CUNA Strategic Planning Virtual Roundtable
Kevin Martin, senior vice president, organizational performance and strategic planning, at SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union.

Engagement a ‘strategic advantage’

Creating an inclusive culture builds an engaged team.

October 1, 2020

Create a culture where team members feel they belong, their opinions and contributions matter, and that they’re safe, and you’ll have engaged employees.

“As a former athlete, I’m always looking for the competitive advantage--what’s going to give me that edge over the competition,” says Kevin Martin, senior vice president, organizational performance and strategic planning, at $21.6 billion asset SchoolsFirst Federal Credit Union in Santa Ana, Calif. “Engagement creates a strategic advantage for credit unions.”

Employees who are engaged work harder, deliver better member service, and stay at their jobs longer, says Martin, who spoke at the CUNA Strategic Planning Virtual Roundtable.

Combined with diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) efforts, organizations with an engaged workforce will also see improved product innovation, better decision making, and enhanced strategic execution.

“It takes an engaged team to get an engaged membership,” Martin says.

‘Sitting quietly communicates apathy. We want to show empathy.’
Kevin Martin

He offers five steps to build an inclusive culture:

  1. Reflect your membership. Take stock of who your members are today and who you want your members to be in the future. Reflect that membership diversity within the walls of your credit union and the makeup of staff.
  2. Develop inclusive leaders. This can be difficult, particularly for leaders who have gone their entire careers segregating their personal and professional lives. But inclusive leaders understand what bias is, seek out different ideas, bring people together, and leverage differences to solve problems. They’re also committed to continuing DEI efforts and leading with vulnerability. This creates trust and encourages other to be vulnerable, Martin says.
  3. Create platforms. Use surveys or employee resource groups to hear what employees are thinking and any ideas or concerns they have.
  4. Listen, learn, and lean in. “Sitting quietly communicates apathy,” Martin says. “We want to show empathy.”
  5. Invest in equity. Provide the resources employees need to fully participate in your culture and be fully engaged in their jobs.

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