At $3.4 billion asset BCU in Vernon Hills, Ill., the human resources (HR) and talent management departments prioritized diversity and inclusion to elevate employee engagement.
The credit union integrated practices that improve how employees feel at work and interact with one another, members, and the community at large.
“We love our culture,” says Warren Iskowitz, BCU’s director of talent management. “It’s family oriented, and we definitely have a special sauce here.”
The credit union wants staff to embrace their individuality and what makes them amazing and unique, he adds. “We’re more intentional in our diversity and inclusion as it relates to employees and how we engage them.”
BCU not only embraces those differences, it seeks to leverage them down to the individual level. All BCU employees participate in the Gallup CliftonStrengths assessment, a tool that uncovers 34 natural talents and identifies each individual’s top five strengths.
Sarah Thorrens, BCU’s vice president of talent management, is a Gallup-certified strength coach. She reviews the assessments and meets with each employee and their team leader to discuss how they can leverage the employee’s strengths in a manner that benefits both the employee and the team.
“It's a great way of taking diversity even further outside of the box,” says Anjoli Walker, talent management program lead. “We talk about personality differences, our natural talent inclinations, and how to build teams, work together, and resolve conflicts.
“Sarah has created some amazing resources that allow us to view everyone's strengths and construct teams,” Walker continues, “as well as tap into resources within the organization that we might not otherwise have known existed.”
A critical internal driver of diversity and inclusion are employee resource groups (ERGs). Entirely run by employees, these groups provide mentorship, skill enhancement, and leadership opportunities within specific areas of interest where all are valued, included, and empowered to succeed.
Each ERG has a charter and an agenda for the year. Staff can form groups for specific purposes, such as “Women Engaged in Leadership” and “Service Superheroes,” Walker explains.
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“Yet another group, the ‘Point Pros,’ empowers employees by leveraging their technical skills,” she says. “They each focus on inclusion within the organization and move that topic or area forward through awareness of how that group affects our business.”
The “overarching” ERG is the “Inclusion Network,” which furthers BCU’s diversity and inclusion strategy and fosters a sense of belonging among employees.
“It includes employees from every department at all levels of the organization,” Walker says. “Where the other groups can be more specific, the Inclusion Network drives our diversity and inclusion initiative.”
BCU also recognizes different cultures and lifestyles throughout the year with celebrations, food events, and educational opportunities. Walker says these efforts are effective because leaders at all levels of the credit union recognize their colleagues.
In 2019, for example, BCU collaborated with company partner, Baxter Healthcare, by walking in the Chicago Pride Parade to celebrate the LGBTQ community.
“We actively seek out those opportunities,” says Walker. “It’s not something that [lives only] in HR, and it can’t be driven by employees. This focus comes from leadership and involves everyone at all levels of your organization. That’s the very definition of inclusion.”