Diversity Insight: Addressing DEI in Succession Planning

African-American business woman standing on the stairs
Contributing Writer

3 minutes

Build a credit union that’s more representative of its members—and can better serve them.

The succession planning process is a perfect opportunity to address diversity, equity and inclusion considerations and to build a credit union that is more representative of its members.

“We know that management teams with varied backgrounds, experiences and leadership styles offer clear advantages,” says Garrick Throckmorton, chief product and services officer at TalentTelligent, Winston-Salem, North Carolina. “Therefore, consideration must be given to the diversity that a candidate may bring to any given role, at any given level. We must systematically remove any barriers in our cultures that hinder talent development and utilization.”

Throckmorton adds that often these barriers exist in unconscious bias.

“Leaders often look for successors who have a similar profile as they have, rather than on the objective knowledge, skills and attributes that the role requires. This highlights the need to use a research-based approach to scoring high potentials that mitigates the tendency to overweight the decision criteria that leads to selecting the preferred individual they have had in mind all along.”

A strategically oriented succession plan will be structured in such a way that DEI is automatically embodied in the process, says Deedee Myers, Ph.D., MSC, PCC, CEO of CUESolutions Provider DDJ Myers Ltd., Phoenix.

“Such a process is also designed to minimize and mitigate bias,” she observes. “This structured process assumes that the organization has done its DEI work and has defined what diversity means to their organization, what equity means and what inclusion means. Structured and masterfully executed, this type of succession process automatically draws interest from a diverse population of external candidates.”

DEI considerations are facilitated by Myers’ advice to involve a broad range of stakeholders in the succession process. “Futuristic-thinking boards sensitive to diversity, equity and inclusion take action to include the perspectives of multiple key stakeholders,” she says, noting that in the case of a CEO succession, stakeholders may include membership, community, external strategic partners, employees, leadership, managers and the board.

Succession plans should be reflective of an overall commitment to inclusive and equitable hiring practices at the credit union. “It’s important to look at the big picture,” says Brandi Stankovic, Ed.D., COO/chief strategy officer for CU Solutions Group, Livonia, Michigan. “If credit unions do not have diverse individuals in their candidate pools or represented within their volunteer/board positions, then they need to be asking themselves why. This is not an easy question or easily changed, but a necessary imperative for essential governance practices.”

Succession plans can help formalize an organization’s intention to seek DEI representation amongst is their future leaders.

“For instance, you could include in your plans that ‘our candidate pool or board composition will represent our membership,’ and then do the research, present the findings and intentionally put in place recruitment policies, recruitment teams or subcommittees to ensure those values are met,” Stankovic advises.

Typically, those that incorporate DEI considerations in their succession planning also exhibit DEI principles elsewhere in the credit union. As Yvonne Evers, founder/CEO of Madison, Wisconsin-based SUCCESSIONApp LLC, a CUES Supplier member, explains: “It’s more about developing a whole culture of diversity and inclusion in the organization, and not just having it in your plan.”


Based in Missouri, Diane Franklin is a longtime contributor to Credit Union Management magazine.

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