Giving all employees a voice

Employee resource groups enhance credit unions’ DEI efforts.

March 31, 2021

When used effectively, diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) helps credit unions deliver on their mission and values while enhancing performance. But research shows it is not enough simply to “have diversity.”

To enhance and assimilate their DEI efforts, some credit unions are turning to employee resource groups (ERGs).

Michigan State University Federal Credit Union in East Lansing began researching ERGs in 2018. The $5.7 billion asset credit union defines an ERG as a network of employees drawn together by affinities, professional interests, or characteristics such as ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation.

“Those involved in the early discussions recognized when employees feel safe to bring their complete and authentic selves to work, the organization as a whole benefits from increased engagement,” says Deidre Davis, chief marketing officer.

ERGs help build inclusion by supporting voices at all organizational levels, fostering personal and professional development, collaborating on diversity and inclusion goals, and supporting the community through volunteering and fundraising, says Pier Yvette Alsup, chief DEI officer at $2.1 billion asset Together Credit Union in St. Louis.

Deidre Davis

‘When employees feel safe to bring their complete and authentic selves to work, the organization as a whole benefits from increased engagement.’

Deidre Davis

“Our ERGs are employee-driven networks based on shared life experiences and interests, and are beneficial to the credit union and the employee participants,” she says. For example, its Advancing Modern Professionals of Tomorrow ERG (previously called the Young Professionals Network) worked on a member growth and retention project and participated in Hike the Hill events.

These employee-driven groups must have a mission. They must also be an inclusive and safe place for employees to come together and have a voice, says Alsup. “They need to be sponsored, resourced, and heard by management.”

CUNA HR & Organizational Development Council

The African American ERG at Michigan State University Federal hosted racial injustice forums last summer to allow staff from all backgrounds to speak about the events of 2020 and their impact. One result from these forums was the creation of new training to better prepare managers, leads, and trainers to talk about these issues and address any mistreatment toward employees.

Other results stemming from the work of the ERGs include gender-neutral logo wear and a diversity series in its financial podcast, Wallet Watch.

“Having ERGs is a great way for employees to express themselves, share ideas, talk through their experiences, teach others, and build a strong community together,” Davis says.