VIENNA, Va. - When it comes to human resources challenges, Navy Federal Credit Union is the first to say size does not matter. "Just because we are the biggest credit union doesn't mean our way is the best way or that we don't continually work to enhance our programs," said Navy Federal Vice President of Compensation & Benefits Nancy Astorga. "It may come as a surprise but our department continually learns through interactions with other credit unions." According to Astorga, like other credit union HR departments across the country, Navy Federal's HR team of 80 must constantly find ways to stay competitive and keep employees happy. The HR department has recently reorganized into three divisions: employee services, selection/development, and compensation/benefits. In addition to the daily interacting between all divisions, the HR vice presidents hold weekly meetings with their staffs, and meet twice a week with the HR senior vice president who also meets with the entire department management team every two weeks. "The more communication between us the better," said Astorga. "Given the complexity of HR and everything that crosses divisions, the process of the reorganization has definitely helped us all keep current and learn much more about what we each do." With a prime directive of supporting the credit union's needs, there are more atypical days in HR than structured ones says Astorga. "It's like any HR department. The day starts out very scheduled at 8 am and by 8:15 that goes out the window because our mindset is very customer focused and responding quickly-we'd never say we'll get back to you on that in three months. So factors from the organization's direction, legislative direction or even the labor market many times dictates the types of projects and time and energy spent on them," said Astorga. "It is a constant balancing act between the daily challenges and working on our strategic issues. We strive to be more proactive than reactive which is very important in staying ahead of the curve." Astorga adds that networking with other credit unions and management/HR organizations also helps Navy Federal's HR staffers keep a finger on the pulse of HR trends and more importantly provides a database of priceless knowledge and experience to draw on at anytime. The emphasis on communication across all channels extends to all staffers as periodic employee engagement surveys are taken to help provide insight to employees' wants and needs. Astorga says the feedback has lead to great opportunities to create more value particularly in the arena of compensation and benefits. For example when staffers indicated they didn't see a clear career path it lead to the development of a career resource center that employees flock to. Staffers who questioned how their pay is determined received answers in a newly developed Compensation 101 workshop, which also provided a comprehensive benefits statement. "The feedback on just these two programs has been great," said Astorga. "The benefits statements was a huge eye opener on the true value of our compensation and benefits package and employees tell us they now realize how many different paths they can take in their careers. It makes a big difference to show that you as an employer genuinely care about your employees." Astorga says Navy Federal's compassion in the wake of hurricanes Charlie, Frances and Ivan made an impact on staffers in its Heritage Oaks Call Center located in Pensacola, Florida. "We in HR took turns manning phone lines 24 hours a day to hear from our employees and provide whatever information they needed," said Astorga. "We just wanted to make sure employees were okay and told them to go home on paid administrative leave because work was secondary to taking care of themselves and their families. It spoke volumes to see a company put forward that kind of nurturing and care." Something must be working well. The over $22 billion credit union has recently been presented the 2004 Torchbearer Award by Northern Virginia Family Services for continuing to provide family-friendly benefits that help employees maintain a healthy work and life balance. Some of the factors contributing to Navy Federal's continued success range from applying a 10 % employer match to dependent care Flexible Spending Account and implementing the "Dollars for Doers" program - awarding 30 $500 grants to employees that volunteer a significant amount of personal time or money to the community. It also launched the "New Horizons Program" which rewards employees who "think outside the box" and create solutions to enhance operational processes and save costs. What Navy Federal will not be offering employees any time soon is the much talked about Health Savings Accounts. "We are not one to jump on the bandwagon, so for HSAs we're just in a wait and see mode," said Astorga. "Besides, our flexible spending account has gained popularity and participation has tripled. We added the element of a MasterCard debit card for the account and it is wonderful- no more paper receipts or claims employees can just use the card to pay for everything from co-pays to prescription refills." -email@example.com
A Look Inside Navy Federal's HR Department Reveals Universal Challenges
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