Leadership Matters: Creating an Empowering, Supportive and Inclusive Culture Within Your Organization

group of happy diverse employees
By Pam Cohen

4 minutes

Fostering an environment of well-being is essential for driving employee engagement and organizational success.

Creating a culture that encompasses empowerment, equity and inclusion isn't just a nice idea—it's a must for all financial institutions. At Affinity Federal Credit Union, we've long recognized that our greatest asset is our people. It's clear that fostering a supportive, inclusive environment is essential for driving employee engagement, productivity and overall organizational success. Much like we do for our members, we ensure our employees have access to the resources and assistance they need to thrive in all aspects of their lives, touching all five pillars of well-being: mental, physical, social, financial and community.

Ensuring Equity in Policies and Practices

Equity is a cornerstone of our organizational culture, and it starts with our hiring processes. We continually review our job descriptions to ensure they are free from bias and post positions on a variety of job boards to reach a diverse pool of candidates. To further mitigate unconscious bias in hiring, we are implementing a process to remove identifiable information from resumes, such as names and graduation dates.

When evaluating staff members for promotions, we look at a range of criteria, including gender, age and ethnicity, to ensure fairness. The professional development programs we have in place are designed to offer equal opportunities for growth, regardless of an employee's current role or level. This ensures that all employees have access to the resources they need to advance their careers.

Impact of Inclusion on Employee Well-being

Inclusion is integral to employee wellbeing at Affinity. Our benefits programs are designed to cater to the diverse needs of our workforce, offering comprehensive support for physical and mental health. Through our employee assistance program, employees have access to specialized therapists and counselors, ensuring that everyone has the support they need. We also emphasize career well-being through diversity, equity and inclusion roundtables and Employee Resource Groups. These initiatives provide platforms for employees to connect, share experiences and support each other through their careers at Affinity.

Empowering Employees at All Levels

One of our most effective empowerment strategies is our community engagement program. This initiative allows employees to volunteer with organizations that resonate with them personally, giving them the freedom to choose their activities and make meaningful contributions. This not only enhances their sense of purpose but also boosts their fulfillment at work.

Our employees have truly thrived in this program. They have taken ownership of our community outreach efforts, driving our volunteer activities by selecting the causes we support and the events we sponsor. This ensures our efforts are inclusive and reflective of our diverse workforce.

Additionally, collaboration between departments has strengthened our relationships with local businesses and nonprofits, creating a positive impact beyond our credit union. Our members have also consistently stepped up to support our community initiatives, demonstrating their commitment to making a difference.

Measuring Success

We use a multifaceted approach to measure the success of our empowerment, equity and inclusion initiatives. Employee feedback is crucial; we regularly conduct online surveys and solicit input through various channels to understand what our employees need and want. These insights inform our strategies and help us adapt to changing needs.

Additionally, we track key metrics such as turnover rates, engagement scores, internal promotion rates and succession planning. These data points provide a comprehensive view of how well we're supporting our employees and where we need to improve. For example, a decrease in turnover and an increase in internal promotions are strong indicators that our efforts to create a supportive and equitable workplace are paying off.

Listen to Your Employees

For other credit unions looking to cultivate a similar organizational culture, my biggest piece of advice is to listen to your employees. They are your most valuable resource and have a deep understanding of what will help them succeed. Create a safe environment where employees feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and be prepared to act on their feedback. When employees see that their voices are heard and their suggestions lead to tangible changes, they become powerful advocates for the organization.

Looking Ahead

As we look to the future, our commitment to an employee, member, and community-focused culture remains strong. We will continue to refine and expand our programs to support our employees' well-being and professional growth. Our certified well-being coaches, trained to provide members with the best possible support in managing their personal finances and overcoming financial challenges, will play a crucial role in helping our members thrive, ensuring that our community engagement efforts remain strong.

By fostering a culture of empowerment, equity, and inclusion, we aim to create an environment where both our employees and members can flourish.

CUES member Pam Cohen is chief administrative officer at $4.2 billion Affinity Federal Credit Union, Basking Ridge, New Jersey.

Compass Subscription