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D&I Directives: Celebrating Differences and Fostering Inclusivity

Timika Scott is currently SVP at US Bank, where she serves as Operations Group Manager for the Recovery & Loss Prevention & Invoice Management areas that focus on mitigating the bank's exposure by preserving properties, managing post-foreclosure, invoice management, and recovering expenses via the insurer and investor claim process. Scott also serves as Champion for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion for US Bank. Before joining US Bank, Scott worked for several other mortgage servicers as VP, with responsibility over groups such Loss Mitigation, Foreclosure, Bankruptcy, Property Preservation, Claims & Loss Analysis for mortgage and HELOC portfolios. Scott currently resides in Owensboro, Kentucky.

Scott recently spoke with DS News about building and fostering a commitment to D&I within the mortgage industry, as well as the critical related lessons that have emerged from the challenges of the pandemic.

What are the 2-3 most critical considerations when working to build and foster D&I when it comes to internal team morale, employee development, and talent acquisition?

One of the most critical considerations when working to build and foster D&I is to intentionally create a space for employees to be leaders. It is imperative to engage your employees to discuss your company’s overall DEI plan and how it translates to the execution of a particular business line. It is critical to allow employees to brainstorm and nurture aspirations that will foster inclusivity and celebrate the differences within the team while building and providing a psychologically safe environment where employees feel valued. This allows employees to feel empowered and respected as leaders, which enables other employees to do the same, improving team morale.

Another key element in fostering DEI within various components of the workforce is to foster a strong partnership with the Business Line’s HR & Recruiting. Working with your HR and Recruiting partners to develop ways to improve diversity within the team will improve team morale. Evaluating your employee survey results with your HR partner will provide an objective view that will help you meet the overall business line strategy. From a talent acquisition perspective, building a model that makes diverse markets aware of the employment opportunities in order to build diverse candidate slates is the most critical starting step. Diverse attributes may look different based on the dynamics of your organization.

What are some practical takeaways you've learned from your organization's own D&I initiatives or programs? What changes have you implemented as a result of those findings?

Active Engagement from Executive Leadership: This sets the pace for the rest of the team. When the top leaders are engaged, it trickles down to every single member of the team. When DEI is part of the footprint of an organization, and not treated as another initiative, employees will feel and see the commitment throughout the fabric of the company, and they will feel a personal stake in building and protecting this cause.

Measure Your Success: Set specific and realistic aspirations; put tools in place to measure how your business line is tracking against staffing, turnover, and hiring ratios to ensure your long-term success. Keep in mind, this is a sustainable journey, not a marathon to one destination.

Celebrate and Share Your Story: Celebrate those who are doing well. Share your expertise and experience to be more relatable to your audience so that they can gain from your experience and become better leaders in their spaces.

What D&I lessons have emerged from the challenges of the pandemic? The Great Resignation?

The pandemic has challenged the mortgage industry to be agile and flexible to the needs of homebuyers/homeowners but also to their employees. Being agile presents the ability to shift and pivot when circumstances challenge the norm. We should continue to display appreciation for all employees, be interested in them as individuals and allow them to grow beyond their current environment while being flexible and responsive employers.

For a company that's looking to build an internal commitment to D&I, where should they begin? 

There are five steps one can take to improve their internal commitment to DEI:

  1. Enhance the overall company mission and core foundational principles to include your commitment to DEI.
  2. Properly measure DEI goals, in the same way you would measure operational goals.
  3. Consistently discuss, define, and contribute to your DEI goals.
  4. Solicit external partners for expert advice.
  5. Celebrate great actors who have demonstrated a commitment to DEI.

About Author: David Wharton

David Wharton, Editor-in-Chief at the Five Star Institute, is a graduate of the University of Texas at Arlington, where he received his B.A. in English and minored in Journalism. Wharton has nearly 20 years' experience in journalism and previously worked at Thomson Reuters, a multinational mass media and information firm, as Associate Content Editor, focusing on producing media content related to tax and accounting principles and government rules and regulations for accounting professionals. Wharton has an extensive and diversified portfolio of freelance material, with published contributions in both online and print media publications. He can be reached at David.Wharton@thefivestar.com.
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