Diversity Insight: Seeing Each Employee—and Home Office—as Unique

female hands working on laptop with dog
Dorthy Mack Photo
DE&I Council Lead & VP/Division Executive
CO-OP Financial Services

5 minutes

The value of CO-OP Financial Services’ new DE&I Council underscored by the pandemic

Editor’s note: June is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride month, as designated by presidential proclamation since 1999. Please read the coverage of the outreach Olympia CU does to the LGBTQ+ community—and two other case studies of credit unions embracing diversity—in this article from our June magazine.

Bringing diverse talent and perspectives together drives innovation. Consider research published in Human Resources Today showing that 77% of respondents “believed that organizations benefit from hearing different points of view from their employees, and the diverse points of view can lead to better products and services for customers.” A recent Boston Consulting Group survey reveals that companies with more diverse management teams have 19% higher revenue.

With such data in mind, CO-OP Financial Services formed its Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council in February. The Council’s mission statement and its vision for CO-OP is to “understand, attract and engage a diverse workforce where every employee can live up to their value; ensuring that our employee base reflects the consumers we serve. The result of this effort is an inclusive environment where diverse talent thrives.”

None of us anticipated back in February that by March we’d be in the middle of a pandemic nor that a tragic event in May in Minneapolis would create a worldwide reaction. While more and more organizations are embracing diversity of thought in times of more normal business, our Council has brought focused perspective on diversity, equality and inclusion to CO-OP’s pandemic response. Specifically, we will support our organization’s desire to recognize and respond to employees’ individual needs, gifts and aspirations.

Here’s what our Council learned from taking a close look at how the virus and resulting economic lockdown has been impacting employees.

The New ‘Normal’ is Anything But

Working conditions are very different right now, from working out of the home and social distancing at the office to learning all-new tools and processes. At-home work environments can include spouses, children, significant others and pets, and all are part of the new workplace. Understanding that each working situation is unique is critical to being able to ensure that employees feel included in a socially distanced world. We are communicating across the organization the need for cooperation in accepting this.

While many CO-OP employees telecommute on a regular basis, most of us had never worked from home before. So, we had to get our offices set up, making sure we had the tools, technologies and phone systems to serve our clients well. This was especially important and true for our remote contact center staff.  

For on-site employees, CO-OP provides face masks, has implemented social distancing, and conducts temperature checks as employees enter buildings. We have consistently made known the reason behind these steps—our concern for the health and safety of each of our employees.   

Fear of the Unknown  

Employees are experiencing a tremendous amount of uncertainty right now. This can include anxiety over finances, especially if a spouse or partner has lost a job due to the pandemic. DE&I programs can be used to remind employees that they are not alone—even as their daily work tasks may have shifted. This is a critical message that must be reinforced at the highest levels in a company.

To support and inform our employees, CO-OP set up a SharePoint site where they can go for updates on the company’s progress as well as support resources. We are also delivering a weekly video message from Todd Clark, our CEO, which can also be accessed on the SharePoint site.

We also understand the impacts of the pandemic on the members of our broader credit union community. We have developed programs for our credit unions that enable them to help members financially with skipped payments, deferred interest, deferred fees and adjusted minimum pays due.  

Welcome to WebEx

The digital economy is here to stay. It’s amazing how much technology touches our lives right now and how much we can humanize the experience.

For example, in the past our company WebEx calls were typically completed without participants activating the video feature. Now that WebEx has become the primary—and sometimes only—communication platform for our teams, we find ourselves embracing video, and we are relaxing our dress code and other business formalities accordingly. It’s just really great to see each other’s smiling faces.

We held a virtual THINK Conference on May 7. This half-day program featured insightful guest speakers, interactive sessions and opportunities to connect with peers. To help participants enjoy the event without interruption from wherever they were working, we sent $15 DoorDash certificates to each registrant to cover the cost of lunch delivery. This is just one example of how thinking about the individual, and what that individual’s needs are, can make socially distant experiences that much more valuable.

Staying the Course

When we launched the DE&I Council, we had no idea what was to about to unfold, but we have worked diligently to ensure the continuity of the program we had originally envisioned.

May was Mental Health Awareness month so we provided educational resources to employees who may be dealing with depression and other issues. For Memorial Day we shared a video interview with a veteran to give employees insights into what our nation’s heroes experience.  

Currently, we are working on an outreach initiative for the Council. Using such social channels as LinkedIn and Facebook, we will be connecting with our colleagues across the industry to expand participation in Council initiatives.  

Ultimately, we envision CO-OP’s DE&I Council as a dynamic, growing support network that is open to all and that reflects the principles of our mission. We look forward to the day when we can meet again in person, yet in the meantime we find the work of DE&I is more relevant than ever.

Dorthy Mack is DE&I Council lead and VP/division executive for CUES Supplier member CO-OP Financial Services, Rancho Cucamonga, California, a payments and financial technology provider to credit unions.

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