Diversity training gaining ground at credit unions
While workplace diversity has long been an important issue for some companies, many organizations moved quickly to reexamine their internal policies this summer following George Floyd’s death in police custody and the nationwide protests that followed.
Some of the institutions included in this year’s Best Credit Unions to Work For rankings were ahead of the curve, offering formalized diversity training as part of their workplace culture prior to Floyd’s death and the launch of a broader conversation on social justice issues.
John Wilkening, chief retail officer at Notre Dame Federal Credit Union, explained that his institution’s goal is to raise awareness and educate employees, but stay away from the politicization that has developed around the issue.
“Leadership is about action,” said Wilkening. He added, “At Notre Dame FCU, we want to change a life a day, and we are doing so by starting in-house with the intention of inclusion for all, which will flow into how we serve our membership base and community.”
The number of credit unions offering formalized diversity training continues to grow. A review of the annual Best Credit Unions to Work For rankings shows that number rising from 64% of those included in the rankings in 2017 to 88% this year. The industry has also embraced the practice, with many institutions creating executive-level positions focused on diversity and inclusion amid a broader discussion about whether an eighth cooperative principle should be added addressing the topic.
Notre Dame FCU’s approach to diversity and inclusion training was previously built around an annual modular training system put in place to educate staff about the importance of a diverse workforce, but two years ago a change was made.
“We put our education into action by forming the Hispanic Latino Initiative (HLI). We were nationally recognized as the only Indiana credit union to earn the national Juntos Avanzamos (Together We Advance) designation for our commitment to serving and empowering Hispanic and immigrant consumers,” said Wilkening. “Since then, we have received grants allowing us to offer Spanish classes to Notre Dame FCU partners.”
By engaging the community, Wilkening said, the credit union’s partners have continued to build on efforts and regularly reaches out to a “dense Latino community” within the South Bend city limits and the broader region.
“Paralleled with the HLI community engagement are our team efforts with a new African American initiative,” he said. “At the end of 2019, the decision was made to combine these initiatives to form one group for diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).”
Rodney Hood, chairman of the National Credit Union Administration, has lauded the industry’s efforts to promote diversity.
“People want to move beyond platitudes and vague expressions of support so we can focus on real changes that will have a concrete impact,” Hood wrote in a letter to credit unions this summer. He noted that while the number of credit unions taking part in the agency’s voluntary diversity self-assessment continues to grow, it still hovers below 5% of the total industry, having risen from 81 credit unions in 2018 to 118 last year. “This is progress year-over-year, but it is not good enough.”
The importance of diversity, equity and inclusion is also on the radar at Carolina Trust FCU. While the credit union does not do formal diversity training for all staff, it is part of the onboarding process for new hires, said Jessica Wilson, chief development officer and a certified diversity executive.
“We have not been able to formalize a subject matter expert coming in to train,” she noted, but said the credit union has been commended for the diversity in one of its marketing campaigns, which exclusively featured members and staff. “It is of utmost importance to me to always cultivate positive atmosphere of DEI,” added Wilson.