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It’s a constant refrain, not just among human resource (HR) leaders, but in everyday conversations: Everyone is understaffed.
HR leaders discussed the far-reaching implications of this national trend Sunday during an HR Exchange at the 2023 CUNA HR & Organizational Development Conference in San Diego.
Understaffing creates much greater challenges than longer wait times in the call center queue or even overburdened HR staff, participants say. Staffing shortages create operational and cultural challenges for many credit unions, and HR is on the front line of this battle.
Some HR leaders say they’ve become virtual full-time recruiters, while others have established full-time recruiting positions. At the same time, trainers are overwhelmed with new employees.
“The reason it becomes impactful is that takes a long time to develop people into their roles,” says Silvia Dimma, chief human resources officer at $7.3 billion asset Michigan State University Federal Credit Union in East Lansing, who moderated the exchange with Lecia Roundtree, senior vice president and chief people officer at $4 billion asset Stanford Federal Credit Union in Palo Alto, Calif.
“With the transition, everyone feels overworked and stressed within the team,” Dimma says. “We’re trying to improve our processes so we can maintain a high level of organizational performance and employee engagement despite the high level of turnover.”
The enticements used to attract new employees, such as higher pay, sometimes create unintended consequences, participants say. New employees’ higher wages may create a rift with existing employees. And when employees in middle management leave for other jobs, new employees may be unqualified to fill their roles capably.
At the same time, credit unions reported strong growth in leadership development and emerging leader programs. One key aspect of these programs is helping employees determine if management is the right career path for them.
“It gives the individual the opportunity to decide if they want to be a leader of other people or simply a leader within their own role,” Dimma says. “One thing we’ve come to understand is that not everyone can find success in leading other people, nor is it something they aspire to.”
Despite its many challenges, hybrid and remote work is an area where credit unions have developed an obvious savvy, including the many policy and legal requirements it requires. The flexible days of remote work early in the pandemic have given way to better-defined expectations and improved performance management standards.
“Through the hybrid/remote journey, credit unions have focused on what works and what doesn’t work in their organizations, and how they set expectations,” Dimma says. “One of the keys is maintaining the sense of urgency and superior member service in the hybrid/remote environment. Part of that is building trust and empowerment to make that journey successful.”