An Inclusive Environment Is Essential at Illiana Financial

young female employee with headset and computer
Marisela Zambrano Photo
Director of Business Development
Illiana Financial CU

3 minutes

The credit union values Spanish-speaking staff; supports employee and community education; and celebrates Cinco de Mayo.

At Illiana Financial Credit Union, one of our main objectives is to generate an inclusive environment, equally as much for our members as our employees. Throughout the years, we have evolved to create an inclusive workforce that reflects the communities we serve. Our branch locations are positioned in areas with a large population of Spanish-speaking people. Acknowledging the significance of language and to provide the best member experience, we recognized that our employees must reflect the community. As a result, the majority of our current staff are fluently bilingual. 

Serving our communities beyond meeting their banking needs is additionally essential to our organization. Pre-pandemic, our CEO, Jim Henmueller, would teach a financial literacy class for students enrolled in English as a second language at a local community college, Prairie State College in Chicago Heights, Illinois. Furthermore, Illiana Financial CU has collaborated with PSC and to grant the Illiana Financial Credit Union-Hispanic Scholarship. My CU donates $2,000 per semester to PSC to sponsor up to four students who are DACA Dreamers, or to students who have Social Security numbers but do not qualify for financial aid because of their parents’ citizenship status. We do also grant this scholarship to students at South Suburban College, South Holland, Illinois. Investing in our communities generates potential members along with attracting potential talent.

Illiana Financial CU strives to create an inclusive and positive career environment where growth opportunities are possible. Myself for instance, I began my career as a teller. Illiana Financial CU presented me with the opportunity for career growth. Presently, I am the director of business development and BSA officer. In an effort to preserve talent, we facilitate the opportunity for career and educational growth as well. Our credit union provides a tuition reimbursement program for all of our employees pursuing their education in business. Referrals and attending local job fairs at city events or colleges have been our most successful platforms for recruiting employees.

Working for an organization that understands our background and traditions is an unmeasurable benefit that increases employee retention and employee satisfaction and reduces the turnover rate. Cinco de Mayo, for example, is a celebration that the credit union embraces. Every year, staff decorate the lunchroom and celebrate the holiday with food. 

Illiana Financial CU has created an inclusive environment by acknowledging that our culture is very family-oriented and recognizing our obligation and responsibility to care for and provide for our families. “Family first” is an internal philosophy that is respected throughout our organization. In fact, this philosophy has been so influential that we even refer to ourselves (IFCU employees) as the “Illiana Family.” Whenever there is a staff member who is welcoming a child, we celebrate the baby and refer to it as an “Illiana baby.”

My personal experience working for an inclusive organization has been such an honor. This journey has contributed to my professional and personal development. Illiana Financial CU not only invested in my growth internally, but for my future as well, and for that, I will forever be beyond grateful. Because of the tuition reimbursement program, I have the opportunity to pursue a Master’s of Business Administration.

Illiana Financial CU understands our desire and need to thrive in life. Our occupations are extremely crucial to us, and by presenting growth opportunities, the CU does an exceptional job at responding to our needs. Some of our staff, including myself, are first-generation, which means that we are the first in the family to graduate high school and/or college. By introducing the tuition reimbursement program, Illiana Financial CU provides all of our staff with financial assistance to fulfill our dreams and goals.

Hiring talent within the communities you serve and investing in the people of the communities you serve will help you attract the best employees. And investing in your employees and acknowledging what is important to them will deliver exceptional results and success.

Marisela Zambrano is director of business development at $277 million Illiana Financial Credit Union, Calumet City, Illinois. 

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