Job Review Task: Define CU's Culture In 25 Words

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Chances are you give more employee evaluations than you get. Chances are even stronger that they come around faster than you can believe. And chances are strongest that you don't like doing them.

When it comes to item No. 1, that comes with being a leader. With No. 2, hey, the same holds true for birthdays and tax season, and there's just one thing you can do about both. But it's in item No. 3 that's representative of a larger issue within not just credit unions, but most larger organization, according to one expert. Call it a "people" problem.

"Who taught you or teaches your people to do performance reviews?" asked Ronald Biagi, a principal with a consulting firm called "It'sTheHow," of a group of California CU execs recently. His answer: "No one."

That larger issue, observed Biagi, is that the one thing every credit union has control over to help it manage not just change, but to raise member satisfaction and reduce costs is people. And what do many credit unions handle poorly? Those same people, he suggested. "People are the key differentiator in the market today."

In remarks offered under the larger heading, "Sustaining Organizational Development In A Cost-Cutting Environment," Biagi and his business partner stressed a number of management issues that they said many businesses fail to manage well. Among them is the one thing no credit union can afford to have change-culture.

Why is organizational culture important? To understand that, he said, a credit union must first know what organizational development is. "It's the process of improving your organization," said Biagi. "It's the process of change, but should it change your culture? Your culture is who you are. People can see it. Your people need to be able to say what your culture is in fewer than 25 words. If they can't, you don't have it. Culture is something you should be able to terminate someone over if they violate it. If you're not willing to invest in it, I'd question how strong a culture it is. It's who you are to your members, your employees and your community. It's the personality of your credit union."

Biagi said everyone can affect tremendous change within their credit unions if the right people are in place. Moreover, every leader within the credit union should model that culture, he said. "And you should be role models again and again and again. All your behaviors encircle your culture. People may not be able to describe it, but they can feel it and sense it."

What research and studies have shown, said Biagi, is that if employees are highly satisfied, members are highly satisfied, and the bottom line reflects the satisfaction. In turn, growth allows the credit union to hire even better people who live the credit union's culture, which in turn leads to higher levels of satisfaction, and the cycle continues. He added that the culture must include board members who provide oversight of the culture.

As an example, Biagi's co-principal in the firm, Tresa Ayres, observed that "Starbucks and other companies that do it right are good at one thing-turning a mundane event into an experience," said Ayres.

"Is walking into your credit union a 'Wow' experience?" asked Biagi. "Would you say it's a real fantastic experience? Would you say it's a Starbucks experience? I've done some shopping of credit unions, and I will say you do it better than banks. But in some cases it was lacking."

When it comes to planning, Biagi advised credit unions not to create lots of lists of things they never plan to do. Rather, he outlined a three-step process for building an action plan.

1. Assess current organization. The first choice to make is whether the assessment will be internal or external. Either way, those steps should include reviewing goals vs. performance; surveying employees and members, and reviewing the performance system.

2. Develop a Plan For Action. "There should be a functional performance management program," said Biagi, that includes specific and measurable job descriptions, mandatory evaluations, and action as needed. As an example, Biagi cited the book, "Topgrading: How Leading Companies Win By Hiring, Coaching and Keeping the Best People" by Bradford D. Smart. That book includes a quandrant model that can be used to identify "A," "B" and "C" employees. One message from the book: "Don't spend a lot of time with 'C' people." Instead, focus on the Bs and As. The author recommends having 90% of staff being "A" people. "This is not fun to do. You've got to self-select. But your future is dependent on having the "A" people in the right seat on the bus. And once you do that, who's driving the bus? You are."

There's one glitch, he cautioned, that often leads to credit unions getting hit by that same bus-special attendion must be paid to CU's HR director or other staff who are doing the hiring. "'C' people don't hire 'A' people," he cautioned.

And just imagine what a "C" person can do to a job review.

Frank J. Diekmann is editor of The Credit Union Journal. He can be reached at fdiekmann

Money, it turned out, was exactly like sex; you thought of nothing else if you didn't have it and thought of other things if you did. - James Baldwin

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