Q&A with Julie Cosgrove GS’10, Affinity Credit Union’s Chief Talent Officer

From her first days working in human resources, Julie Cosgrove GS’10 has found a calling in helping organizations improve by serving people. Dedicated to building vibrant, forward-thinking workplace cultures, she’s spearheaded many initiatives to serve employees at Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union. And Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal named her a 2022 Women in Business honoree.

By Jason Schoonover ‘09, content specialist

October 19, 2022 | 12:30 p.m.

Julie Cosgrove GS’10

Julie Cosgrove GS’10

From her first days working in human resources, Julie Cosgrove GS’10 saw how much people can impact a business or organization. “I didn’t know how important the culture of a company would be to finding a career that really created part of the foundation for a meaningful life,” Cosgrove says. She’s forged a career path where she’s serving businesses by serving people. She works as chief talent officer at Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union. After earning an MBA at Bethel, she continues striving to build a strong, vibrant, and compassionate workplace that sets organizations up for future success. Earlier this year, Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal named Cosgrove a 2022 Women in Business Honoree. Get to know her better in this Q&A.

What skills and personality traits do you see in yourself that make you a good fit for working in HR?

I think the three that make the most significant difference in human resources are: compassion, humility, and flexibility.
  • Compassion is having true care and empathy for people. People are complex and are navigating life challenges on a daily basis that make it difficult to perform at their best in the workplace. Having compassion for their situation and leaning in to support them is a gift that HR teams have and that can make a lifelong impact on the people in their organization.
  • Humility brings you back to the core gift of listening, being present, and being grateful—which are all incredibly important in the work of HR.
  • Finally, flexibility in the ever-changing world is essential. Projects change, priorities change and goals change—and HR has to be open and adapt to these changes, recognizing that we can help leaders and employees adapt and be successful through these changes if we lead in this way.

What are some of your key tasks and duties as Affinity’s chief talent officer? What does a typical day on the job look like?

Yet another area I appreciate and value about my work—it truly is different each day! Typically, I am doing some work on further developing progress on our goals. It could be working on our Affinity Plus MBA program—employees can earn an MBA at a local college and it’s 100% paid for by Affinity Plus—our succession planning efforts, connecting with our HR team on projects they are working on, partnering with leaders across the organization on upcoming strategies or working with our senior team about how we can continue to improve the employee experience.

What are some of the most significant challenges you face in your role?

Employee mental health and wellbeing continues to be prevalent for so many people, and our employees are not immune from its challenges. As employees navigate the many stressors of life, I think we need to continue to invest in resources, support, and guidance for both our leaders and our employees on normalizing conversations and elevating the support for employees navigating these difficult times.

Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) continue to be high on the challenge and opportunity radar for the role of most HR leaders. I think there is a great opportunity within this space. And being open to learning, listening, and evolving is critical to making progress into true change.

Lastly, the amount of change and pace of change that the world of work is undergoing is truly mind-boggling!

The need to ensure our employees have the resiliency as well as adaptability to flex as their work changes will no doubt continue to be a challenge for us to navigate, as will the need for employees to continue to invest in themselves and their own development through education, certifications, and experiences.

"I get an opportunity each day to reflect and take action on the question, 'What can I do to help lead and develop our people that will bring us to an even stronger place as an organization?'"

— Julie Cosgrove GS’10
You’ve spearheaded several initiatives to help Affinity become an “employer of choice”—six weeks of paid parental leave, DEI and leadership training, and a paid MBA program. What do these initiatives bring to Affinity and how does it benefit/serve Affinity’s employees?

Our vision is to be the best place our members have ever banked and the best place our employees have ever worked. This vision really does make it clear that we are continuing to invest in our employees—by hiring talented individuals, providing them with internal and external development opportunities, seeking ways to engage them in our organization, and making a difference in their lives. We talk to our employees often, we survey frequently, we visit branches and connect with teams—all to understand what is valuable and meaningful to our employees and in turn, seek ways to bring that value to our employees.

With a lot of conversation on “the great resignation,” we didn’t have to take a hard left turn as an organization to start investing in our employees—instead, we had to stay focused on what matters most to our employees to keep engagement and connection high, resulting in strong growth and retention of our employees.

What led you to Bethel’s MBA program? What was your experience like the program, and how did it help you advance your career?

When I began looking for the “What’s next?” to keep developing my own self, I came across Bethel as I began looking at MBA programs. The supportive cohort model was initially what drew me to the program as I knew my goal was not just to learn the theory of various classes, but to build relationships and understand how workplaces and businesses operate, engage, and succeed. The relationships with my fellow cohort members were going to be an important part of the program for me and Bethel felt “right” as soon as I started to research the program and meet the people that made the program.

I made some incredible connections and friendships in the program. While we don’t get together for dinner quite as often, we still stay connected through LinkedIn and are still cheering and supporting one another as we continue through life’s adventures.

Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal named you a 2022 Women in Business Honoree. What was it like to receive that distinction?

I was truly humbled to be recognized as an honoree. I’ve met many women—throughout my career, through my work, through the MBA program, through volunteering, and through my community—who inspire me. I could name many women that are even more deserving than me of receiving this award. I was intentional after being named an honoree to be more present when I interact with other women by authentically sharing with them what I appreciate and value about them. I am grateful for the opportunities I have been given and am eager to continue to learn from so many women that have been successful within their careers and lives and hope to contribute to many that will continue to build toward the future of making workplaces truly meaningful parts of our lives.

What about your work energizes and inspires you? What motivates you to keep going?

I get an opportunity each day to reflect and take action on the question, “What can I do to help lead and develop our people that will bring us to an even stronger place as an organization?” While my channel to do this is through the employees—the people of our organization—I do this through many partnerships across the organization, thus impacting many areas of our business. I am inspired when I see the growth and development of our employees aligns with the success of our organization.

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