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Culture Shock: Hiring New Leadership can make or break your Culture

Thu, Jun 25, 2015

Leawood, Kansas

Maintaining quality leadership to address the uncertainties of the future is one of the biggest challenges facing credit unions today.  And while a great deal of time and effort is often placed on searching for the right skills and experience to guide the organization through whatever circumstances it may encounter, too often not enough attention is paid to finding an exact match for the institution’s culture.

In addition to gauging financial and technical skills, using a cultural match as a screening measurement can increase the odds that a new management hire will quickly assimilate into the credit union’s environment, make positive contributions to strategic initiatives more quickly and earn the trust of employees throughout the credit union. Because of this, successful organizations will oftentimes select a candidate who may not have the highest skillset if he or she is believed to be a more exact fit to the workplace – because, skills can be taught, but culture cannot.

Following are tips to make sure your next leadership search goes smoothly and results in finding the best possible cultural match for your organization:

Be clear about the characteristics you are seeking

Develop criteria for each leadership position, based on characteristics that are required for the eventual hire to be successful. For instance, if a CEO will be expected to represent the credit union in a community leadership position or in public functions, you would expect a successful candidate to be out-going and a good communicator. If the institution is active in local charity work, an effective team leader would be charismatic and a proponent of philanthropy.

The credit union’s social network is a great place to talk about its culture, mission and values. In addition to providing more information than a simple list of the institution’s values, this venue allows you to tell actual stories about how the workplace functions. This will paint a much more accurate portrait of your organization’s culture for candidates who might be interested in applying for a leadership position.

Write an accurate job description

You can fine-tune your applicant list by clearly describing the type of individual – as well as the work ethic – you are seeking in the job description. Use terms like “team environment” to describe the daily workplace operations, and “results-oriented” or “proven track record” to convey that your credit union is committed to growth. Including your mission statement in the document will also stress the importance you place on this aspect of your business for potential new leadership.

Delve into an applicant’s personality

While a candidate may talk the talk in an interview, it isn’t unusual for a highly-qualified candidate to miss the mark when it comes to a cultural match. Incorporating personality testing into your search process can help you go beyond an interview conversation to determine whether an applicant is introverted or extroverted, a team player or a lone wolf, pleasant or gruff, open to new ideas or close-minded, easy going or uptight.

The following questions will help you to identify whether candidates will fit your culture:

  • What’s the candidate’s ideal work environment?
  • How does he or she interact with co-workers?
  • What are characteristics of his/her ideal boss?

Professional advice can help to ensure a strong cultural match

Establishing a relationship with a professional recruiting firm – before there is an opening in your organization – will give you the tools you need to identify the exact talents and qualities you are seeking, and provide access to a broad candidate database. As a result, you can maintain your performance momentum and a consistent culture for your employees and your members.

About JMFA

JMFA is a leading provider of profitability and performance-improvement consulting. For more than 35 years, JMFA has been recognized as one of the most trusted names in the industry for earnings enhancement and expense control programs, training and development, and recruitment services, as well as product, service, pricing and technology-improvement consulting. Simply stated, JMFA’s programs and services are designed to increase income or reduce expenses. JMFA is proud to be a preferred provider among many industry groups. To learn more about JMFA, please visit or call (800) 809-2307.