Decoding Company Culture

CU Management VP/Publications and Publisher Theresa Witham
Theresa Witham Photo
VP/Publications & Publisher

2 minutes

From the Editor

This month, we’re bringing you an in-depth resource about company culture. Our five-page cover story explores: 

  • how to build an intentional internal culture;
  • why a strong culture is important;
  • how to communicate your culture to employees and potential employees;
  • the difference between organizational culture and climate;
  • who is responsible for culture (Spoiler alert: It’s everyone); and
  • a helpful infographic that compares culture to an iceberg, with traits both visible (above the surface) and invisible (below the surface).

Your credit union’s benefits and office environment are examples of visible culture traits. These are easy to define and explain to a new employee. Some invisible items are also easy to define and explain, such as your core values, vision and purpose. But some—like trust and safety, biases, work ethic, openness or enjoyment—can be trickier to pin down.

Many of these same themes come up in the CUES Podcast episode 161, a conversation I had with my colleague Lesley Sears, VP/consulting services, about human-centered vs. business-centered leadership. (Listen at

Sears shared signs that a culture might be in trouble. Are employees grumbling? “If they’re fighting, if it’s nitpicky, if it’s all of those things that you would envision seeing in an unhealthy culture, … it’s probably not people-centered. And guess what? Members see that too. That culture doesn’t stay hidden behind closed doors. It’s clear and obvious to members … what’s going on.”

In our article, Sears also describes the difference between organizational culture and climate. “Culture refers to the shared values, beliefs, history and traditions that are foundational to the organization, whereas climate refers to the recurring patterns of behavior, attitudes and feelings that characterize the organization’s day-to-day work environment.”

If your organization struggles with any of these invisible traits, the good news, according to Sears, is that it does not take as long to change climate as it does culture. “Culture is more ingrained in the organization, so it could take a decade or more to make a significant shift,” she says. “If your climate needs repair, you could potentially change it within a couple of years.”

Read more in our cover story, “Build Culture From the Bottom Up,” and then let me know more about your credit union’s culture. We’d love to feature you in a future issue.

P.S. Read more from CUES VP/Consulting Services Lesley Sears cues icon.

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