Award Winners Transform Training

Exceptional trainers build people up and help them succeed.

July 1, 2012

“As training professionals, we are builders. We have been blessed with talents and abilities to help others, to build them up and help them succeed.” –Don Vaughn, Training and Development Specialist, Sioux Falls Federal Credit Union, and 2011 ELLy Training Professional of the Year.

To recognize excellence and innovation in credit union training, CUNA hosts the CUNA Experience Learning Live! (ELLy) Training Awards annually—one of the only national awards presented to trainers in the credit union movement.

Winners are announced at CUNA Experience Learning Live!, a credit union trainer-centric conference that features the latest insights in credit union training. Attendees return to their credit unions to maximize staff morale, strengthen their volunteer dedication, and increase the overall knowledge of their staff.

Competition for the ELLy awards is fierce. Credit unions of all asset sizes compete for only a few awards.

While there’s no hard and fast formula to win an ELLy award, each ELLy award recipient displays creativity, originality, and perseverance.

However, the group of ELLy award recipients differs drastically from year to year. So the question remains: What does an ELLy award winner look like?

We reached out to past 2011 ELLy award winners to find out.

Vaughn was recognized for revitalizing his credit union’s culture after the president/CEO of the past 30+ years stepped down and a new CEO took over. Unsurprisingly, the new CEO had a personal vision of how his credit union should operate. Vaughn was there to help make this vision a reality.

Through weekly training classes, customized CUNA CPDOnline classes, a member needs handbook, increased training expectations, and a formal shadowing program, Vaughn ensured his staff embraced the new philosophies and duties the new CEO introduced at Sioux Falls Federal.

Through what Vaughn calls the SALT Program (Sales & Service, Accountability, Leadership, and Teamwork), he converted both veteran and new employees to the new credit union culture and helped them work more harmoniously with their co-workers and members.

“To be truly effective as a trainer, one must not only have the support of all learners, but also a desire to learn and then apply what you’ve learned,” Vaughn says. “Adult learners need to know that training is going to benefit them.”’

Vaughn has said that getting employees to come together to embrace an overall mission of has been his primary goal as a credit union trainer.

CUs transform training

Pam Hoadley, credit union trainer at Educators Credit Union in Racine, Wis., and the recipient of the 2011 Wow! Award, looked to new technologies to revitalize her credit union’s training program, creating a training video with the help of her staff.

“We felt that keeping it fun and using media really resonated with staff the most,” Hoadley says. “It was great to have the staff involved in the video. Having ‘in-house actors’ both entertained our staff and helped other staff members connect and relate with the message we tried to get across.”

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Ken Kelly and Michelle Trekas of Red Canoe Credit Union, Longview, Wash., were honored with the Catalyst Award, a premiere honor recognizing a training department that serves as a conduit of energy for the credit union.

Kelly and Trekas, no strangers to the ELLy awards, were noticed for the sheer number of quality training programs and events they held at their credit union, including:

• Le Tour De Gnome: An annual event where Red Canoe departments work together to find a special “Golden Gnome” hidden somewhere within a 50-mile radius of the credit union. Teams decipher clues to find the hidden statue for prizes and bragging rights.

• Fight Club: Only credit union professionals who received mystery shops of 93.5% or better were asked to become a part of this exclusive club. They do not talk about it.

Select club members got to punch out a hole in a giant punchboard and pull out prizes, including free lunches and jean day certificates.

• Castle Rock Branch Grand Opening: To relieve the stress involved in opening a new branch, promote team unity, and reward staff for their hard work, employees were treated to a fun-filled day at the Great Wolf Lodge, a hotel/water park.

The event featured various contests held to help employees build healthy work relationships.

• Let’s Make a Meal: This is a themed lunch created to celebrate success with second-quarter sales and service goals. The staff was given a catered lunch followed by a game similar to “Let’s Make a Deal” that included the opportunity to win gifts and prizes.

Many dressed in ‘70’s garb to recreate the classic television show.

 Minute to Win It!: This wacky game paired laughter with sales and service strategies to educate leaders on company policies, forge management cohesiveness, and have fun.

• Monthly sales meetings: To keep the momentum going from the CUNA Creating Member Loyalty Program™, these monthly meetings were introduced to spark conversation, uncover potential sales-related problems, and keep staff engaged with the sales and service program.

 IQ Challenge: Participants answered a variety of questions and solved brain teasers in a friendly competition to benefit a charity and to prove, once and for all, who at Red Canoe Credit Union is the wisest of them all.

Being an effective trainer requires an element of humility, Kelly and Trekas say. “No matter how many awards you win, you’re never going to have all the right answers. Our inspiration comes from our staff. If we’re struggling to come up with ideas, we look to the very talented people we work with.”

Exceptional trainers must be flexible, open to change, and willing to face any challenge that comes their way.

Not all ELLy award winners have the same “look,” but they all have a calling to build people up and help them succeed.

MARLO FOLTZ is director of blending learning for CUNA’s center for professional development. Contact her at 800-356-9655, ext. 4232.