‘Focus on the person first’
Leslie Norris gives employees a voice at South Carolina Federal.
In December 2020, Leslie Norris, senior vice president of human resources and development at $2 billion asset South Carolina Federal Credit Union in North Charleston, S.C., was named HR Professional of the Year by the South Carolina Chamber of Commerce.
Credit Union Magazine: What was your reaction when you learned you had won?
Leslie Norris: I was so surprised. I later learned that our CEO, a few HR employees, and one of our board members worked together to nominate me. Knowing your colleagues respect you and your work enough to nominate you for an industry award is so special.
Q: How do you identify new programs to implement for employees?
A: Some of our best initiatives have come from listening to employees and finding solutions to meet their needs. We have open, honest conversations about their ideas, goals, and challenges.
Working closely with other senior leaders in the organization has been crucial. Without buy-in from your leadership team, you may not be able to bring your ideas for new programs to fruition.
I also read industry news and case studies. When a company does something well, I want to learn how they did it and if it could work for us, too.
Q: What employee and business outcomes have resulted from these initiatives?
A: Our HR team recently led a switch from traditional performance reviews to a continuous feedback model. We’ve seen increased productivity and improved communication between managers and employees.
Employee feedback has earned us industry, state, and national "best place to work" accolades. We are enormously proud of these recognitions—they help us attract the best and brightest employees to serve our organization and members.
Q: How has the pandemic affected HR?
A: We needed to focus on people first and work second. Employees were balancing remote work, virtual learning for their children, caring for ill family members, and other changes.
Our goal was to support our team members in prioritizing personal and family needs. We identified ways we could help, from technology to safety measures.
We saw a renewed importance in building relationships with employees. We could serve team members effectively and compassionately because of the trust we’ve built over time.
Q: What HR trends are becoming increasingly important?
A: I expect to see more organizations embracing a comprehensive approach to employee health. Our policies and initiatives must reflect everything from financial wellness to mental health.
Trust will play a bigger role in the employee/employer relationship. Employees need ethical leaders, and people want to work for an organization that believes in them.
A heightened focus on diversity, equity, and inclusion should remain a top priority. If we want to be a best place to work, we must be a best place to work for every employee.
Q: What advice would you offer other HR professionals for enhancing employee programs?
A: Listen to your employees and ensure that your culture encourages them to share feedback. Employees are every organization’s biggest advocates. What’s important to them should be important to your HR and leadership teams.
HR representatives should ask employees specific questions. I frequently ask, "What roadblocks do you face in your role?" and "What is one improvement I could make that would make your job easier?"
Giving employees a voice, and listening when they use it, is essential. My job is to be a fierce employee advocate. Listening is the first step in fulfilling that duty.
This article appeared in the Spring 2021 issue of Credit Union Magazine. Subscribe here.