Jun 07 2021

Trauma-Informed Services for Credit Union Employees, Part 1

Report  
Number  
539

The COVID-19 pandemic has created one of the most impactful public health crises of our lifetime. 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 evidence-based practices to equip credit union leaders to better address those needs and foster trauma-informed support for employees.

Hammad N'cho, PhD
Hammad N'cho, PhD
Executive Director
N’cho Behavioral Group
Report Number 539

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 report is designed to guide the development of credit union policy, practices, and decisions that will support healthy and productive staff. The report provides a comprehensive discussion that addresses key challenges and informs next steps for trauma-informed employee policy and practices.

What is the research about?

The first part of the study involves a targeted literature review shaped by nine research questions. Knowledge from across a broad span of applicable research is synthesized into a set of key findings. Specific areas of inquiry include crisis management, return-to-office (RTO) strategies, stigma mitigation programs, mental health promotion, and growth after adversity.

The study unearthed practical solutions to critical questions facing credit unions today and points toward a model for trauma-informed support to the credit union workforce. 

As the research questions were explored across various bodies of literature, each question yielded a number of insights that will be useful to credit union leaders looking for actionable, trauma-informed solutions that address specific challenges and inform next steps. The study unearthed practical solutions to critical questions facing credit unions today and points toward a model for trauma-informed support to the credit union workforce. 

Although the focus of each research question varied, careful analysis of many sources surfaced similar themes for an equitable, trauma-informed policy that promotes psychological safety and mental health. These include (1) the importance of flexibility, innovation, and improvisation in identifying solutions; (2) the benefit of having diverse, multidisciplinary groups develop those solutions; and (3) the need for clear, transparent, two-way communication to distribute information about those solutions and collect insight into problems as they emerge. Combined, these themes were ubiquitous throughout the literature and appear to be foundational to facilitating work environments that are safe, enable personal and professional growth, value collaboration, and ultimately maximize productivity.

What are the credit union implications?

The main recommendations for credit unions can be summarized as follows:

  • Lead with flexibility. Communicate openly and often with stakeholders, especially as new information emerges. Actively and deliberately work to maintain mental health. Talk with other leaders to maintain camaraderie and learn from each other.
  • Provide open, two-way communication. Deliver clear, honest, and open communication to reduce uncertainty and offset fears. Establish two-way communication channels to foster agency among stakeholders.
  • Support sense- and decision-making. Use teams to pool knowledge from disparate sources of experience and expertise (both internal and external to the organization) to generate novel, improvised solutions that are responsive to changing conditions and maximize resilience.
  • Ensure mental health is a focus. When crafting policy, consider mental health and work to avoid the possibility of retraumatizing staff. Use these key principles to guide you through the process:
    • Employee safety.
    • Trustworthiness and transparency.
    • Peer support.
    • Collaboration and mutuality.
    • Empowerment, voice, and choice.
    • Cultural, historical, and gender issues.
  • Focus on staff from marginalized communities. Work to understand how stressors have become compounded for marginalized communities, facilitate dialogue to expand awareness and surface specific needs, and tie these efforts to your diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) plan.
Applied in concert, these approaches can help carry your credit union through a crisis and can even bring your leaders, staff, and organization toward a stronger, more resilient position than where they were before the crisis.
  • Execute an equitable return-to-office (RTO) plan. Be open to addressing unique differences that can have a significant impact on the successful implementation of an equitable RTO policy. Rely on the insight of staff supervisors and their critical vantage point for monitoring the impact of policy implementation.
  • Work to reduce stigma. Ensure your work environment is a space free from the negative impacts of COVID-19 stigma by integrating stigma-mitigating actions into your organizational culture.
  • Provide infrastructure to support mental health and well-being. Promote mental health, well-being, and resilience for staff by providing access to health care and training for psychoeducation and mental health management, exercise, and relaxation. Foster peer support networks, and incorporate mental health considerations into new policies and programs.
  • Navigate the “new normal” with flexibility. Expect emotional shifts and impacts from newly emerging ways of living and working, and help staff re-create healthy structures and routines.
  • Identify opportunities for post-traumatic growth. Approach the disruption and rapid changes from the pandemic as a learning opportunity to identify organizational strengths and leverage them to catalyze positive forward transformation. Begin preparing for future pandemics and other crises now. 

Applied in concert, these approaches can help carry your credit union through a crisis and can even bring your leaders, staff, and organization toward a stronger, more resilient position than where they were before the crisis.

Executive SUmmary