6 Key Factors in Workforce Planning

business leader points to board of sticky notes while working with employees
Contributing Writer

11 minutes

HR leaders need to be strategic in assessing and developing talent.

Great employees are the “secret sauce” that distinguishes credit unions from their competitors. Deploying those employees wisely takes strategic workforce planning, with a focus on assessing and developing talent to align human resources with current and future organizational goals.

“The key word here is ‘strategic,’” says Charles Shanley, SPHR, SHRM-SCP, CFS, CEO of CUES Supplier member Shanley Search Partners LLC, Houston. “Workforce planning requires a multifaceted approach that addresses the HR side and the organizational development/leadership development side. OD and LD have risen in importance for critical HR roles. Credit unions need this expertise, even if they have to go outside the industry to get it.”

As HR leaders undertake strategic workforce planning, here are six key factors to consider.


Shanley identifies adaptability as a crucial trait in today’s rapidly changing market. “It’s one of the stronger competencies we look for when filling HR and other roles,” he says. 

Credit unions’ adaptability was put to the test during the COVID-19 pandemic, and CUs responded well by transitioning to a remote workforce and building digital capabilities.

“One of the top workforce trends continues to be work-from-home and hybrid options,” says Lisa Miller, founder/CEO of CUES Supplier member cuCoach, Beaumont, Texas, a coaching firm for credit union professionals. “Remote work is a given, and it’s here to stay.”

As the pandemic gets further in our rearview mirror, Miller concedes that there are likely many CEOs who are debating whether to require employees to spend more time in the office. Such a policy would put them in line with major companies like JPMorgan and Goldman-Sachs that are reducing remote work. But if you’re considering this strategy, take note: Studies show that companies with flexible work policies are growing faster than those with full-time in-office mandates.

Taking away a benefit that employees clearly love could have dire consequences for employers. “You’ll likely lose quality employees,” Shanley predicts. “If you revert to doing things the ‘old-school way’ before COVID, you’ll have trouble attracting the talent you need.”

Adapting to these still-evolving work models requires managers to be innovative and open-minded. “As leaders, we need to keep revisiting ‘How can we accomplish team building, meetings and mentoring while still providing remote work options?’” says Miller, a former COO of a billion-dollar credit union. “If we’re strategic and intentional in our planning, we can do these things successfully.” 

Charles Shanley
Shanley Search Partners LLC
If you revert to doing things the ‘old-school way’ before COVID, you’ll have trouble attracting the talent you need.” — ,


Having a flexible workforce allows CUs to meet fluctuating demands. A growing trend that provides such flexibility is the use of fractional employees.

“‘Fractional’ is the new buzzword for contract work,” says Shanley. “It generally refers to a temporary placement and is often project-based, though it also includes those working for multiple employers on fractional assignments. Contract work can be an important part of your strategy, especially during times of economic uncertainty. Rather than hiring people you might need to lay off down the road, it’s a safer bet to hire contractual employees, especially if you have a major project like a core conversion you need to complete.”

The escalating cost of top-tier executives may be driving a trend toward the use of fractional executives—CEOs, CFOs, COOs, etc.—who, as the name implies, work for an organization part-time at a fraction of the cost of a full-time on-staff equivalent. 

“We’re seeing an increasing number of credit unions embrace the idea of fractional executives,” says Chris Sachse, CEO of Think|Stack, a Baltimore-based cybersecurity and IT management company. “Smaller credit unions have been open to executive outsourcing for quite some time because of affordability issues, but now we’re seeing larger credit unions using what we call executive advisory support more than they had in the past.”

Sachse reports that Think|Stack offers this support to several of its credit union clients. “It’s not the largest part of our business, but it’s probably been the fastest growing over the last year. We have a team of four people whom we share as CIOs, CTOs and chief information security officers.”

Think|Stack typically provides these services when a CU is undergoing a major technology transformation that requires specialized expertise. “They may have a great CIO, but he’s never done a major project like this, so they want somebody there, standing by his side, who has been through it,” Sachse explains. 

