Tom McWilliams

PODCAST: Approach training like a puzzle

Don’t forget the critical pieces that leave attendees with a ‘wow’ learning experience.

July 6, 2018

For Tom McWilliams, every successful training experience is like a 1,000-piece puzzle. Forget one piece and the puzzle is incomplete, leaving you wanting more.

“Training is like a jigsaw puzzle: You pull it all together, make sure each piece fits, and then sit back and let the magic happen, says McWilliams, senior vice president of the Mississippi Credit Union Association.

Credit Union Magazine honored McWilliams as the 2018 Credit Union Hero of the Year during a presentation Thursday at the CUNA America’s Credit Union Conference in Boston. Trellance sponsors the award.

During a career with the Mississippi Credit Union Association that has spanned more than 30 years, McWilliams has learned a thing or two about what makes  a fantastic training experience, the pieces of the training puzzle, and how to fit them all together.

Early in his career, McWilliams received sage advice from a respected colleague in the credit union training world: The key to making a training experience feel special for attendees is to “make them feel like they’re coming into my home,” McWilliams recalls.

This means making attendees feel relaxed and comfortable.

It’s a philosophy he’s carried with him throughout his career and puts into place with every training program he coordinates.

“We want everybody to feel at home when they come in,” he says. “That this is their building, this is their training room. We want them to make the best of it.”

This means calling attendees by name, having  having prepared speakers who give outstanding presentations, and piping in music. Over the years, some new puzzle pieces have emerged:

  • Snacks. “We don’t spare any expense on the food. We feed our folks well,” he says. “We want to make sure they don’t drop off and go to sleep and that they’re not hungry.”
  • Electricity. “More people are bringing their laptops now,” he says. “We make arrangements where they can all have electric plug-ins while they do their training.”

In an interview with the CUNA News Podcast, McWilliams talks about characteristics of successful training programs, challenges in the training sphere, advice for young professionals, and more.

You can listen and subscribe to the CUNA News Podcast in Apple’s iTunes StoreGoogle Play, and Stitcher Radio.