I’ve often talked about my disappointment about when times get tough and budgets have to be cut, the first two that are usually affected are what I think are the two most important: marketing & training. Think about it: how can you expect your credit union to grow if you are not marketing your services or training your employees? Doesn’t make much sense to me. Luckily, I’m not the only one who thinks this way.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with Trudi Mullins, Corporate Trainer and “Head Cheerleader” at the $175 million Singing River Federal Credit Union in Moss Point, MS. We spoke about the state of training in the credit union industry, its relevance and importance, and why it is so critical to provide professional development opportunities to employees.
YFPTips: What’s going right in the world of credit union training?
Mullins: There is a great deal of cooperative training going on right now, especially here in Mississippi. A lot of smaller credit unions may not have the financial resources to hire trainers or send their employees to conferences. So we’ve hosted several training sessions right here at our credit union. We have great training facilities. It’s also great to see that more credit unions are allocating to their training budgets.
YFPTips: A lot of credit unions tend to cut training from their budgets because they feel it costs too much. How do you feel about that?
Mullins: Training can get expensive but it doesn’t have to be. If you don’t have the money to send your employees to conferences and things like that, you don’t have to. Technology is wonderful! There are so many webinars, podcasts, virtual roundtables, etc. that are available. Don’t get me wrong, conferences are very valuable experiences but if your credit union doesn’t have the money to spend on airfare, hotels, meals, etc., that’s OK. It’s important to know that there are other ways to provide training.
YFPTips: Should training & development be high priorities for credit unions?
Mullins: There are a lot of credit unions that don’t seem to think so and that is unfortunate. Like you always say, Sean – “an organization can only grow as far as its people grow.” And training shouldn’t be just for management. Front-line staff and non-management personnel need training too. If they don’t have opportunities, they can become unmotivated and if they don’t see opportunities for professional development through training, they end up leaving the credit union. Training leads to increased motivation, higher productivity, better service, and great morale.
YFPTips: Tell us a little about your credit union’s training program.
Mullins: We conduct ongoing training for our employees. Every Wednesday, the credit union opens 1 hour late and there is a staff-wide training session on a relevant topic. And everyone attends – from the CEO all the way down the line. We do live presentations, webinars, and department-specific training. We also recently started what we call the River Academy which is a comprehensive 6-month program open to all employees. Employees get credit for the sessions they attend. There is also a reward element associated with the program. At the end, we are going to have a graduation ceremony and the “valedictorian” will win an all-expense paid trip to Napa Valley. It’s very exciting.
YFPTips: What are the most important elements of a training program?
Mullins: Rewards along the way, tracking progress, and creating a feeling of accomplishment. As author Dan Pink says in his book, “The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us”, there are 3 Great Motivators: autonomy, mastery, and purpose. Training programs should include ways to make sure that all 3 of these are present.
YFPTips: Obviously, a lot of what you do is “in-house.” Is there still a place for outside experts and trainers?
Mullins: Absolutely! Even though we have things like the River Academy, we still use trainers from the outside for certain topics. In fact, some presentations are better-received if they are delivered from an objective 3rd party point of view. It’s important to use industry experts for your training. You want people who know what they are talking about. Remember that there are trainers out there who work with credit unions – they know that credit unions can have limited resources. They’re not going to charge you enormous fees!
So to summarize… training is critical for credit unions. Proper training will lead to increased productivity, better morale, and better service. It doesn’t have to be expensive. Hiring trainers from the outside is important as well because an objective point-of-view is often what is needed to get your message across.
Thanks, Trudi for your thoughts and insights.
Let’s continue the conversation…leave a comment below!