Technology upgrades are a fact of life. While they're often disruptive, they ultimately make employees' jobs easier and allow the credit union to stay competitive.
Out-of-date technology hinders the advancement of business goals, credit union leaders say: The longer credit unions delay upgrades, the slower and less efficient they become and the harder it is for staff to give up their old systems.
In August 2021, Mercer County Community Federal Credit Union in Hermitage, Pa., undertook a core conversion that included a mobile banking app conversion. “Our employees had been using the same core processing system for over 25 years, so this was a major change for everyone,” says Sandi Carangi, CEO at the $99 million asset credit union.
Leading staff through an upgrade or new deployment can be daunting and time-consuming, especially during a pandemic when many employees worked remotely. Often, the tendency during the pandemic was to install the technology first and then train employees, or select employee advocates who understand the technology and can help others.
In any case, change is tough.
“It’s human nature to resist change,” says Brad Barnes, chief financial officer at $783 million asset Air Academy Federal Credit Union in Colorado Springs, Colo., which converted its core processing system in March 2021. “Many times, employees try to make the new technology replicate how they used to do their jobs, which adds to the stress of conversion. It is pointless to launch new technology that functions like the old technology. The new technology must perform the way we want it to perform going forward, not like we used to do it.”
How to get employees to embrace new technology? Start with communication.
‘The new technology must perform the way we want it to perform going forward,not like we used to do it.’
Communication with employees before and during the conversion, as well as ongoing member communication, is vital to the success of any technology implementation.
“Communication is the key,” says Carangi. “For our core conversion, employees received ongoing updates well in advance and on a regular basis right up to the day of implementation.”
Employees also need to know why the credit union is making changes: The more they buy in, the easier it will be to get them on board, trained, and advocating positive outcomes to others, Barnes says.
“We emphasized how some of our operational issues were the result of outdated technology and how the new system will help improve these issues and make it easier for employees to do their jobs and improve member service,” he says.
Balanced training also is critical to success. “We tried to make the training fun so the atmosphere in the training room was much more relaxed,” says Carangi. “After a few weeks, employees began looking forward to training days.”
Employees need to have enough time to be comfortable with the new technology before serving members with it. “It is important to have this security, not only because the tools and software are changing, but the workflow is changing as well,” says Barnes.
Not all employees have the same level of technological knowledge. One of the biggest challenges in any upgrade is training employees who aren’t well-versed in technical terminology.
Don’t assume all employees are familiar with the various browsers, online navigation tools, software programs, and digital/mobile systems, or have the same learning curve. “Start training early so even your most IT-challenged employees have the time and resources to become proficient,” Barnes says.
Communication is essential when dealing with pushback or disgruntled employees who are reluctant to adapt. Create feedback mechanisms where employees can share concerns, frustrations, or suggestions regarding implementation and training, says Lisa Jasper, director of performance improvement at Insperity, a human resources (HR) consulting firm.
“Employee feedback is as critical, if not more so, once the new platform or system is underway,” she says. “Be open to how the technology is or isn’t supporting business objectives.”
Encourage employees to ask as many questions as possible during the implementation period. With every technology change, notes Carangi, there will be employees who aren’t prepared and will resist to the point where they struggle to do their jobs and quit out of frustration.
“The goal,” she says, “is to ensure every employee has the proper training so it becomes a positive experience.”
Plus, there will always be unhappy members who don’t like the new mobile app, new statements, or the extra time they had to wait. Check out your Google reviews every day, advises Carangi.
“We had several members not happy with the change,” she says. “We responded to all Google reviews and mailed every reviewer, good or bad, a gift box with a thank-you card and filled with credit union items such as a T-shirt, pen, calendar, or cooler bag.”