Employee Engagement to Drive HR Function

Margolit Hillsberg, CHRO & SVP, Citadel Federal Credit Union

Margolit Hillsberg, CHRO & SVP, Citadel Federal Credit Union

1. How has your journey been so far as the CHRO and SVP of Citadel Federal Credit Union? What are some of the major takeaways from your vast experience?

Having started with PwC (Price Waterhouse and Coopers & Lybrand), learning the value of ‘human capital’ to an organization was very apparent. The role that human capital plays in executing business strategies goes a long way in serving customers well. I learnt about the responsibility of a leadership team in engaging and developing employee talent. It was truly transformational during the period that I worked there. At PwC, I really developed the abilities to tap the right talent required for the business. There were many significant changes that the leadership and the human resource functions made, that helped in my journey. Now at Citadel Federal Credit Union, it feels like I have seen the role of technology: how people work and what work they are doing. Secondly, my responsibility was to focus on a customer-centric business strategy. Citadel provides banking and wealth management service to our members, and we are highly focused on our customers to provide them with quality service. We have a brand name that we call “Citadel Class Service”, which is our approach to serving the customer. In the three and half years that I have spent with the company, there has been a great digital transformation across banking and the financial service industry.

2. What are some of the specific challenges you have faced in your journey as a CHRO?

One of the significant challenges was making sure our brand as an employer was always very positive and is also accessible to the talent pool outside of the organization. Secondly, developing and retaining the employees that are in the organization—making sure we have multiple methodologies to help people at different stages of career development, while addressing their training needs. We also needed to ensure that we have benefits and compensation programs that effectively serve different needs of the different generations of people.

"One of the most important qualities of a human resource function is to have the courage and ability to say “Yes”"

My approach in this profession has always been to understand what the business strategy has been and then ensure that all of the HR programs are employee-focused while supporting the business strategy. In the case of Citadel, we are mission-focused in serving our customers; that’s why the credit union exists, to enable people in helping other people. We seek to provide our employees with many opportunities to be involved in the community while maintaining a culture that makes an employee feel invested in the organization.

3. What are some of the major predicaments that are daunting in employee engagement specifically?

I think there are two channels through which challenges are surfacing: first is that employees have so many choices when it comes to the way they want to be employed. Not just joining a company and building a career out of it, but also the number of choices available when considering entrepreneurship or becoming an independent contractor or gig worker or even working for multiple companies in the future. That presents a major challenge for a CHRO or an HR leader. In the end, it comes down to the motivation factor available with a particular workplace. The second major challenge is that we have multiple generations of people in the workforce at the same time. That is a great thing because there are people with different skill sets and so many life experiences. It also presents a challenge because each generation has a different set of skills, different background experiences, and influences. As a CHRO or as an HR professional, one needs to assist his or her organization in managing and processing the different needs of the employees in the industry. This makes it a little more complicated than what it was earlier.

4. What is your take on providing a hands-on approach to employee engagement?

Employee engagement is not a one-time survey and it’s not a one-time meeting as well. It’s something where you enable both the HR team as well as the overall leadership to engage with employees on a daily basis. In a growing company, it’s difficult to be hands on and have a face to face interaction regularly. I do believe that a couple of strategies are required to make room for that. It is important for the leaders and HR to visit employees and be available for them when required.

5. What is your advice to the aspiring CHROs of the next generation?

I have one piece of advice, which came from one of my mentors and an amazing business leader. He told me that one of the most important qualities of a human resource function is to have the courage and ability to say “Yes”. One must try to achieve the intent or objective of what the business requires from him/her. Even if they can’t do it exactly as the management wants it, they should yearn to say yes and find a way to achieve that objective.

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