Volunteer Corporate Credit Union (VolCorp) is a not-for-profit financial cooperative serving approximately 330 member credit unions nationally with a myriad of critical and value-add products/services to support their success.
When Jeff Merry was promoted to CEO in 2016, he became only the fourth chief executive in the organization's 40-year history. While VolCorp maintained its legacy of strength and stability through the 2008 financial crisis and into the 2020 pandemic, Merry knew it was time to refresh the culture and strategic focus.
In February 2019, Merry and his senior leadership team chose Gallagher as VolCorp's consulting partner for their cultural enhancement project. According to Merry, the organization selected Gallagher because the integrated team of consultants offers decades of experience across a broad range of solutions. From workforce engagement to leadership coaching, organization restructuring and executive compensation, Gallagher offers the specialized skills needed. At the top of the list, however, VolCorp leaders valued the Gallagher team's ability to listen deeply and build strong, trusting consulting relationships.
"After we interviewed several consulting groups, both small and large, it became clear that each person we spoke with at Gallagher was a good cultural fit for VolCorp. Both the cultural fit and Gallagher's reputation trumped that of other firms," Merry said.
While VolCorp delivered strong financial performance, Merry saw the need to take the organization's culture to the next level. It was time to transform the leadership structure to enhance engagement, communication and trust. Such an undertaking meant further development of senior leaders and their teams to enhance the organization's relevance, competitiveness and adaptability to new thinking.
"We had just come out of a decade of 'reactive mode' with very tenured staff. We found ourselves entering a 'who do we want to be' environment instead of a 'what do we have to do' environment," he said. Merry acknowledges that "that is a very different mindset and a critical shift in thinking in order to become the VolCorp of tomorrow rather than being stuck in the past."
Merry wanted his leadership team to consider several behavioral expectations: how can VolCorp achieve its goals; whether the current structure and focus enables them to meet these behavioral expectations; how can each leader improve his or her leadership skills; and how can the leadership team improve the way they work together.
First, Gallagher conducted an engagement survey to set a baseline and identify areas that supported or obstructed VolCorp's cultural enhancement and leadership development. The senior leadership team worked with Gallagher consultants to craft survey questions, then sought the input of department managers. The resulting survey garnered 100 percent participation, ensuring that everyone had a voice.
Genevieve Roberts, Gallagher's Managing Director for Leadership and Organizational Development, helped to guide the leadership development and cultural enhancement process.
"Jeff Merry was all-in and understood that it would take time to assess and shape the culture. He had the courage to take risks and accept feedback," she said.
The engagement survey revealed where the organization excelled to support career wellbeing—compensation, benefits, and rewards. Survey results also pointed to opportunities to enhance the senior leadership team, create more open communication, set clearer goals and expectations, and break down silos.
Gallagher consultants conducted follow-up interviews for qualitative data that further informed plans around creation of new senior leadership positions and coaching to match the right leaders to the right roles.
Based on the foundational survey work, the Gallagher team recommended a four-part program:
- Develop a competency model outlining the behavioral and technical skills expected of leaders.
- Assess all leaders for strengths and areas for development.
- Provide each senior leader with feedback, coaching and an Individual development plan to focus career goals.
- Address the leadership team function as a whole, focusing on building trust and resolving conflict.
The four-step process transformed the leadership team and the organization, according to Merry.
"The survey and interviews helped spread self-awareness throughout our senior leadership team on an individual level and raised awareness of our efforts to transform VolCorp on an organizational level. We relied on Gallagher's guidance to identify areas to address with a clear methodology and an appropriate timeline," he said.
The leadership reorganization and development process unfolded over a year. As a key component, Gallagher consultants assessed and refined the compensation to match each of the redesigned executive positions to appropriately compensate and retain key talent. Quarterly check-ins with Gallagher continue to implement learning into corporate systems and culture.
Merry says he has received requests from department managers who are eager to implement the engagement tactics that the senior leadership team successfully demonstrated.
Moving forward, VolCorp is implementing a follow-up workforce engagement survey to measure the impact of the reorganization and enhanced communication process. Meanwhile, recent data show that the organization's credit union membership has noticed positive change.
"The numbers from our last member survey are even stronger than before," Merry points out. As a business partner, Gallagher stands ready to help VolCorp step to the next level.
"We have confidence in our relationship with Gallagher," Merry said. "We could've paused our initiatives during COVID, but that would have been a huge mistake. With Gallagher, we have a partner we can trust to execute this plan at a time when communication and engagement are most crucial."
With the enhanced cultural foundation, the right organizational structure, and the right team in place following a fine-tuned corporate strategy, Jeff Merry says VolCorp is well-positioned to face the future with confidence.
For a consultation in developing and implementing a leadership and organizational development plan to help your organization to face the future with confidence, contact Gallagher today.