Many credit unions feature training departments staffed by generalists who train others on internal processes and other facets of business.
Northwest Community Credit Union (NWCU) in Eugene, Ore., however, takes a different approach to technical training.
Under the leadership of President/CEO John D. Iglesias, the $1 billion asset credit union develops internal content experts for the role of technical training. The approach deepens the accuracy and credibility of training as these “trainers” actually perform the job every day.
“We've always maintained that our success as a credit union is due to the people who work here,” Iglesias says. “Now we can proudly state that our success is a reflection of the people who grow here.”
NWCU staff have embraced the new approach.
“It only makes sense to have people who understand the job train employees. There’s no better teacher than experience,” says Kara Spence, NWCU’s support services specialist.
To learn more about this training model, Credit Union Magazine interviewed Gay Wayman, NWCU’s organizational development leader.
CU Mag: Why did NWCU place a greater emphasis on training and professional development?
Wayman: When I arrived at NWCU two years ago, the environment was already rich for learning and professional development.
One of NWCU’s core values is “providing our employees an atmosphere where they can flourish personally and professionally.” Our CEO and executive team are committed to employee development.
As part of my 90-day orientation to NWCU, I asked more than 100 leaders and staff members how they thought NWCU could enhance training. Many commented that those who do the technical jobs every day have a lot to offer. I took that information to heart.
CU Mag: How have employees and NWCU benefitted from this approach?
Wayman: Staff who have become technical trainers are quick to speak to the professional satisfaction they gain by doing this work. Their confidence grows when they’re recognized as internal content experts.
Also, it’s effective training. The trainers become internal “go-to” people for their peers. They know the subtleties of the job and can speak to situational nuances that a generalist trainer can’t.
The on-the-job stories invite the learners into reality in a safe environment, and they know who to call if something comes up that they have not dealt with before.
CU Mag: How has the program affected internal culture or morale?
Wayman: If this year’s employee satisfaction survey is an indicator, it has had a positive effect.
The issue of “wanting more training opportunities” showed the highest improvement score from the previous year’s survey.
The results are encouraging. Each time we add a new internal trainer, the program grows staff skills and strengthens internal teamwork across credit union functions.
CU Mag: What advice would you offer other CUs about doing something similar?
Wayman: Get support from executive leadership. The flexibility needed to train requires scheduling support from directors and managers.
Additionally, a dedicated training coordinator keeps all the balls in the air so staff trainers only need to focus on training. The coordinator manages scheduling, registration, certifications, etc.
Teaching staff to train is another key. Not all well-intentioned staff have the ability to train.
An excellent technician may not be a skilled trainer. That needs to be assessed as part of the process.