By: Tiffany Chang | at FSG | March 21st, 2018

The Challenge: ESL Federal Credit Union, headquartered in Rochester, New York, recognizes that its employee base must reflect the demographics of the surrounding community to better serve its customers. However, like many companies, ESL faces challenges hiring and retaining employees from diverse backgrounds at all levels of the organization.  

The Solution: To help improve its hiring and retention of diverse employees, ESL hired Adrienne Collier as its first Diversity and Inclusion Program Manager in 2017. A primary goal for Collier is to help ESL better understand the reasons for turnover and adopt practices that lead to higher retention rates among diverse employees.

During her first week on the job, Collier attended FSG’s Innovation Lab and met representatives from other companies working to address similar business challenges. During the Innovation Lab, Collier and others learned about “Empathy Interviews,” a Design Thinking practice that would enable her to better understand the needs of current and former employees from diverse backgrounds and what would help them stay at ESL. She took this concept back to ESL and put it into practice. Those interviews revealed a great deal, including the need for ESL to establish a pipeline and support system for diverse candidates.

The Result: ESL partnered with Monroe Community College (MCC) to create the ESL/MCC Scholars Program, which is designed to reach students from diverse backgrounds who are interested in earning scholarship dollars, internship credit, and part-time employment with ESL, all while working toward their associate’s degrees.

Each scholar receives a $2000 annual scholarship (for a maximum of two years) and is hired as a part-time ESL employee. Here, students work 10-15 hours per week as a teller in their first year (and 32+ hours a week in the summer.)  ESL offers the students coaching, mentorship, and professional development trainings, while MCC provides the services of a resource navigator (through MCC’s “Single Stop” office), to help students find the resources they need for a successful experience. In year two, students will be assigned new opportunities in one of ESL’s branches or headquarters to expose them to diverse roles and other areas of the business.

The Outcome (to date): In December 2017, ESL welcomed its first cohort of five scholars to its branches and celebrated with a special event for the scholars, their families, and friends. Collier has worked with her colleagues and the Innovation Lab to help ensure the pilot will create lasting benefits for ESL, for participating students, and for the community. “We anticipate hiring a new cohort of five students annually, to build a robust pipeline of prepared and high-potential diverse talent, well positioned for success and long-term careers at ESL and within the broader financial sector,” said Collier. “Our work with the Innovation Lab has helped us to design a program we think will help us achieve these goals and create lasting impact.”

ESL hopes that this partnership will result in an 80% retention rate of the scholars, which is higher than the average retention rate for frontline employees. The company anticipates that the $2,000 scholarship will be an effective recruitment and retention tool, which results in positive business value because it is much less than the cost of turnover per employee.  In addition to helping ESL hire and retain diverse candidates, the partnership is structured so that ESL can engage interns in hard-to-fill Saturday shifts, when students are not in school and are able to work. The result is a win-win-win. A win for the business as ESL will be able to grow its workforce with talented staff from diverse backgrounds; a win for the students who will be able to gain new skills and insights into a rewarding and meaningful career path; and a win for the Rochester community, which will benefit by having an increasing number of community members contribute to the quality of life in the region and demonstrate a path forward for other individuals from diverse backgrounds.

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