If I asked you to describe your financial institution’s company culture, what would your answer be? Does your financial institution even have a company culture?

Every company has a culture whether they realize it or not. That culture is defined by values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors, which often start at the executive level and trickle down. Ideally, a company’s core values is at the heart of its culture, but often the words that hang on the wall are not the actions employees are encouraged to take.

Company Culture concept on blackboard

This matters, because your customers or members experience your culture even if employees don’t think you have one. They experience it in your products and services. They experience it in the pride your employees demonstrate for your financial institution. They experience it in the way your employees treat them.

That’s a great thing if your culture is one in which employees feel valued, are empowered to make decisions and love their jobs. Think about how happy Starbucks employees are all the time. They greet customers with a smile and a chipper personality even at 6 a.m. Could you imagine how ugly it would get at your local Starbucks that early in the morning if the culture was toxic? It would be every man for himself until the coffee is poured.

That is why culture matters so much. Toxic cultures yield toxic environments, which yield toxic employees who deliver bad service. People remember how someone makes them feel. If your customers or members get treated badly, that could be the difference between them banking with you or your competitor.

If your financial institution’s culture is toxic or perhaps just needs some work, you can change it. Start with your core values and your leadership team. Whatever those values are, your leaders have to live them daily in their jobs. They can’t pick and choose which ones work for them personally. They have to carry out the values established by your financial institution every single day. If they don’t, their employees won’t either.

Second, leaders must review those values with their staff and outline the expectations that come with those values. If someone can’t or won’t live up to them, that is grounds for termination.

Thirdly, hire people whose personalities and values fit your culture. Skills are important, but skills can be learned or increased with proper training and education. Personalities are inherent and generally don’t change. If you already know a candidate’s personality doesn’t fit with your culture, it shouldn’t matter how much skill they have for the job. They will be toxic to your culture.

Your financial institution’s culture is critical to your brand and vice versa. If they aren’t working together in harmony, your financial institution will struggle to grow and succeed.