Emma Hayes joined the $53 billion-asset State Employees’ Credit Union in Raleigh, North Carolina, as its first ever chief culture officer in March. But her work to become a certified expert in DEI-related matters began long before SECU.
“[After I was certified as a diversity professional in 2018] I came back and immediately implemented a DEI program at the $3.5 billion-asset Local Government Federal Credit Union … In that program, I worked with different levels of leadership and what I asked them to do was to work in cohorts to identify areas of opportunity for diversity, equity and inclusion,” Hayes said.
Through the breakout group sessions coached by Hayes as director of learning and development for the credit union, Hayes was able to launch projects tackling its policies and procedures, looking at how it built a pipeline of talent. She eventually founded a DEI committee to continue furthering the initiatives once the cohorts disbanded.
She then began a second leadership position as the chief diversity officer for the African American Credit Union Coalition in Duluth, Georgia, which was established in 1999 and advocates for the progression of Black professionals in the credit union industry.
“I spent quite a bit of time at the AACUC conducting training sessions for the membership, working as a consultant to help them launch their diversity, equity and inclusion programs, providing training sessions for leadership teams to help them figure out where they were on this journey and then developing a plan for moving forward,” Hayes said. “I was able to really hone my skills as a certified diversity professional working at AACUC because it gave me an opportunity to work with lots of different credit unions and leagues alike across the industry.”
Hayes has implemented a three-stage plan for 2022 to ease into the C-suite title and map out the credit union’s culture as a whole.
Since completing her initial settlement phase in April, Hayes is now in the second stage, familiarizing herself with the other operations and leaders of the credit union and expanding her division of experts to develop a more encompassing workplace culture.
“[At present] I’m having conversations with our staff members, meeting with our other members of our leadership team, meeting with members of the board and just really getting to know and immersing myself in the current culture of SECU … Building the team such that I have people that will help me develop our leadership language in our leadership program and help focus on the employee experience and help focus on diversity, equity and inclusion is another area that I’m working on currently,” Hayes said.
Once established, Hayes will begin drafting her vision for SECU and gathering data from employees through surveys and exit interviews to help generate a baseline for accurately measuring the credit union’s progress with its DEI goals and gauge its promotion and retention efforts.
As the credit union industry continues its quest for inclusion across fields of membership and all levels of employment, institutions like SECU can become a place of both financial and equitable inclusion, Hayes said.
“Our industry was built on seven — now eight — cooperative principles that stem around providing for and caring for those who are disadvantaged and underserved and those communities tend to be or have been people of color,” Hayes said. “I see our industry already on the forefront of the change that needs to happen in this nation.”