‘Be a lifelong learner’ and other HR insights

‘Be a lifelong learner’ and other HR insights

How to cultivate top talent in your CU.

June 16, 2016

Suzanne Oliver, senior vice president of talent and member development/governmental affairs at $5.1 billion asset Mountain America Credit Union, West Jordan, Utah, received the Professional of the Year Award during the 2016 CUNA Human Resources & Organizational Development Council Conference.

She recently discussed her approach to developing staff talent with Credit Union Magazine.

Suzanne Oliver

Suzanne Oliver

CU Mag: You started as a loan officer. How has that helped in your current role developing talent?

Oliver: My time working in the branches and serving our members directly enables me to keep their perspective in mind as we create and launch initiatives.

It also affects the approaches we take in talent development and member education.

I remember what it’s like to be in a member-facing role and the responsibilities and challenges our employees face, as well as the impact they have on our members’ lives as they assist in meeting members’ financial needs.

CU Mag: What’s one program at the CU you helped implement that you’re proud of?

Oliver: One initiative is the practice of holding daily morning meetings. During these five- to eight-minute team huddles, we focus on one of our core values/commitments.

It’s also an opportunity to recognize employees and to share the business of the day so all team members are aware of what’s happening that day within their branch, department, or credit union.

Other highlights include being a champion for our organizational culture and establishing Mountain America University, which has become an important part of our organization.

CU Mag: What advice would you offer employees about career development?

Oliver: Be a lifelong learner. Volunteer for new responsibilities when opportunities arise.

You’ll become known as someone willing to grow and expand their expertise, not satisfied with the status quo.

Seek mentoring and coaching from leaders you respect inside and outside your organization. Partner and collaborate with peers and others in your organization.

The outcomes will be more successful and you’ll become a valued team member and leader.

CU Mag: What have you learned over the years from training CU employees?

Oliver: You cannot over-communicate. It’s vital that all you identify all stakeholders early in projects and keep them informed and updated throughout the process.

This builds their confidence and trust in you and your team’s ability to achieve successful results. Honesty and integrity are critical.

It brings me joy and satisfaction to see others learn and grow in their skills, abilities, confidence, engagement, and love of Mountain America. All of us want to make a positive difference in our work and I’ve been very blessed to be able to experience this in my role.

CU Mag: What skill has proven most valuable to you during your 28-year career with Mountain America CU?

Oliver: The ability to connect with people and build positive working relationships based on trust and respect, shared goals, and open communication.

CU Mag: What’s one of the top qualities a successful trainer must possess?

Oliver: Be a skilled performance consultant who asks insightful, thought-provoking questions and uses excellent listening skills to identify the core issues that you need to address.

Another important skill is the ability to say “no” when training isn’t the answer to a performance issue. In my experience, a performance issue is most often a management issue.

The employee often knows what to do, but he or she chooses not to do it. No amount of training will change that.

Instead, the supervisor needs to coach for performance—including creating clear expectations, following up, and holding the employee accountable.

CU Mag: What’s one thing Mountain America does that demonstrates the CU difference?

Oliver: Our motto—we place members first—and our vision—help our members achieve their financial dreams.

These are uplifting and inspiring to us as employees. They resonate with us and we want to make them a reality in helping and serving our members.

CU Mag: What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Oliver: “It’s not about you, it’s about the people you can make a difference for in their personal and professional lives.”

Keeping ego out of the equation is a good approach to business and to life.

CU Mag: You can have dinner with one person from history. Who do you choose and why?

Oliver: Earlier this year I had the opportunity to visit Mount Vernon and left with an even greater appreciation for George Washington as a man and a leader.

He was a man of great integrity—and an outstanding leader. I’d love to meet him and learn more about his experiences.