If your credit union has made a statement of commitment to DEI, but now find yourself wondering what comes next, it’s time to make the business case for specific actions. As credit unions wrap up their 2021 strategic business plans and the budget process to support those, this is the perfect time to put the finishing touches on your DEI business case and begin the real talk: What do you expect to get out of your DEI strategy and what resources are you prepared to commit to achieve those objectives?
Your initial draw to DEI might have been more emotional or philosophical, but now– as with any other strategic business initiative—you must build the business case. Credit unions may be non-profit businesses, but they are still businesses. If you look at your DEI strategies as charitable efforts, something that is “just the right thing to do,” or an extension of your community involvement philosophy, you will miss the very real business value that may come. These efforts may fall short of what they are capable of, leaving historically marginalized populations let down by your organization and leaving your organization behind others who benefit from the value that diverse and inclusive organizations realize.
When you craft your business case for strategic DEI integration, include the following elements:
- Scope and Boundaries. Embracing a DEI strategy means making large-scale, enterprise-wide change. This isn’t a short-term initiative assigned to an ad hoc committee. It is a commitment to looking at everything from talent evaluation to governance; from product development and delivery channels to vendor selection. As tempting as it is to just jump in and get it done, you would be as likely to succeed with a core conversion that you “just get started with” as you would be with DEI. It takes pre-planning and significant coordination to successfully integrate Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Before you launch your efforts, take time to assess where you are today, evaluate your organizational readiness for this change, and then identify where you might start, clearly defining the scope and boundaries of your initial efforts. Your first business case might emphasize one actionable area for change (rather than trying to take on the whole organization at once). For this specific strategy, identify what it is and clarify the actions that will come from your work. Who will it impact and draw resources from? How much time will be invested? What will this specific strategy not touch in the organization at this time? Creating this clarity on the front-end of a business plan may make it easier to gain organizational support, which is a key element of successful change management.
- Costs and Benefits: I will reiterate this point: Credit unions are businesses, not charities. DEI is a business strategy, not a philanthropic effort. As such, your business case must look at the costs of the action you recommend and the expected return on this investment. Your budget might include new costs like training, outside consultants, stipends and/or certification programs for employees taking on new leadership roles as DEI Champions.
A compelling case should also include the cost of not making a change. Some elements that might be reflected as cost savings could include reduced turnover expenses, saving money by intentionally seeking out diversity suppliers (minority-owned vendors) for contracts, minimizing wrongful termination or discrimination lawsuits.
Benefits presented in your business case might include expanded market share, income or operational efficiencies, expanded products and services, enhanced public perception or employee well-being. A business case for equitable employee career path planning, for example, might include benefits like employee satisfaction and likely some image enhancement as you perhaps become a great place to work. You could also likely see some operational benefits through efficiencies that come with increased staff longevity.
- Results and Impact: Making the business case continues after the initial decision. It must include ongoing assessment, evaluation, and articulation of the benefit. Do not allow the results to speak for themselves. Instead, make the connection between actions taken to support DEI strategy and how it contributed to the bottom line of the organization. If you skip this step, others won’t make it for you. Consider these two case examples of how to present the impact of strategic DEI integration.
Case 1: An employee career pathing program was introduced eighteen months ago. Since implementation, two executive positions were filled internally and fees paid to external executive recruiters year-over-year are down 50%. This cost-saving can be claimed by your strategic DEI efforts.
Case 2: Your Employee Resource Group for Black employees brought in a guest speaker who consults with entrepreneurs. After getting to know your credit union better, this consultant has made you their endorsed lender of choice to minority-owned businesses in your community. Income from those business relationships should be attributed to your DEI strategy. Further, the lessons learned from this success might inform a business shift to use higher-impact business development strategies, changing your approach from going door-to-door for individual businesses to finding values-aligned partners who see working with your credit union as a way to achieve their own objectives, which could realize efficiencies or cost-savings in other areas.
If you’ve made it this far in the article and find yourself thinking, “Okay. I get what goes into a business case, but who is supposed to coordinate that in our organization?” it may be time to bring in external support to get started. A strategic consultant on the front-end of your work can help you assess your current organizational readiness and identify key areas to get you on track for long-term success, building momentum, and creating a more valuable organization for all your key stakeholders.
Our team at Humanidei has developed an approach to this work that considers the NCUA’s diversity standards and how you might complete the voluntary self-assessment (as set forth from the 2015 Interagency Policy Statement Establishing Joint Standards for Assessing the Diversity Policies and Practices). We would love to talk through how this framework will carry your credit union forward to long-term success.