; others might call it social good. It goes by a variety of names, and it’s understood and practiced in different ways by different organizations; but in my mind, organizations have a responsibility to do good as it relates to people, whether they’re employees or not.
I’m admittedly spoiled a little in this regard, as doing good and investing in our respective communities is part of (though certainly not exclusive to) the credit union philosophy. Consequently, I see it happening quite a bit at credit unions I work with, as well as others I’m connected with via social media, etc. It’s sort of an expectation, which I think is great.
But I think we can push it further. What if doing good — for employees and communities alike — becomes something that’s baked into our employees’ experience with our respective organizations, as my friend William Azaroff, of Vancity, described it to me once. (And if you want to do a case study of what this could and should look like, book a flight to Vancouver and check out Vancity.)
When that happens, corporate social responsibility evolves from an ancillary program at an organization to being more a way of organizational life. It becomes a legit culture thing. Doing good for our employees and communities becomes a reason for being in business, not just a thing we do if we have extra money.
This is part of the ongoing evolution within the credit union space. We’re fortunate in that we have so many great people in credit unions across the country who are wired that way already; they’ve been doing good for others internally and externally since before it was cool. And I dig that about them.
I’m excited to see credit unions all over the United States and world continue to take this stuff to the next level. The ones I love the most aren’t the ones whose goal is just to build a program, per se; and it’s certainly not the ones whose goal is just to use doing good as a way to grab headlines. It’s the ones whose goal is to encourage an organizational way of life.