At NAFCU, we choose to be intentional in everything that we do. By providing our members with advocacy, compliance assistance and educational opportunities to grow, credit unions can help the 133 million members they serve to help strengthen themselves in the process. But, to remain truly intentional, there still remains much more that we, as an industry, can do. Webster’s dictionary defines intentional as “something being done by design—deliberate, purposeful or willful.”
It is one thing to celebrate hitting specific milestones as an organization, but in doing so, it is necessary to identify where we can improve. As our organization moves forward, it is important that we continue to recognize diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace and keep it front of mind. To progress as a society, it is important that we continue to have a dialogue around DEI and to identify areas where we can improve.
I recently spoke on this topic at an industry event, and how important it is to be intentional. Specifically, how little can change, unless we, as individuals, as a society, as a country, remain intentional. To make a change, we must be deliberate with our actions, not just our words. In doing so, we will be able to see societal growth reveal itself.
Therefore, as leaders of companies and organizations, we must remain purposeful and aware when hiring employees. Management teams should reflect our communities, and having intentional diversity in both our management and our workforce brings diversity of thought, ideas and experiences; and in turn, a stronger organization.
It’s critical to ensure that the communities we work for are truly represented. Credit unions have a unique role in the financial services industry. As community-based financial institutions, we offer prime member service from a close distance in real-time. When incorporating DEI into our everyday operations, it’s critical that all perspectives are represented so that we can best implement goals and share ideas that fully reflect the communities we serve, from all angles.
At NAFCU, we provided DEI training for our management team and at monthly all-staff meetings. We bring in DEI leaders and experts to discuss best practices and strategies to incorporate in the workplace. In addition, we established the NAFCU Culture Committee, to give a voice to colleagues regarding workplace ideas and issues, including desired training opportunities, fairness discussions, and more. These efforts help our organization learn to practice what we preach, creating an environment where all perspectives are heard and understood so that our members can feel represented as well.
When I was in graduate school, I had the unforgettable opportunity to have lunch with Reverend Jesse Jackson. From that conversation, there was one thing he said that has stuck with me for over 20 years. He passionately said, “Let me be clear. Black folks don’t want a handout, they want a hand up. They want an opportunity for that job, for that promotion, for that raise. Just a damn opportunity.”
Credit unions are inherently invested in their communities, uniquely operating as a not-for-profit cooperative to provide increased opportunities for American businesses and families to achieve financial success and independence. Because of this, credit unions should also be intentional with DEI, not only because it’s the right thing to do, but to also ensure our actions reflect our ability to serve all members, regardless of economic status, race or gender. I am so proud to see the expansion of credit union branches in areas across the country where Americans have been left behind by larger financial institutions, especially in rural and urban areas.
As always, NAFCU’s doors are always open to serve you in any way you may need. Now go out and continue to be intentional.
Connect with B. Dan Berger on Twitter, @BDanBerger, and on his blog at nafcu.org/berger-leadership-blog.