Similar to a tree falling in a forest with no one around, is a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) strategy fully effective if it’s not communicated? What happens if a credit union has invested a considerable amount of labor, time, and other resources towards DEI, but is still accused of “not doing enough?”
While credit union leaders may be doing the right things to increase DEI initiatives, not communicating their efforts to both internal and external stakeholders leaves them vulnerable to criticism. Whether it is being accused of a lack of transparency or at worst, perceived as uninterested in issues of belonging, diversity, equity, and inclusion, organizations such as credit unions run the risk of possessing a DEI strategy that falls on deaf ears.
Ideally, a comprehensive communications plan is implemented from the very beginning, and articulates the credit union’s commitment to DEI, demonstrates leadership’s support around it, and regularly updates its stakeholders with a variety of data, policy changes, and stories of its progress. Frequent and consistent communication, to employees, leaders, to members, and the community at large, pave the way to building trust and demonstrating that the credit union is sincere in its DEI efforts.
Credit unions may not be prepared to respond to criticism from members or even employees without a transparent DEI communications plan. Challenges such as lack of employee diversity, poor retention, or disgruntled members can leave the credit union susceptible to bad publicity if there is not a communication strategy in place to complement the DEI strategy. This is where partnerships with external entities such as consultants and community organizations can help.
Credit unions need to communicate their DEI plan and tell their story. This is critically important for internal stakeholders like employees and board members, not just the public.
Credit unions live the “people helping people” philosophy every day, and telling that story through a DEI frame is important. The proactive communication of a credit union’s DEI strategy can be done through social media, newsletters, and even media outreach for unique initiatives. It is also crucial to have a crisis communication plan in place in case challenges arise that require a public-facing response.
A DEI communication strategy can bring numerous benefits for a credit union, including:
- Internal employee retention: staying in constant contact with employees about DEI strategy and direction can help staff feel involved and seen.
- External benefits: Public stakeholders (members, community leaders, media, etc.) see what the credit union is doing, which helps promote brand loyalty and attract/retain members.
- Enhancing a “people helping people” culture: Members and staff alike will feel like they are living this value.
- Bridge junior and senior staff around DEI initiatives: Junior-level staff at the credit union are often eager to make a difference, including a want to do more with DEI initiatives. Senior staff may feel overwhelmed and that things move too fast, so an internal communication strategy can help create a protocol for decisions and bridge the gap.
Transparency of your credit union’s DEI efforts is a critical component of the DEI strategy. Being intentional in your communication will help to ensure your credit union is genuinely moving the needle in its DEI efforts. It’s never too soon to get started, and we’re ready and able to help.
Co-Author: Jennifer Esperanza, Senior Director of Organization Culture and Strategy, Coopera