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GWLN Executive Readiness Summit: Dealing with “Emergent Change” Brought on by the Pandemic

Cheryl Middleton Jones (in highlighted box) gives her presentation at the 2020 GWLN Executive Readiness Summit
Cheryl Middleton Jones (in highlighted box) gives her presentation at the 2020 GWLN Executive Readiness Summit

Everyone in the credit union world had plans for 2020. Then, COVID-19 hit and most of those best-laid plans went out the window.

The pandemic brought about “emergent change”—or change that unfolds in a spontaneous or unplanned way. That forced credit unions and affiliated organizations to adapt and improvise—fast, according to CO-OP Financial Services Chief People Officer Cheryl Middleton Jones, who opened the Global Women’s Leadership Network’s 2020 Executive Readiness Summit Wednesday with a presentation on “Rising to the Challenge of the Unexpected.”

“It has involved reorienting your reality to meet that reality that we’re in,” said Jones. “In everything that we (CO-OP) did in response to the pandemic, we asked the question – ‘are we making sure that we’re keeping our employees safe so that that they can do the work that needs to be done?’”

Jones said CO-OP quickly moved 80% of its office-based employees to work from home, giving them the simple message of “do your best.” CO-OP leaders also changed their tone from professional to personal by demonstrating more empathy and leveraging more fun virtual activities with employees.

As a result, Jones said most CO-OP employees reported feeling “supported” by the company and its leaders—and trusted they would act in their best interest.

The agility CO-OP and its employees showed makes Jones believe her company and others will look at roles and work locations differently, even after the pandemic is over.

“I think we need to be thoughtful about defining what roles need to be where, so we are all working optimally and worrying not about where, but what,” said Jones.

This was the first of 10 Executive Readiness Summit sessions that will continue through Friday afternoon. More than 130 credit union women and men from across the globe are attending this years Summit. 

The GWLN Executive Readiness Summit is an annual event that promotes the advancement of women by focusing on the industry’s “pipeline” problem where women start working in lower-level roles that do not lead directly to the executive suite. This unique platform dedicated to credit union women only will focus on critical competencies, networking, and expanding knowledge. The 2020 Executive Readiness Summit is sponsored by CO-OP Financial Services, CUNA Mutual Group, PSCU and eLeadership Academy.