It’s no accident that the $3.3 billion asset credit union consistently finds itself on a list that recognizes top learning organizations with the most successful employee-sponsored training and development programs.
“Ascend's brand promise is to educate and help our members become effective financial stewards,” says Renee Crosslin, vice president of talent development and culture. “Everything we do is centered around that: preparing those who will ultimately serve our members. People get a charge from development and from knowing they’re being invested in.”
The credit union’s 10-person talent development staff, which supports roughly 600 employees, is under the human resources umbrella. Crosslin reports directly to Ascend’s chief human resources officer, while Training Manager Jessica Helton reports to Crosslin and supervises the trainers, who are also known as talent development specialists.
Four trainers are dedicated solely to classroom training. There is also a sales and service trainer, a trainer devoted to system enhancements and implementations, an engagement coordinator for employee events, and a training coordinator that handles administrative work.
Crosslin estimates that about 10% of Ascend’s employee base participates in training every month, while some months see higher activity than others. The focus on training has resulted in Ascend consistently seeing an internal promotion rate over 50%.
Helton is a veteran of Ascend’s training culture. The 13-year Ascend employee began as a teller and held several positions before taking on the role of training manager.
“That's what attracted me to the company,” she says. “Day one of my onboarding and orientation, I saw that the credit union invests in the employees who ultimately serve our members. It's an opportunity for employees to advance and to make an impact in the community.”
The credit union offers in-person classroom settings as well as virtual training such as online modules and webinars. It works to ensure employees truly take something away from their training.
Trainers follow up with employees after training to see how they’re doing. Frequent surveys help Ascend tailor training to meet employees’ needs.
Staff feedback can lead to valuable changes, Helton says. The credit union is currently evaluating its loan training to address gaps in that program and make improvements.
“I call it rearranging the furniture,” she says. “We're restructuring. It's okay to change, look at it from a new lens, and develop your programs. You should constantly look for ways to enhance and develop your programs so employees walk away with a better grasp on the material. That way they can go out and perform.”