CUNA HR/OD Council celebrates 25 years

By Credit Union Magazine04.25.2019

Professional group will continue to elevate the role of HR/OD professionals.

Twenty five years ago, credit union human resource and organizational development professionals typically performed transactional and compliance duties such as payroll processing and setting dress code  guidelines.

Now, these leaders are active in talent management, setting organizational objectives, and other crucial roles. That’s due in no small part to professional societies such as the CUNA HR & Organizational Development (HR/OD) Council, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year.

Credit Union Magazine spoke with three credit union leaders who were instrumental in the formation of the HR/OD Council share how HR/OD challenges have evolved over the years and what the future holds for the council:

  • Lisa Baron, senior vice president, talent management, for Baxter Credit Union in Vernon Hills, Ill., and chair of the CUNA HR/OD Council Executive Committee.
  • Gayle Gustafson, senior vice president/chief lending officer at IQ Credit Union in Vancouver, Wash., and former vice president of corporate culture at Telco Credit Union in Eugene, Ore.
  • Janet McDonald, senior sales market manager for CUNA Mutual Group and former senior vice president/chief administrative officer at Purdue Federal Credit Union in West Lafayette, Ind.

How have HR/OD challenges evolved over the years?

Gustafson: Although I’m not in HR anymore, the requirements in the legal area are pretty extreme. Also, retention and turnover have become bigger issues than in the past, especially in a job market like this.

Baron: There definitely are some differences. I don't hear quite as much about HR people still trying to get that seat at the leadership table because we’ve definitely made strides there.

Some of the topics we worry about today are those we worried about 25 years ago: How do you hire great people, how do you retain great people, how do you train them, and how do you plan for their succession?

There are better tools today that our staff can leverage, such as predictive analytics—although we still do not have the magic pill for predicting when someone will be quitting. But technology has played a bigger role for us along the way.

While some of the topics are still the same, how we get at them might be a little bit different.

McDonald: I agree. There’s more complexity and more legal and governance issues to deal with.

One issue we tried to address years ago was how to bring in younger professionals while working with current staff who were already moving forward on some path.

We struggled with understanding where to fit new employees, recognizing their talents but also realizing at that time many people started as tellers and worked their way up.

We already had people in those succession paths, if you will. So how do you balance young talent and their new ideas with the folks who were already on their way to those management positions?

I don't think that that's changed much. Certainly, credit unions have done a better job at recognizing the need for management trainee-type programs and how to use younger talent. But it was a real struggle for us.

Baron: We now have four generations of people in the workforce, and they each have differences. There has been a lot of focus on how millennials are shaping the workforce, and I think they’re shaping it in a very positive way.

Gustafson: I’d add that in the early days, people wanted to know about incentives and incentive plans. Also, building a sales culture was a big initiative everyone was involved in.

What do you see for the future of the HR/OD Council?

Baron: We like to say we're small but mighty because we don’t have as many members as some of the other councils. We certainly have grown over time. Our goal is to have 915 members, and we’re at 895 this year.

We’ll continue to elevate the role of the HR professional. We’re in a unique industry, where you can other credit unions and ask for opinions, get job descriptions, or just some general questions.

The value of the HR/OD Council is its networking aspect. Many credit unions are small, and don't have significant staff resources. This way, you have hundreds of other people you can contact for answers to questions you have and problems you’re facing.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

McDonald: I love what Lisa just said. The networking and sharing—our cooperative nature—is what sets us apart. It’s so important.

Gustafson: The council has created a lot of opportunities for us to be involved at the national level. That has allowed all of us to springboard our careers in credit unions, whether we stayed in HR or not.

McDonald: You start realizing you’re part of a much bigger movement. You share a lot of common goals and issues, and you recognize it's not really just about you and your credit union.