Nikki Badje wanted to transform the human resources (HR) department from one viewed as solely responsible for hiring and firing into a department that focuses on employee engagement and development.
It was a goal Badje set out to achieve when she became vice president of HR at $1.2 billion asset TruWest Credit Union in Tempe, Ariz., four years ago, and has seen come to fruition.
“I’ve done a lot to try to change the perception of HR,” says Badje, who was named 2020 Professional of the Year by the CUNA HR & Organizational Development Council. “It was nice to be recognized for everything my team and I have been working on.”
It's now normal for HR representatives to interact with staff and talk about weekend plans or how things are going, Badje says.
HR representatives also participate in more meetings, which Badje says allows the department to understand what’s going on with the organization and how their decisions will impact employees.
“At first people were kind of uncomfortable and wondering why HR was involved in all of this,” Badje says. “But now they see why it’s important to have HR involved at the beginning so we avoid some of the blow ups at the end.”
This transformation also includes an increased focus on employee engagement and development.
Employees are encouraged to give feedback, which HR uses to make changes within the organization, such as improvements to the hiring process, award and recognition programs, and the creation of a telecommuting policy.
This also led to the formation of new initiatives, such as the buddy program, which pairs new employees with a “buddy” to learn the ropes from during their first few weeks at TruWest.
“Anytime you ask for feedback, you get the feedback that’s good and the feedback that’s bad,” Badje says. “But it was helpful for us. We were able to hear what our employees wanted and make changes. Employees appreciated that their voices were being heard.”
TruWest also has implemented employee development and leadership programs that allow staff to grow professionally. The intent is to retain employees long-term through programs such as the TruWest Leadership Academy, the TruMentor program, and employee engagement bootcamps.
“I wanted to focus on improving employee engagement and developing leaders versus just having that old school management mentality,” Badje says. “I want employees to enjoy being at work.”