Rod Flowers On Leadership

The vice president of human resources at SECU of Maryland shares insights on managing HR through organizational change, branch modernization, and shifts in brand and culture.

Roderic Flowers, VP of Human Resources, SECU of Maryland

Roderic Flowers, VP of Human Resources, SECU of Maryland

Hardly a day goes by that Rod Flowers, vice president of Human Resources at SECU of Maryland ($3.1B, Linthicum, MD) doesn’t draw on a lesson from his past. The son of a Philadelphia police officer, he grew up in the church, became his family’s first college graduate, and lives by this piece of advice: Part of the rent we pay on this earth is the service we provide to others.

Flowers majored in English at Dickinson College and earned a master’s degree in human resources management and personnel administration at University of Maryland University College. He started as an HR/training manager in the fast-paced retail world at Montgomery Ward and soon moved to personnel director.

After working in several industries, Flowers took a job at the University of Maryland. When he became a member of SECU of Maryland he did not know the role the credit union would play in his finances and career.

In 2007, SECU Maryland offered Flowers a job, and the core message of the credit union’s role in the community resonated with him. As vice president of human resources over a workforce of 430 employees, he’s managed HR issues through dynamic times, including the creation of a CUSO that led to the layoff of 100 workers and ongoing branch transformation.

Here, Flowers discusses his philosophy of building culture, acquiring new talent, and inspiration.


SECU Of Maryland
Data as of 06.30.16

HQ: Linthicum, MD
MEMBERS: 230,054
12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 14.2%
ROA: 0.50%

On what separates a great leader from a good one

Dr. Martin Luther King said the ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in times of comfort and convenience but of challenge and controversy. For me, a great leader has to be visionary, in tune to what’s going on around them, and knowledgeable about what they’re charged to do, so when things go wrong they’re able to handle it.

Leaders have to be competent, they have to have good communication skills, and they have to care. A manager is hands-on, but a leader thinks about how to guide employees from point A to Z.

I believe in servant leadership. It’s my job to serve so others can do what they need to do.

On managing a layoff

We created a CUSO for three shared support services. We partnered with two other credit unions and combined back-office resources. There was going to be job elimination, and we needed to communicate that to all the employees. No matter how you slice it, the employee’s perspective was, I’m losing my job, and I’ve got a family to feed and bills to pay. So it’s important we communicated what we were doing and treated employees fairly.

We eliminated more than 100 positions. We gave them ample notice and the opportunity to post to transfer to other positions. Some chose to do that, others chose to look outside, and we provided training and explained what would happen to their benefits and how we would help them during the process.

We also did our employee climate surveys during this time. And our scores were still acceptable. We were in the 80% employee satisfaction rate. They said, basically, We’re not happy about it, but we appreciate that employees were given enough time.’

We started in 2012, and over a couple of years we transitioned the various departments from our call center to deposit operations and default management. It was a difficult and trying time for all of us, but what made the difference was the timeframe.

On how HR supports business objectives

There are five Ts that are like five different spokes. One is Talent Acquisition. Two is Total Rewards, which is compensation and benefits. Next is Talent Management, or the nuts and bolts of all of the human resources policies and procedures, workers’ comp, and the laws of the land. Fourth is Training and Development, making sure we have a learning culture and a learning environment. Education is tantamount, and we have a great tuition reimbursement plan, continuing education, and SECU University. We run programs for both hard and soft skills and for personal and professional development. The fifth is Total Partnership. We don’t like operating in a vacuum. We’re working together to do what’s in the best interests of our members. If you take care of your employees, they’re going to take care of our members.

On getting the right employees

One of our employees went to the same church as me, and I saw her grow up. After she graduated from college and was looking for a job, she applied at SECU. She’s been with us for approximately three or four years, and she’s moved up within the ranks. It’s great to see her growth, maturity, and development and the fact she sticks with SECU because of our values and our commitment.

On community outreach

We have a partnership with Towson University for naming rights to its new arena. We help new students as they come in, and we have an information center located on the campus. A lot of high schools go to that arena for their graduation. It’s where the basketball team plays, and they bring in outside acts like the Harlem Globetrotters. We hold different events there as well as open houses and recruitment fairs. That’s huge for us because that name recognition helps people understand who we are and it helps with our talent acquisition.

We also partner with the United Way of Central Maryland, doing the Walk-a-Mile Experience, which is kind of like a reality fair. We bring in people and run them through a scenario of the high cost of living poor, how someone can manage, and the resources that are available to them.

In addition to the United Way resources, SECU offers financial literacy resources in a simulation project exercise. I sit on the board for the United Way, but our entire organization is excited about doing this. It’s our way of kind of giving back to the community.

On professional and personal inspiration

My father was a police officer and was in the in the military, so discipline and order have always been there. I’m a God-fearing man. I grew up in the church. I realize I have to keep the appropriate boundaries at work, but that’s been my inspiration. I was the first one in my family to graduate from college, so that’s always been important. Even though I’m middle-aged now and my father died 12 years ago, I always want to make my parents proud.

On what’s next for SECU and the credit union industry

We’re not that small savings and loan type of financial institution any more. It’s not just a place where go to get your first car loan. We offer so much more. We have remote ATMs and the SECU video teller center. Our branch network is changing and we’re moving away from having tellers in the branches. People are now in the digital age, so we’re changing from just brick-and-mortar. A lot of times people say they don’t even go to a branch anymore, so we need to provide services that are both high-tech and high touch.

As told to E.C. Harrison

August 29, 2016

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