Members of the credit union’s affinity groups and their allies support one another and the community.
2020 was a pivotal moment, and not only because of the pandemic. The murder of George Floyd sparked many to recognize the inequities that exist across this country, including within financial institutions. To help address this and foster a culture of inclusion, Kinecta Federal Credit Union established its Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council. The council got down to the business of reflecting on ways Kinecta could contribute to positive changes in its own community.
To be a pillar of equality, Kinecta knew that the efforts would need to begin within. That’s why a key component of Kinecta’s DEI initiatives has been its own successful implementation of employee resource groups, often called “ERGs.”
An Opportunity to Foster Belonging
ERGs are employee-led, voluntary groups whose members come together based on their shared identities, interests or backgrounds. They presented Kinecta with an avenue to raise awareness and give a voice to underrepresented individuals working at the credit union.
At Kinecta, the choice to establish these groups was easy. Not only do these groups offer employees the opportunity to network and progress in their professional development but they also provide individuals with a safe space where they can connect alongside others of similar backgrounds.
How Kinecta Successfully Implemented ERGs
At Kinecta, facilitating the formation of these groups was a team effort. The DEI Council shared the idea organization-wide and many responded with enthusiasm, expressing interest in leading a group, wanting to help with executive sponsorship or volunteering to recruit people to join a group. One component that makes Kinecta’s ERGs so successful is the organizational enthusiasm and encouragement for employees to participate in these groups.
The HR department places a special emphasis on regularly communicating with leadership on how best to support these groups and facilitate attendance. Though these meetings will never be mandatory, all employees are encouraged to take part and get involved.
The structure of each ERG is thoughtfully assembled, and there is a toolkit that walks interested employees through the process of creating an ERG. Every group has an employee leader and an executive sponsor. To form an ERG, the group must create a charter that outlines the group’s formal name, mission, goals, activities they expect to participate in and clearly defined roles. Kinecta has employees on both the East and West coasts, so these groups work hard to select meeting times that take all members’ availability into account, and even offer multiple time options for meetings to increase attendance.
Visibility is an important factor for Kinecta’s ERGs. Beyond communication through management and email, they leverage various methods to encourage participation, including a dedicated SharePoint page for each group, using the company’s internal internet, and hosting both in-person and virtual events to ensure everyone can participate.
Leaving a Lasting Impression
Kinecta’s ERG initiative has blossomed and now boasts seven established groups with an eighth in the works. These groups have strengthened the credit union’s community involvement and built strong partnerships with nonprofits in the community such as Spicy Green Book, Covenant House, PFLAG (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays) and Operation Progress. One ERG, Kinecta Unidos, participated in Random Act of Kindness Week by purchasing flowers from a local street vendor and gifting them to Kinecta’s Hawthorne branch members.
Even for employees working remotely, ERGs at Kinecta have a tremendous impact on employee engagement by boosting morale and making employees feel more connected and supported. The impact has not been limited to ERG members. Within Kinecta there is a large group of employees who don’t directly identify with an ERG but are passionate about supporting the group members and causes. These employees refer to themselves as allies, and they have had a significant impact on ERGs by offering support and amplifying the voices of ERG members and their group mission.
In March, National Credit Union Administration Board Member Rodney Hood joined Kinecta for a presentation about championing ERGs. At the event, best practices for making ERGs effective and strategies for inspiring involvement were shared. This level of support from a prominent figure has underscored the importance of this DEI initiative, reminding both Kinecta employees and the community that their credit union is much more than a financial institution; it’s a group of people devoted to leaving the world a little better than they found it.
A Worthy Endeavor
As Kinecta works to give every employee a voice and a sense of belonging, their efforts have already begun to have an impact on the communities they serve. Local nonprofits are being bolstered, cultures are being celebrated, and people are coming together. Kinecta is driven by its values and integrity, and the ERG initiative of its DEI Council has fostered an environment that represents these guiding principles.
CUES member Kim Graham is VP/human resources and talent development for $6.7 billion Kinecta Federal Credit Union, Manhattan Beach, California.