A Re-Imagining Of HR

A well-timed retirement helped PSECU re-think what it was doing with its human resources and how the cooperative could better support employees.

Top-Level Takeaways

  • An employee retirement prompted PSECU to rethink the structure of its HR department.
  • The credit union solicited employee feedback and ultimately reworked the functional and training teams to be geared more toward services and consulting, respectively.


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When the head of training at Pennsylvania State Employees Credit Union ($5.1B, Harrisburg, PA) told her employer she planned to retire in six months, the Keystone State cooperative took the opportunity and the time to closely evaluate the role of training as an HR function.

We wanted to look at the department and ask ourselves what’s the best way to function when she leaves? says Cathy Tama-Troutman, vice president of human resources at PSECU.

Re-Imagining HR

At that time in late 2012, Tama-Troutman oversaw two managers whose teams handled very different responsibilities. One employee headed up functional areas, such as employment, compensation, and payroll. A second employee led training, which required a more creative bent.


The difference between the two areas created a tension within the department. The functional team faced intense day-to-day deadlines, whereas the training team imagined, designed, and planned trainings for new hires across a variety of departmental hardware, software, and regulations.

Cathy Tama-Troutman, VP of HR, PSECU

The managers of these functional areas were the best people to do trainings, but they were busy with the day-to-day, Tama-Troutman says. Because of their schedules they couldn’t always meet.

So, the HR VP had one-on-one conversations with her team members and asked for ideas on how to re-organize the department. Some even drew up their own org charts. During the conversation, one thing became clear: The responsibilities and roles of the functional and training teams needed to change.

Services Is The New Functional

PSECU renamed the functional team services and challenged its members to think long-term within three areas employment, payroll, and compensation rather than view their jobs as simply sifting through resumes and setting and approving pay.

As it relates to employment, service employees now spend time within the various departments of the credit union asking questions about staffing levels, skillsets, and screening for quality applicants.

Thinking long-term on the payroll side helped PSECU better automate supervisor tracking and review of attendance, logging of absences, and approval of payroll, while employees who worked in compensation drew other credit union departments toward long-term priorities by asking questions like:

  • How motivated are your employees?
  • How close are they to maxing out their pay rate?
  • When they do, what’s next?

We wanted to create a group that looks forward, goes into departments, and asks what they will need in the future, Tama-Troutman says. Before, they were just too busy going through resumes.

PSECU now employs 12 people in its services division. The manager, an employee who formerly oversaw PSECU’s HRIS, had come to know so much about the different areas of human resources while working on her MBA and Management Information Systems (MIS) degrees that other employees often came to her for advice and help.

In my one-on-one conversations, she was often identified as an HR leader, Tama-Troutman says.

Consulting Is The New Training

Training was a tougher area to tackle.

Traditionally, new PSECU hires would receive training by human resources on the full suite of products and services as well as the systems that facilitated them. When they reported to their departments, new hires received additional tailored training.

However, as PSECU’s systems evolved technology advanced and automation made processes more intuitive training fell more to the departments.

We wanted to create a group that looks forward, goes into departments, and asks what they will need in the future. Before, they were just too busy going through resumes.

Cathy Tama-Troutman, VP of HR, PSECU

There was less general training, Tama-Troutman says. And the training they did need was computer-based, which is basically self-taught.

So, Tama-Troutman pulled together her training team to re-imagine the unit.

Rather than focus on general training, Tama-Troutman wanted the team to focus on the needs of departmental supervisors whatever those may be. And instead of training, the unit became consulting.

We wanted this group to focus on the day-to-day needs of employees, Tama-Troutman says. They’re responding when a manager or supervisor says, I need employment to look different. I need screening to look different. I need performance management to look different.’

At first, Tama-Troutman wanted to call this eight-person team the planning group. However, the woman selected to lead it, who previously led employment and compensation within the functional group, disagreed.

She called it consulting, Tama-Troutman says. That’s a better word for it.

The unit is increasingly returning to its roots and conducting more training for on-the-job trainers.

On-the-job trainers can struggle with interacting with people or covering the content in an allotted time period, Tama-Troutman says. Consulting was asked to provide resources to make trainers more efficient or comfortable.

According to Tama-Troutman, the reception internally to the new HR structure has been positive, with the strongest comments keying in on the amount of time they’re now able to spend in conversation with employees across the organization and not behind their desks pushing paper.

We’re available to see what supervisors and managers are thinking about down the line, Tama-Troutman says. We’re spending time out in the organization talking to people. We’re not rushing to get things done.


May 14, 2018

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