King of culture
Brian Isham serves as a culture ‘bridge’ between leadership and employees.
Brian Isham wants fellow employees at Credit Union of America in Wichita, Kan., to share the mantra taped to his workplace computer: “We come to work every day inspired to make a difference in our members’ lives.”
Isham, assistant vice president of culture at the $1.2 billion asset credit union, believes in continually reinforcing what matters.
His daily reminder of every interaction’s best starting point is an Indra Nooyi quote posted on his office wall: “Assume positive intention.”
Gathering employee input by listening, collecting feedback, and conducting surveys is essential to Isham’s role in creating and reinforcing a positive workplace culture. Sharing that input makes him a “bridge” for leadership and employees.
“My job is to make sure the people who develop our products and processes are happy and supported,” Isham says, adding that the goal is engaged employees who live Credit Union of America’s mission and values. “It’s one thing to say it and another to live it out loud.”
Isham began his career at a Wichita finance company. In 2016, Credit Union of America hired him as assistant branch manager. He soon shifted to sales and service quality coaching, which evolved to focus on member experience and then culture.
“That role pulls to the forefront how important the employee experience is and how it impacts the member experience,” Isham says.
Credit Union of America accomplished a record-high service score of 4.6 on a 5.0 scale in 2021 while navigating the coronavirus, branch closures, a phone system overhaul, and low staffing levels. Listening to employee needs, focusing on recognition, and keeping employees connected during challenging times contributed to the high score.
In 2022, implementing a new peer-to-peer recognition program and diversity, equity, and inclusion strategies have enhanced these efforts.
Isham cites his mother, Teresa, a human resources director at a hospital, as his professional hero. His identical twin, Shawn, a police officer, taught him “how important people are to navigating this world.”
His partner, Luis, offers an introvert’s perspective to balance Isham’s “complete extrovert” view.
Isham enjoys activities that engage his brain, including playing the French horn, learning the harp, testing himself in strategy games, and simultaneously completing an MBA and CUlead, a Heartland Credit Union Association leadership program.
While Isham loves to be in motion, he reminds himself to pause and listen to employees and members for guidance on the next step toward a stronger culture.
“Action is never the first step,” Isham says. “The first step is understanding the need.”