Julia Moreno – PenFed Credit Union
It’s a competitive hiring market with the most successful companies being creative and forward thinking on recruiting and retaining talent. But with capable people in such demand and the workplace having changed so significantly since the onset of COVID-19, how does an employer, especially a large one, get a leg up?
Partially by harnessing technology for decision-making, says Julia Moreno. Now in her eighth year as vice president of human resources operations at Pentagon Federal Credit Union, she’s diving into a deepening data pool to better shape personnel policies.
As she explains, PenFed implemented the employee analytics platform Visier two years ago—at the height of the pandemic—and the credit union is utilizing the system’s capabilities to help analyze recruiting and retention strategies. The platform will aid HR-related programs and should have much to offer PenFed as millions of data points are continuously entered and analyzed.
“Data analytics are where our future is going to be,” Moreno tells Vision. “We’re already using the output and realizing the gains and advantages the information has to offer.”
It’s not just salary
While turnover is to be expected at any organization—especially in the customer and financial service centers—PenFed wants stability in its 3,300-strong workforce.
Salary, of course, will always factor in an employee’s decision, and through data analytics, PenFed has adopted a market-based compensation structure. As Moreno says, many PenFed employees could just as easily work elsewhere in financial services but choose to remain here for a variety of reasons.
It’s also not just salary, she’s quick to add. Each employee is motivated by something different, and data supports PenFed’s attempts to offer something for everyone.
The post-pandemic hybrid workforce that’s become business as usual at so many companies, PenFed included, gives rise to new personnel issues. COVID-19 intensified a dynamic for which the credit union has responded. Working with vendor partners such as health consultant NFP and wellness platform b.well, health coverage and wellness programs have been enhanced with more resources for mental health services.
“For some, it’s been isolation, but for others it’s been another kind of stress,” Moreno says. “They’re away from their coworkers and sharing their home with kids doing schoolwork. Or there may be elderly parents who need attention.”
A year into the pandemic, Moreno took to hosting Friday online coffee breaks for her staff of 20 who were encouraged to talk about anything non-work related. So many employees just needed an outlet, but for those needing more, PenFed referred them to online resources. With input from Moreno, the credit union partnered with the National Alliance on Mental Illness to enhance the resources already provided. If there’s an upside to the past three-plus years, she hopes it’s de-stigmatizing mental health issues in the workplace.
Office return encouraged
Though the worst of the pandemic is hopefully over, PenFed—like so many other companies—retains its hybrid workplace. With offerings that include salary adjustments, child and elder resources, and even pet care, she says PenFed can be an employer of choice.
The HR department, of which Moreno’s unit is just one segment, will continue crunching Visier data. It’s part of every HR unit working to optimize the best out of a workforce dispersed among McLean, Virginia, headquarters and its nearby centers in Alexandria as well as those in Omaha and Papillion, Nebraska; San Antonio, Texas; Eugene, Oregon, and Puerto Rico.
With such a workforce extending into Hawaii, Guam and Japan, Moreno says it takes an innovative HR approach, and that’s among the reasons she was recruited to join PenFed in March 2016. For the previous six years, she had been HR director for benefits and compliance with Koniag Inc., one of 13 Alaska Native Regional Corporations created under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971.
While Moreno regularly visited Koniag’s office in Anchorage, she was based in Chantily, Virginia. Had it not been for extended family obligations, she might have accepted a transfer to Alaska but instead opted for PenFed, which wasn’t a difficult transition.
“They’re aligned the same way and are about helping people,” she says about the two companies. “The Alaskan Native Corporations serve shareholders who are native Alaskans. As a credit union, we’re nonprofit and whatever we generate we give back to our members and our local communities.”
PenFed’s HR department underwent a revitalization to maximize effectiveness of a workforce that serves 2.9 million members. Upon her arrival, Moreno says HR was essentially just doing the basics, but Paul Velky brought new leadership and vision as senior vice president of human resources.
Velky, whose arrival preceded Moreno’s by a month, had honed his HR skills for more than 25 years in companies ranging in size from 200 to 25,000 employees. He reassembled PenFed’s HR with “centers of excellence” and Moreno’s responsibilities being compensation, benefits and HR systems.
Though the greater HR department is divided by function and specialty, Moreno assures there’s vertical integration and a system designed for today, tomorrow and the foreseeable future.
As to how she embraced this profession of such growing importance, it wasn’t always by design. Daughter of an attorney father and nurse mother in Indiana, Moreno originally envisioned splitting the difference by studying at Marymount University to be a healthcare administrator.
However, upon graduating in 1990, a professor referred her to a friend at industrial contractor Techmatics Inc., which needed a benefits administrator. Once involved with benefits, including healthcare, Moreno never looked back.
She’s since taken her skills to TeleCorp PCS Inc., AT&T Wireless, BearingPoint, Gate Gourmet, Intelsat, Koniag and finally to PenFed. Moreno says her current employer is probably her favorite.
Founded in 1935, PenFed originally served military personnel but now is open to everyone. But as large as it’s become, Moreno says she still finds a caring, passionate, family-type workforce.
“The larger banks may have more resources than our nonprofit, but our mission is more personal,” she says. “We really can make a greater difference in our members’ and employee’s lives, and that’s what I strive to do: help people.”
View this feature in the Vol. IV 2023 Edition here.
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