Much of the fractional work is done remotely. Having an off-site C-suite executive wasn’t widely accepted in pre-pandemic days, but Sachse notes that many CUs are currently receptive to the idea. 

“We still spend a lot of time on-site with our clients, especially at the start of a relationship,” Sachse says. “As the client gets to know you and you build trust, it becomes easier to be remote.”

Professional Development

Miller advises credit unions to make professional development a top priority. “We live in an age where people are bombarded with ways to seek improvement—from YouTube and TikTok to LinkedIn Groups, leadership books and podcasts galore,” she says. “They’re going to expect a commitment to their improvement from their employers as well.”

Fortunately, the CU industry is ripe with professional development opportunities. Shanley cites several high-caliber options, including the CUES CEO Institutes, Filene i3 innovation leadership program and Cardwell Leadership program. “These are the types of programs that CUs should be considering for their employees and looking for when recruiting new hires,” he says.

Providing clear pathways for advancement is a vital component of professional development. At $2.5 billion Altura Credit Union, based in Riverside, California, SVP/Human Resources Julie Bjornstad has made it a priority to define advancement opportunities for employees at all levels of the organization.

“Our goal is to be the No. 1 employer in Riverside County,” says Bjornstad, a CUES member. “So, to attract and retain talent, we’ve significantly increased our entry-level pay and implemented a clear progression for our entry-level hires.”

This includes giving tellers the opportunity to move through three tiers within 18 months. “When they’re hired, they see the progression that’s available and the training that’s needed to move through these levels,” Bjornstad explains. 

Being upfront about these opportunities has helped Altura CU lower its turnover rate to 9.7% among its approximately 475 employees, surpassing its 12% goal. In comparison, the average turnover rate for non-officer roles at participating banks last year was 19.8%, according to the 2023 Crowe Bank Compensation and Benefits Survey

Additionally, the CU is moving closer to its goal, set in 2023, to achieve an internal promotion rate of 75%.

“We found that many times employees didn’t see a future in their role because it wasn’t clearly communicated,” Bjornstad says. “Now we let them know about future opportunities, with corresponding pay increases, on their first day of employment.”

Altura CU further facilitates advancement for employees through two professional development programs: Drivers of Business Transformation from consulting firm Endurium, which provides process improvement training for all staff members, and the Emerging Leaders Program from CUESolutions provider DDJ Myers, an ALM First Company, for managers, directors, VPs and the executive team. A majority of Altura CU’s managers and above—encompassing 60 participants—have completed the ELP over the last three years. 

“During the program, everyone has an executive mentor and their supervisor, who also mentors them,” Bjornstad says. “The program has helped our managers critically think through situations and build vision strategy models, which meld with our process improvement training to identify potential projects.”

There are no concerns about experiencing a “knowing-doing gap” with the ELP—a gap between what emerging leaders learn and what they actually apply on the job—since the focus is on achieving concrete results. “The ELP projects have led to strategic plans that can significantly enhance the member experience,” Bjornstad states. “These projects have been prioritized, and action plans developed, to ensure a successful completion.”


Despite a recent backlash against DEI programs, HR leaders say they are strongly committed to achieving diversity, equality and inclusion in the workplace—and with good reason. Studies show that cultivating diversity is beneficial to corporate bottom lines.

Building a diverse workforce starts with recruiting and hiring practices. “You have to be proactive if you want a diverse pool of candidates,” says Shanley. “We have a corporate diversity policy that stresses our commitment to fostering, cultivating and preserving a culture of diversity and inclusion for our organization as well as for our clients.”

The company’s efforts include posting positions and networking with diversity-based groups, colleges and universities, job boards and associations and using specific tools for targeting a diverse pool of candidates for its clients.

Miller recommends soliciting employee input regularly on DEI-related issues, such as what holidays to observe and what community causes to support. “You can’t just set holidays or say, ‘Here’s who we’re going to sponsor, forever and always,’” she says. “You should have conversations that are fluid, because things might change based on what’s happening in your employees’ and your members’ lives. Be proactive about how you can improve and let employees know that you’re always open to their feedback.”

