Erica Pinsky



 available as a PODCAST

How North Shore Credit Union is Getting Respect Right!


One of the main reasons I chose the title Road to Respect for my book was to emphasize the journey involved in creating a values based, respectful workplace culture.  This is not about a quick trip with a speedy arrival at your destination.  Aligning your workplace policies, behaviours and practices to reflect the ethical value of respect can take years.


That kind of organizational journey requires commitment from senior leadership.  According to Issy Sharp, founder of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts and innovator of its award winning Golden Rule Culture ‘‘Enforcing our credo was the hardest part.”  As I heard from Four Season’s Ellen du Bellay, SVP Learning and Development that Gold Star Employer of Choice culture has been “40 years in the making.”


This is not a sprint – it’s a marathon.  It’s about commitment for the long haul.


Unfortunately, maintaining that kind of commitment can be challenging.  Let’s face it: culture change is difficult.  Proactively managing workplace relationships, creating and enforcing behavioural standards is hard. This kind of change requires us to be vulnerable, to look at our own behaviour with emotional detachment, to be prepared to admit to, and modify our behaviour and, most importantly, hold ourselves and others accountable. We may be all enthused at the outset, however, as we begin to understand what is required of us, enthusiasm often wanes.  We find excuses, reasons to justify our decision not to continue to travel on the Road to Respect.


Happily that is not always the case.  I first featured local employer North Shore Credit Union (NSCU) in this eNews in 2010. My interview with Marni Johnson, VP HR and Communications was prompted by a conversation with a colleague who was raving about the welcoming and respectful culture she had experienced working on contract with NSCU.


NSCU’s commitment to building a values based respectful culture has remained strong and is paying off handsomely. I was thrilled when Marni contacted me in late November 2012 to share that North Shore Credit Union had been recognized as one of “Canada’s 10 Most Admired Corporate Cultures™ of 2012” by Waterstone Human Capital, progressing from being a regional winner in 2011.  The national program, now in its eighth year, recognizes top Canadian organizations for having a culture that has helped them enhance performance and sustain a competitive advantage.


NSCU also earned a spot on the “50 Best Small and Medium Employers in Canada” list presented by Aon Hewitt and Queen’s School of Business in both 2012 and 2013.


I asked Marni if she would be willing to share what NSCU has been doing to build their culture over the last couple of years to garner this national recognition.  Here's what she shared with me about how NSCU is “getting respect right.”


Refreshing and Embedding Corporate Values


North Shore Credit Union’s culture is expressed through our values and we use them as a guiding foundation for how we do business. In 2011, we conducted a corporate values assessment to identify and articulate new values that would better align with our strategy and vision. A refresh was required as the original values had been in place for over 10 years and were no longer seen as visionary or inspirational. When asked, most of our employees could not name the original values – that told us something was not right.


Based on feedback from employee forums, surveys and a formal third party assessment, we identified the following new values to inspire staff and represent our culture: 360° Accountability, Sophisticated Experience, Balance, and Progressive Spirit.


As a values-based organization, collective “buy-in” and understanding of the values was critical to laying the foundation of our desired culture. We launched the values at our annual All Staff Meeting via video.  Staff feedback showed that our values resonate with employees and create pride in NSCU.


Some of the comments we received included, “The new ‘Our Values’ video was unbelievable. It actually gave me shivers watching it I was so proud.” “The [values] video was amazing. Made me cry.”


Additionally, we have embedded our values throughout the organization through team building activities, stories on our intranet, staff give-a-ways and corporate communications. In a recent employee survey, 87% said their understanding of the values is “good” or “very good.”


Creating an Accountable Partnership – The Employment Deal


There are studies that suggest that in general, employee engagement is declining, and it’s believed that one of the reasons for this is a fundamental lack of alignment between what the employer and the employee expect of one another.


At the other end of the spectrum, high-performing organizations with highly engaged employees (like NSCU) operate in an environment of transparency and alignment of expectations. Employees know what’s expected of them and they know what they can expect from their manager and from the organization.


Some people call these expectations the “employment value proposition” – what makes us different or unique as an employer.  At NSCU, we like to call it “The deal between you and NSCU,” or simply “the Deal.”  Its foundation is the aforementioned shared values.


We see the employment relationship between staff and the organization as a two-way street or a partnership. As in any successful partnership, there are clear and agreed-upon expectations and promises made on both sides. We incorporate the Deal in our day-to-day business and conversations. It encapsulates our culture and really means “how we do things around here.”


Soliciting and Sharing Information - Employee Opinion Surveys


Two years ago we moved to a new employee opinion survey through Aon Hewitt to provide us with information on what our employees are thinking, how they are feeling, and how NSCU stacks up against other similarly sized organizations across the country. Our employee participation rate is over 90%.


In the spirit of our value, 360° accountability, we share the full corporate numeric results with all staff. Additionally, we share a theme analysis of the verbatim comments (all 16 pages of comments from approximately 300 staff!). We use the information from these surveys to shed light on areas where we’re succeeding and areas of opportunity, to inform our project lists, and to guide our decision making.


In the press release announcing NSCU’s recognition as one of Canada’s 10 Most Admired Corporate Cultures, Chris Catliff, President and CEO, North Shore Credit Union eloquently summed up why it’s worth making the commitment to travel on the  Road to Respect.


“To work for an organization where your personal values align with the business’ values -- that’s magic -- and it creates an exceptional culture, A feeling of shared mission, shared meaning and shared ownership of our business outcomes creates NSCU’s strong culture. Our staff are inspired by our ‘can-do’ attitude and commitment to being bold and innovative.”


If you want to create that kind of  “magic” in your corporate culture, and enjoy sustainable business success, take a page out NSCU’s play book.  Commit yourself to creating a workplace and culture people want to be a part of.

Start your journey on the Road to Respect.


"This easy to read book paints a clear and vivid picture of what the many facets of respect looks like in a thriving organization.  Through numerous ‘respectful practices’ we are not just told, but shown how to move toward a culture where respect is a living core value and success and profitability are the outcomes.  It is the “roadmap” to respect and path to profit."

Mike Desjardins
One of Business in Vancouver’s Top 40 Under 40