Tag Archive for credit union

Working Out and “Fixing” Culture

richardsimmons

I’ve seen and heard it time and again.

“We’re going to fix our culture.” Or,

“For the next six months we’re going to focus on our people.” Or,

“I hope we can get our morale issue under control so we can get back to business.”

Yikes.

Don’t get me wrong — those are good things to do, but imagine if you took this approach to a health and wellness program. In fact, many of us have had this very experience (don’t judge me). It usually begins around January 1, doesn’t it? Or when we get ready to go to the beach for the first time over the summer. We get really motivated to get in better shape, eat right, and so on. We buy gym memberships and workout clothes that fit a little snugly (because after all, we’re going to lose weight, right?) and march off to the gym, determined that this time will be different. This time we won’t give up in March. We’ll at least give it until June.

We all know that to get lasting results in the health arena, we have to continually manage ourselves in this area. We have to keep eating right, and we have to keep getting to the gym to exercise. It’s an ongoing thing, or at least it should be.

The same is true in regards to group culture. In our organizations, we too often try to stick band-aids on culture issues rather than taking a long-term, strategic approach to them. Rather than understanding that culture is an ongoing initiative, we relegate it to some sort of temporary project.

lazy guySix months later we end up on the couch, our fingertips orange with Cheetos, and remnants of fried chicken from two days ago clinging to our sweats. We’re  bothered that we can’t fit into our workout clothing; but not bothered enough to actually do something about it on an ongoing basis.

There’s always next year.

Your Team’s Work Matters

meaningDeprived of meaningful work, men and women lose their reason for existence; they go stark, raving mad. Fyodor Dostoyevsky

It really is a shame, but many employees trudge into work every day on autopilot. They’re corporate-logo-bearing zombies. They punch a clock, meander to their workspace, plop down into what may or may not be ergonomically correct chairs, and begin their daily countdown to 5:00 PM.

For these employees, there’s no real passion, no real desire, no pressing urgency about their work. And why is that? For some, the work just doesn’t matter. Don’t be so quick to assume they just need attitude adjustments. Before we go chalking those feelings up to those employees’ bad attitudes, I think we, as leaders and organizations, need to look in the mirror.

We like to speak in lofty terms about culture, employee engagement, etc; and rightly so. They’re very human, important things. They matter. Our people matter. Their work matters. But sometimes that idea — that their work is relevant — gets lost in the shuffle.

What I’m saying is that our employees need to know their work is relevant. They need to know it matters. And they need to know how it matters and to whom it matters. We’re not just running transactions or making loans or selling widgets.

A while back, I was speaking with some folks in the lending department at a financial institution. I asked them why they came to work every day. I asked them what they did during the course of those eight hours. I asked them if they even liked what they did.

The answers I got were sadly familiar. “Honestly, it kind of sucks,” said one.

“We fill out paperwork,” another chimed in.

Another piped up. “We process loan applications. That’s it.”

“I’m just here because I can’t find another job,” one even said in a moment of painful transparency.

My response? “Man, when you say it that way, your work does suck.”

Crickets.

64ed726b2fcbf319d734269664febc3dI went on to explain what I thought of when I thought of a lending department. It’s entirely different from what they were expressing to me. When I think of a lending department, I think of a group of dream facilitators. These people come to work every day, and yes, perhaps fill out reams of paperwork. They put in long, ridiculous hours. They work their asses off to help make other people’s lives at least a little bit better.

It’s not just empty paperwork. It’s paperwork that is a means to an end.

The lending department enables other human beings to accomplish their dreams on a daily basis. Do you see the huge distinction here? They’re helping people, day after day, accomplish something that’s a big deal to them. They’re consolidating debt to make it more manageable. They’re getting a new car or boat. They’re finally purchasing their first home. After saving for years, they’re buying that retirement condo somewhere warm. The lending department isn’t just lending money – they’re fulfilling dreams. Their work matters. It’s more relevant and meaningful than they know.

Obviously this principle applies across departments. Teams and organizations that get this idea will have more passionately engaged employees. It’s actually a huge competitive advantage for your organization when your employees really understand how relevant and meaningful their work is. The question for us all is this: Do they get it? Do they know and clearly understand how meaningful their work is?

As leaders, it’s our responsibility to make that connection for our teams sometimes. We have to show them why their work matters and to whom it matters. It’s not just meaningless, mindless work. It contributes to something bigger. It contributes in at least some small way to making the world better.

The Old Branding Bait n’ Switch (Guest Post)

cbEver been the victim of a “bait and switch”?  See an ad for something at a great price, almost too good to be true.  You go to the store, or website…and they’re out of stock.  But there are other items available, substitutes, usually.  And they’re almost always different enough or more expensive enough that you don’t buy.  You took the bait, they switched the goods, and you’re left feeling misled and mistreated.  That can’t help that company’s reputation, can it?

That’s what happens when organizations don’t think about their own culture and align it with their marketing efforts.  And it’s a common fail.

Most organizations think: here’s a product, here’s a service.  How can we sell it?  What’s the key message?  What’s cool now?  What will catch folks’ eye?  How can we appeal to our target demographic?  The effort to create marketing and advertising is built around the product, and the medium we’re using, and the folks we’re trying to reach. Makes sense, right? But all too often, the product/customer/media discussion leads to one type of message…which the culture of the CU or company can’t support.  (I work in the credit union industry…thus the reference to CUs.  This theory easily applies to all companies.)

Consider a radio spot with young adults talking about where they bank.  One of them says his CU is great.  Nice people, friendly, fast.  And the ad works.  A young person comes into a branch… and the switch is complete.  There are tellers…but there’s a line.  There are forms to fill out.  It’s right before lunch… and that teller isn’t thinking “friendly”…she’s thinking, “hungry.”  That potential member….maybe now, not so much.

The ad worked – but it hadn’t considered the culture.  In this case, the culture couldn’t support the outreach.  The actual experience didn’t match the advertised experience.  Bait and switch.

When effective organizations think about marketing, they think NOT JUST product, media, target.  They think culture.  They ask themselves: who are we, how do we behave, and can we support the advertised experience through our people, processes and behaviors.

And keep in mind: culture is not what you say.  It’s what you DO.  Culture is the sum total of all the behaviors in your CU.  Align them with your marketing, and potential members will become actual members.

Too many people say (when referring to their logo), “But, that is our brand.”  Your organization’s brand is not a color or image.  Your brand is the emotion that people feel when thinking about your organization or seeing your logo.  Much like culture is not what you say, a brand is not what you do…but rather, how you make people FEEL.

Have you strategically woven together your marketing efforts, brand, and culture?  It’s still early enough in the year to revisit strategic goals.  Make sure your marketing efforts and brand truthfully tell your members and customers who you are, what you do, and leave them feeling something positive.  Tell your story honestly and avoid the old “bait and switch.”

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Deb Schaffer, Queen of Conversation for Chatter Yak.  Chatter Yak! is credit union marketing made simple. Cooperative. Collaborative. CUSO. (www.chatteryak.com, @chatteryak, @debschaffer)