Tag Archive for credit unions

Working Out and “Fixing” Culture


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.”


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.

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.”


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

Creating a Conscious Corporate Culture

people helping people.001It’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, and ones I love the most are the ones whose goal isn’t just to build a program, per se. It’s to encourage an organizational way of life.