This article by Mark Arnold originally appeared on cutimes.com.
The coronavirus pandemic up-ended much of the way the world as we knew it earlier this year. This included massive societal changes including the way we interact with each other, with our employers and the retail entities with which we do business.
Before the pandemic, only 29% of employees worked from home. At the height of the pandemic in April, 66% reported working from home. Some interesting statistics about the new trend towards work from home include:
- 67% of employers indicated they have taken steps that allow employees to work from home that did not normally do so.
- 36% of employers indicated they actively encourage all employees to work from home.
- 42% of employers encouraged employees to work from home on a case-by-case basis.
For those retail entities, and in particular credit unions, the way in which employees are trained and developed to deliver member service has never been more important. Delivery of outstanding member service is one of the key means by which credit unions can differentiate themselves from the vast array of competition in the financial products and services industry. The need to develop employees is still certainly there. Any credit union attempting to recover from the economic downturn without a keen focus on employee development faces a steep uphill climb. In many ways, it is your staff that will deliver your credit union through the economic downturn. You cannot succeed without developing them. Cutting staff development is like killing the goose that laid the golden egg; you may realize a temporary monetary benefit in the short term but will suffer the long-term consequences in the near future.
Due to health concerns with coronavirus, credit unions were compelled to transition many elements of employee development from on-site and in person to the virtual realm. To their credit, many credit unions realized that now, during a time of crisis, was not the time to tap the brakes on employee development; rather, it was the ideal time to place an even greater emphasis on employee development, even if it had to be delivered virtually.
Fortunately, for the time being the worst seems to have passed with the pandemic. However, with the potential threat of a reappearance of the virus, credit unions are wise to continue focusing on virtual employee development best practices.
How can credit unions best deliver virtual employee development? Consider the following.
Stick With Your Original Development Vision
Whether it’s specific staff development for your brand, member experience, leadership skills or (likely) a combination thereof, your credit union began employee development with a vision in mind. While certainly having a percentage of staff transition to work from home alters the dynamics of this development, it should not and cannot alter the intent. Your staff must understand this and also understand that remote development, while helping bridge the gap between now and when normal retail operations resume, is just as important as ever.
Your remote development must be hypervigilant in engaging with employees, expecting them to participate and measuring results. This reinforces with staff that remote development is just as important as in-person training and their participation is still vital and required. Ask thought-provoking questions and don’t leave a lot open for simple yes/no answers. Require staff to think deeper and engage with each other in order to maximize your return on investment for remote development.
Ultimately, the best employee development, whether in person or virtual, is development that is aligned with your existing brand and core values. Ensure your remote development reflects your brand.
Tailor Development Format
Your credit union must also customize its employee development program based on its specific audience, content and goals. A few examples of credit unions successfully developing employees remotely include:
- Belco CCU (Harrisburg, PA): The credit union wanted to continue its in-progress staff brand development and elected to deliver weekly fifteen-minute recorded Zoom presentations for staff viewing, as well as a weekly online quiz to assess learning and enhance accountability. Adam Stewart, VP of Marketing, said “We realized we had to keep the brand vision and what we built with our member experience investment in front of staff so they, in turn, remember why we’re here and the foundation we built to better serve our members.”
- UniWyo FCU (Laramie, WY): The credit union decided to continue its leadership team development via two half-day live Zoom presentations. CEO Dave Krause said “In the end, it all comes down to culture.”
- Centric FCU (West Monroe, LA): Also moving forward with leadership training using interactive Zoom sessions, Centric FCU structured its remote development for staff needs. EVP Rodney Parker shared “This is a time of rapid change. It’s also a time to invest in our leaders.” Centric CU conducted three one-hour leadership sessions spread over a three-week period.
- Pillar CU (Marion, OH): In the midst of both a name change and new brand roll-out, the credit union pressed forward with staff development during the pandemic with appropriate social distancing and a half-day interactive Zoom meeting.
- RelyOn CU (Dallas, TX): While some credit unions have paused employee development, RelyOn CU pushed onward with remote delivery options, including staff member service development. CEO Sarah Spooner said “It’s more important than ever to prioritize your people.”
Key takeaway: when delivering remote employee development, your credit union can choose from a wide variety of timeframes, audiences, technology and content. Keep your foot firmly on the development pedal!
Engage, Engage, Engage
As noted above, getting staff engaged in the remote development experience is critical. In no way can your remote development program come across as passive. If your remote development program asks staff to stare at and listen blindly to a droning, hours-long presentation, good luck with getting anything back. Instead, break the training into smaller portions that are both interactive and engaging.
Consider concentrated development modules that are laser-focused rather than inadvertently overwhelming staff with a massive information-dump. If your remote development platform allows for it, break staff into small groups for independent discussion and brainstorming. Introduce them to problem-solving activities that require everyone in the group to contribute to the solution.
Also importantly, when putting together your remote development delivery, don’t assume everyone learns the same way or has the same sets of learning strengths and weaknesses. Schedule time with your mid-management team to discuss development and teaching strategies that ensure every employee is involved. Your mid-level managers are best prepared to offer guidance and advice on what learning activities work best with specific employees. Before you launch your first development module, you might even ask staff to complete an anonymous online survey that rates themselves on learning skills such as visual, verbal, audio and physical. Bottom line — a better understanding of how your staff learns is critical to the success of your remote development program.
While the precise elements of credit union employee development in the future remain to be determined, it is likely that at least some portion of that will continue virtually. Remote development, when delivered in conjunction with the original vision of the credit union, a customized delivery strategy and high levels of engagement is a compelling way to maintain your credit union’s commitment to employee education and the highest levels of member service.
In a time of pandemic when people need powerful and reassuring voices, credit unions that continue to develop employees say – “We are committed to you, appreciate your hard work and will get through this together.”