Altura CU has implemented several DEI initiatives. One of its earliest DEI projects is a staff-focused video series entitled “Your Story,” hosted internally on the CU’s intranet page. Now in its sixth season, the program is aimed at creating understanding and awareness by featuring Altura CU team members discussing events that have shaped them into the person they are today. Their stories have covered such heartfelt topics as overcoming prejudice, the impact of infertility and the immigrant experience. 

“The series has been instrumental in its purpose to dispel stereotypes [and] assumptions and to show that we are more alike than different,” says DEI Officer Dean Mayorga. “It is emotional in its approach but educational in its design.” 

Lisa Miller
Be proactive about how you can improve and let employees know that you’re always open to their feedback.


Automation and artificial intelligence are transforming every aspect of business, and workforce planning is no exception. “There was a time when using machine learning and AI made you an outlier in HR technology,” says Anthony Reynolds, CEO of HireVue, a global leader in AI-driven HR processes headquartered in Salt Lake City. “In a world of broad acceptance of AI and the proliferation of ChatGPT and other generative AI, that’s no longer the case.”

HireVue Chief Data Scientist Lindsey Zuloaga reports that AI has proven effective in evaluating talent and ensuring a good match between job and candidate. “Many of our customers are transitioning away from outdated hiring practices and streamlining the process through automation,” she says. “So, instead of poring over hundreds if not thousands of resumes, you can use AI and automation to do early filtering of job candidates and save your time to focus on the human engagement piece.”

HireVue offers innovative automated tools that make the hiring process faster and more engaging, such as game-based assessments and job simulations. Additionally, HireVue pioneered the concept of doing video interviews asynchronously. “So rather than doing a live video call, candidates record themselves answering the questions, and the client can watch these interviews later,” Zuloaga says.

The video interview is made even more efficient through natural language processing, another HireVue innovation, which uses AI to evaluate interview responses with results that are comparable to human evaluators. 

HireVue’s automated approach is based on measuring candidates’ “human potential intelligence” rather than past achievements. “We’re moving away from ‘rearview recruiting,’ which focuses on what people have done, toward using AI, automation and data to identify what they have the potential to do,” Zuloaga explains. “We’ve trained the algorithms to predict who is going to be better for a given role, steering humans to the top-tier candidates in making the final assessment.”

Automation also helps ensure that bias doesn’t creep into the hiring process. “A big part of using algorithms for hiring is making sure they’re fair,” Zuloaga says. “We have data showing that automation standardizes the process to eliminate bias and increases the diversity of candidates who get through the funnel.”

When deploying talent in the workforce, HR leaders should be attuned with how the use of technology, including AI, is impacting employees’ jobs. “We’re finding that everyone in the organization has to know tech these days,” Sachse says. “Practical training is becoming more important.”

Moving forward, Sachse notes that CUs may be more inclined to outsource roles that are AI-driven—especially if they are not central to their mission. “Credit unions should be asking themselves, ‘What is the talent we truly need to employ?’” he advises. “The answer tends to be someone who best understands the member and the credit union ecosystem.”

Soft Skills

A growing consideration in assessing talent is the importance of soft skills. “When a manager comes on board, we teach them the hard skills they need to run a branch or department, but the people side of the job often gets neglected,” says Miller. “Emotional intelligence is big on my radar, encompassing empathy, self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation and social skills. HR managers need to be strategic and intentional in assessing and developing these skills at all levels of management.”

Cultivating soft skills can help employees develop resilience—i.e., the ability to meet challenges in the workforce and learn how to thrive in the process. “Helping people understand how to handle their emotional highs and lows and develop better relationship-building skills will [enable them to] become more resilient,” Miller says.  cues icon 

Based in Missouri, Diane Franklin is a longtime contributor to CU Management magazine

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