What does diversity, equity and inclusion look like? This is something all credit unions had to ask themselves when DEI was added as the eighth cooperative principle for credit unions in 2019. We, like so many of our fellow credit unions, have since begun to conduct a more in-depth review of our workplace policies, practices and culture. from an equity and inclusion perspective. Our goal is to create transformative change that makes everyone who works with or for Vizo Financial feel valued and included.
In 2021, Vizo Financial engaged an external DEI consultant to assess our current working environment and provide recommendations on where to focus our efforts and resources. To obtain meaningful employee feedback, we conducted a staff survey, held one-on-one interviews with each member of the leadership team, and conducted three focus groups with employees.
Following the data collection phase, our efforts focused on forming a team of 10 employees, whom we called DEI Champions, to lead this work within the organization. This team, which includes members from all four Vizo Financial campuses and represents people of different races, genders, sexual orientations, religions, disabilities and ages, used the information gathered to set priorities in the pursuit of Vizo Financial’s DEI objectives. The consultant also provided one-on-one coaching sessions to give feedback and feedback on our current and future initiatives, as well as advice on how to deal with any anticipated issues that may arise.
DCI Champions have created a 2022 calendar of Cultural Diversity Days to be recognized throughout the year. The calendar also recognizes various religious holidays that we know are celebrated by our employees. This data was collected in our DEI employee survey, where staff could anonymously share various aspects of their identities so that we could tailor our activities and efforts to specifically meet their interests. We also published a glossary of terms to define common words and phrases used in the DEI space, provided introductory training on inclusive language, and encouraged our staff to include their personal pronouns in their email signatures and on their account names in Zoom.
The Vizo Financial DEI Champions began publishing a monthly newsletter, called Insights, in November 2021, and this was a starting point to invite deeper conversations with staff on various DEI-related topics. In January, we held a staff luncheon on poverty awareness in our country. And, in February, a team member led a discussion for employees to talk openly about their personal experiences with being Black in America. In April, DEI Champions will present a DEI-related training session that all staff must attend. As well as sharing personal stories from colleagues to build empathy and deepen our understanding of others’ experiences, the session will include DEI survey data and education on terms, such as the difference between equity and equality. Equality means that each person receives the same resources and opportunities, while equity recognizes that each person has different circumstances and allocates the necessary resources and opportunities to achieve an equal result.
At our DEI Champions meetings, we talk about the importance of breaking down barriers with our stories and creating empathy among all of our staff through personal storytelling. We intentionally seek out opportunities and create spaces for our teammates to share their experiences so that we can continue to learn from each other.
As an organization, Vizo Financial is working on a number of DEI initiatives to roll out over the next 12-24 months which were identified after gathering feedback from our staff through one-on-one interviews, a survey of employees, small focus groups and DEI Planning Sessions. Many of these initiatives are creating intentional actions to increase equity by examining how members of underrepresented groups are recognized and celebrated, updating and standardizing how managers give feedback, examining data demographics to explore possible disproportionate outcomes and reviewing hiring and promotion practices.
We know that this work is ongoing and never really ends. It is constantly changing and hopefully as individuals, as an organization and as an industry, we are all constantly changing as well. Since its inception, the cooperative movement has focused on reaching people who might have been overlooked by others in the financial sector. According to recent CUNA research on DEI efforts in the cooperative movement, credit unions are making significant progress in this area. In 2019, 37% of credit unions focused on DEI. By 2021, this percentage had increased to 60%, with 80% of credit union members belonging to a DEI-focused credit union.
To implement transformative and lasting change in our credit unions, in our country, and in our world, we must fully commit to DEI principles that celebrate diversity, prioritize equity, and promote inclusion. At Vizo Financial, that means going beyond empty words to investing a lot of time and effort to make everyone who interacts with Vizo Financial in any capacity feel like they belong. As our DEI Vision Statement proclaims, “For Vizo Financial to successfully achieve this vision and lead the industry, we will strive to hire, retain and equitably promote a diverse workforce at all levels of leadership that represents our membership base and the communities we serve.”
Erin Doan Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Vizo Financial Corporate CU Greensboro, NC