Creating Corporate Culture


In today’s episode, Shawn Premer, the chief human resources officer for Consumers Credit Union, discusses corporate culture, managing the emotions of the team, and working hard to build positive employee experiences.




Lynne Jarman-Johnson (LJJ): Money I’m home. Welcome in from finance to fitness. This is Lynne Jarman-Johnson, with Consumers Credit Union. And I’ll tell you what, we’ve got a great show for you today. We are featuring somebody who is just a rock star, a rock star in the world of HR, Human Resources, and a rock star in her own right. Shawn Premer is our chief HR officer. Welcome in today.

Shawn Premer (SP): I’m glad to be here.

LJJ: So, Shawn, this is really an exciting conversation because we’re talking today about culture and we’ve heard the quote, that Culture eats strategy for breakfast.

What does that mean to you?

SP: Culture really defines who you are as an organization.

So, a lot of times we hear about great organizational cultures, but organizations can also have cultures that aren’t so great, so it can be a positive or a negative sentiment, I guess we’ll say. And that statement about culture eating strategy for breakfast is really about creating a culture around positivity and performance to get the job done, and that’s what executes great strategy. So, culture really is defined by your behaviors, your values, how you interact with each other inside the organization and with your external stakeholders.

LJJ: One of the first things that I learned at Consumers, which I think it’s amazing. You’re in the business world for years and then there’s an aha light bulb moment when someone said, to me, “Why are you carrying someone else’s problems on your shoulders?”

Like what are you doing. Now that someone was you, and you really taught me to look inside myself and help lead others to not do the same thing. What exactly is that thought, and why is it so inspiring for individuals once they start to learn that behavior?

SP: Yeah, so our value here is servant leadership and what servant leadership really means is leading yourself and others well. So as a leader in the organization, you have to guide your team to lead themselves. You can’t always carry that burden of leadership for them. Now the servant side of that is, you’ll give them every tool, you’ll help them in any way you possibly can. But ultimately, true leadership comes from self-leadership and learning how to make good decisions and learning how to interact and navigate challenges on your own.

And so the best leaders are those that really guide and coach their teams to be able to do that.

LJJ: One of the things that we have done extremely well here is hire and classes and leading, leading doesn’t mean your title.

Leading is truly what you personally can do and whatever job that you’re in. We hire in classes because what I have seen is it truly brings a comradery that mentorship that spirit of team work. How do you see that working on a day-to-day basis?

SP: So, when we’re hiring for this organization, we hire every single person based on our set of values, and those values are again what drives our organizational culture. So, when we hire in groups, we have this ability to set the stage for what the journey at Consumers is going to look like and what your interactions are going to be like as an employee here.

So that group environment, the very first hour and a half of the very first day is focused on time spent with our executive leadership team, including our CEO, and that really defines the journey, and sets everybody into a path of common behaviors, common expectations, to define their journey. So, nobody goes into employment here questioning how they should interact and behave, and they all know the same thing coming out of their first week of training, and that gives them a sense of security and knowledge to help them make decisions and lead themselves once they get on the job. Now, of course, we don’t leave them after that first week. We keep guiding them along the way, they have a pretty well-defined for six months here, but ultimately, that first week sets the stage of that career journey they’re going to take with us.

LJJ: You have helped build Consumers into an elite organization, a best-of-the-best across the country.

Tell me what are the things that you think have helped create that sense of culture that leads to, wow, across the country?

SP: So, my job here really is keeper of that culture and really to make sure that the things that we’re doing as a leadership team, not only at the executive level, but amongst every leader is really creating great experiences for the employee while they’re here. Now, yes, I have certainly taken a strong part in helping us become recognized for those things, but I am not the one responsible for the great culture that gets recognized nationally. It really drives from every single person in this organization who’s decided they want to be here and live and breathe the values and create the environment and the experience that we create for each other here.

And we have an executive leadership team that supports great experiences for the employee in the member, and that ultimately drives the environment we have. So yes, I do what I can, but I wouldn’t say that I’m responsible for that, but definitely I help write those award submissions and then our employees get surveyed. So ultimately their responsible for us winning those based on the feedback that they provide.

LJJ: Tell us for those who are also striving to become business leaders and or companies to succeed and with their culture.

What are some takeaways that you look at and you think, you know while this really does work?

SP: So, the simplest thing that you can do… So, whether you’re a business of four, or 400, the simplest thing you can do is look at everything your employee touches and says, what, and say to yourself, What type of experience am I giving them? So, whether it’s how they fill out an application, how they interview, what their first day feels like, what it’s like when they have to use an insurance if you offer the insurance, what it’s like if they have a problem, how do you respond to that?

I always think of it this way. Every employee has two buckets when they come to work and they’re on one of those leveling stands, and so one bucket will get filled with good things and the other bucket will get filled with negative things. There’s always going to be negative encounters when you go to work. It could be with a customer, could be with a co-worker, it could be that you got stuck in a ditch on your way there, it could be any number of things, but there’s a good bucket in a bad bucket, and you as the leader have the ability to help them make sure that that good bucket far outweighs the bad bucket. So, when they’re recounting their time at work, the positive outweighs the negative. And so that really boils down to everything you do on a day-to-day basis to create their experience when they come to work. And then when you create great experiences for them, they then create great experiences for your customer, and it really boils down to a great culture then at that point.

LJJ: What do you think your favorite time, if you can look at all of the things that have happened underneath your leadership, which has been great here at Consumers where is there a point where you just kind of turn your head, and say, wow, that all bubbled up and became just a joy to see.

SP: The greatest joy I’ve gotten here is when I see our employees’ band together to help each other. So, I think we hire great people, and we do so many cool things as an organization, so I can’t drill it down to one cool thing we do, but when we have an employee in need and our employees come together to help that employee, my heart just bursts because you know then that you’ve really hired that right people on your team and you’ve created this culture where you truly are family then at that point, because no one in our family wants to see another family member suffer, and we’ve seen that so many times in my time here.

LJJ: That’s awesome. Shawn Premer, she is the Chief HR officer with Consumers Credit Union.

Thanks so much for being with this today.

 SP: My pleasure.

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