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The Culture-First Approach


By: Ashley Keegan, VP of People

When an organization views all its decisions and actions through the lens of its culture, everything changes for the better.

Ashley Keegan, Vice President of People at Electro Savings Credit Union, says Electro’s culture-first approach impacts the entire organization from the top down — from credit union policies and operations to employee advocacy and benefits.

When employees feel valued and cared for, they pay it forward to the credit union’s members by providing attentive and friendly service. These actions are manifesting in being recognized as a Top Workplace by the “St. Louis Post-Dispatch,” Top 5 in St. Louis for Customer Service by “Small Business Monthly,” and receiving the Business of Pride award from the “St. Louis Business Journal.”

The key to their success stems from having a defined culture, Keegan says, noting that having a “family friendly culture” isn’t specific enough.

“If you don’t define your culture, employees won’t have a shared sense of purpose,” she says. “Or your different levels of management may not be working toward the same goals. Morale could be low. Employees don’t know what’s expected of them, or they’re not working together. Without those things, it’s hard for an organization to function effectively.”

Electro’s culture has a three-pronged approach: a family atmosphere, collaboration, and transparency and accountability. Keegan says it’s known at Electro as “the three-legged stool.” Each leg is just as important, so if one leg fails, the whole stool collapses.

Every Electro staff member has a voice and the ability to make companywide changes with their feedback and suggestions. And because every idea and decision is tested against those three values, Electro employees and management go above and beyond for each other and their members.

“The culture leads us down this path of doing what’s right and having us show up for our people in ways you wouldn’t expect,” Keegan says. “Like going to the capitol and testifying against legislation that would impact the employment rights of LGBTQIA+ workers. That was in response to an employee pouring their heart out to us and sharing their fears regarding laws in Missouri that could be detrimental to LGBTQIA+. We couldn’t stand for that. Taking measurable action is important to us.”

Examples of Electro operating within its culture include establishing rules and boundaries around staff sending emails and scheduling meetings. Emails are restricted to Monday through Friday from 8 AM to 6 PM, and meetings can only be scheduled between 9 AM to noon and then 1 PM to 5 PM. Those boundaries were created to cut back on the pressure some felt to work late hours and skip taking a break for lunch. Another culture-first action occurred in 2020 when a handful of 7-Eleven employees lost their jobs when the store was damaged during a riot and ultimately closed. Electro reached out to the store owner and offered one of the employees a job. That employee still works for us, Keegan says, and is doing fantastic.

Employee benefits go beyond the norm, with a student loan paydown program, an allowance for company clothing, a 0% interest technology loan, volunteer time off, and the Power of You program. The Power of You encourages employees to pitch their ideas to improve the credit union. Suppose the idea is implemented and helps Electro make or save at least $1,000. In that case, Electro pays them 10% of what the credit union made or saved over a year.

The list goes on and on, Keegan says. It creates an exceptional environment and a constant feedback loop of positivity and improvement. Everyone within the company comes together, cares about each other, collaborates, and holds each other accountable. There is no uncertainty because Electro’s upper management is honest and transparent every step of the way.

It's a wonderful place to be and an asset to the community, Keegan says — all because of the culture Electro has worked so hard to develop and maintain.

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