Take a hard look at people's capabilities.
This is often the most challenging change. Leaders can often make design changes and get the right tools but then struggle to make the hard call on whether existing team members will have the ability to deliver the work.
Playing at a more strategic level for the credit union requires different capabilities than doing the transactional work. Leaders need to assess their talent and be willing to make the hard calls. Yes, it is a difficult decision, but it’s critical to design work.
Mountain America made some significant redesign choices over two years ago. Today, with our new design and the right people on board, we're having a tremendous impact for good and exploring new areas of work that will significantly impact the credit union that we wouldn't have even explored two years ago.
Our HR business partners are more integrated and have significant influence across the business.
Mountain America seeks to hire those who will best fit into the organization for the long haul.
Another focus has been on understanding our employee skill base today and where the organization needs them to grow to ensure today's workforce will be prepared to be tomorrow's workforce.
"By building a culture of continuous learning and agility, we will meet the needs of the future," Savage says.
Mountain America launched an innovative professional development program in 2020 to understand the areas of skill growth needed from all employees and provide resources, peer and leader mentoring workshops, and experiential opportunities to allow employees to tackle these skills.
"I had branch employees and vice presidents alike reaching out after a ‘tech-savvy’ webinar asking to shadow and provide training for teams," says Julia Wilkins, vice president, data and analytics. "The program resonated with our people who were asking for clarity about where they should grow."
Having a leadership team invested in developing their people is necessary to create a culture that will scale alongside the organization's footprint.
For leaders to have an impact, new competencies will be required while not losing sight of the skills and behaviors that led to success in the past.
“Leadership is an organizational focus for us,” Savage says. "Developing our leaders and our leadership bench will help us as we grow and pivot. Leadership development is the type of work that can take years to get right. Starting now means that we are prepared to scale.
“When we are better prepared, we will be positioned to support our members."
The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The next best time is today. The same is true for developing your scaling strategy.
"It can take an organization many years to build the capacity needed to scale properly," Savage says. "By focusing on this work today, we can decide where to play. This allows us to hone our competitive advantage while doing the rest of our work as efficiently as possible, and enables us to have the highest level of strategic impact across the credit union."
The work done at Mountain America is unusual for an organization of its size.
"Typically, we wouldn't be focusing on the tools and processes until we were nearing 10,000 employees," says Troy Fuller, human resource information systems analyst. "However, the vendors we talked to said they were starting to see more mid-size organizations focusing on building their capacity now to allow for hyper-growth."
When the organization is smaller, starting scaling efforts supports a mindset shift and comfort with the tools, systems, and processes that will increase an organizational competitive advantage today and for the future.
The era of humans being an afterthought to strategy is over. People are the lifeblood of our business, and it's long past time for strategy to follow.
Mountain America shows that when HR is a strategic partner at the table, the business moves.