The COVID-19 pandemic and civil unrest of 2020 forced leaders across all industries, including credit unions, to examine their trauma-informed services.
According to N’cho Behavioral Group Executive Director Hammad S. N’cho, a trauma-informed approach is crucial to creating a supportive work environment. It requires focusing on employees’ mental health when shaping policy.
“Being a leader at this highly unpredictable time comes with a great many questions and a great deal of stress,” he says. “Understanding how to be in the midst of a global pandemic is not at all clear,” says N’cho, who previously worked for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Epidemic Intelligence Service and conducted disaster response while serving on the U.S. Navy’s Psychiatric Rapid Intervention Team. “Even with my outbreak and disaster response training, I was scared.”
The N’cho Behavioral Group and the Filene Research Institute studied practical steps to create healthy, sustainable work environments and allow staff to feel supported amid trauma exposure.
N’cho discussed the study’s findings and supportive policies and procedures during Filene’s “Trauma-Informed Services for Credit Union Employees” webinar.
He cites the six methods of trauma-informed support:
1. Employee safety. Address both physical and emotional factors.
2. Trustworthiness and transparency. Communicate policies clearly, openly, and with empathy.
3. Peer support. Provide staff with safe spaces to share concerns and support each other to foster unity and build resilience.
4. Collaboration and mutuality. Engage a broad coalition of credit union staff in the process of defining problems, developing solutions, and making decisions.
5. Empowerment, voice, and choice. Recognize, value, and build on individuals’ strengths while facilitating choice within the workplace.
6. Cultural, historical, and gender issues. Make these issues integral to policy development to ensure policies are not discriminatory.
“Take a moment and process the emotional impact of these experiences because it ultimately impacts efficiency,” N’cho says.
He says creating a trauma-informed atmosphere requires leaders to:
While credit unions do their best to establish support, trauma-informed support methods are constantly shifting.
Actionable steps leaders can take now include using employee assistance programs, creating an inclusive workplace culture, allowing staff to talk with leaders, showing staff appreciation and recognition, helping staff manage their work/life balance, and building connectedness among staff.