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Trauma-Informed Services for Credit Union Employees, Part 2

Beyond the physiological effects of the disease, credit union leaders also need to address the mental health impact of COVID-19 on their staff. This study explores how credit unions have been operating during the pandemic and identifies emerging themes for credit union leaders to consider as they plan next steps.

  • Hammad N'cho, PhD Executive Director at N’cho Behavioral Group

Executive Summary

In response to a need for credit unions to identify evidence-based practices to address the unique managerial challenges currently being faced by credit union leaders, this two-part report series is designed to guide the development of credit union policy, practices, and decisions that will support healthy and productive staff. This second report surfaces key challenges facing credit union leaders and identifies next steps for trauma-informed employee policies and practices.

What is this Research about?

The goal of this two-part study is to provide guiding principles and grounded perspectives that can help credit unions shape the policies, plans, and procedures that will support their staff and their organizations during the response phase of the COVID crisis and beyond. Part 2 explores how credit unions have been operating during the pandemic. This part leverages firsthand accounts from credit union leaders and identifies emergent themes.

Beyond retention, trauma-informed approaches are likely to help foster greater workplace connectedness, satisfaction, and productivity.

Leaders interviewed include four CEOs and six HR Leads from credit unions around the country. Questions sought to understand how staff, policies, and plans have been impacted by COVID-19 roughly eight to ten months after the disease was declared a global pandemic. Each of the credit union leaders interviewed for this study expressed a commitment to retaining staff and were taking steps to better support their workforce. Beyond retention, trauma-informed approaches are likely to help foster greater workplace connectedness, satisfaction, and productivity. Central to these practices, as advocated by this study, is accounting for the traumatic experiences triggered by COVID-19 and taking the impact of recent civil unrest into consideration as well. At the same time, these practices can also support staff who have experienced other forms of trauma in their past.


The following insights were gleaned from interviews with credit union leaders who have found some level of success with these practices:

  • Take advantage of existing Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs). These tools exist to support the mental health of staff during periods of crisis—make sure you are taking full advantage of them. Leveraging existing programs provides an important and easy first step while your organization evaluates staff needs for additional services.
  • Create an inclusive workplace culture. During the civil unrest of 2020, leaders who fostered sober and resolution-driven conversations on the underlying issues found they were laying the groundwork for improved well-being in the short and long term.
  • Provide opportunities for staff to dialogue with leaders. Hosting Q&A forums allows staff to ask questions and explain the effects of leadership decisions and changes in policy. Credit union leaders who gave staff a platform to be heard and express frustrations advanced mutual understanding.
  • Demonstrate appreciation and recognition. Leaders should purposefully demonstrate their appreciation for team member contributions during difficult times and formally recognize the difficulties all are facing.
  • Help staff manage their work/life balance. Instruct managers to support staff as they actively manage their work/life balance, particularly with remote workers and staff who are facing challenging circumstances at home.
  • Actively build connectedness across staff. If you have a distributed workforce, develop new tactics to build and maintain connectedness, from organization-wide initiatives down to one-on-one meetings. These activities help reinforce and sustain your organizational culture.
  • Take stock and adjust course. Some credit union leaders suggested using the research questions from Part 1 (Appendix) to perform an assessment of how your credit union responded over the past year. Capture what was learned and look for opportunities to improve going forward.

Filene thanks its members and Inner Circle sponsors for helping support this research from the Center for War for Talent.

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