This article originally appeared in the July 8, 2020, issue of Credit Union Times as well as here on cutimes.com.

 

As credit unions continue to find their way in the evolving post-pandemic world, staying on top of staff engagement is critical. Training staff (as well as leadership teams and boards of directors) is more important now than ever. The content you deliver for staff engagement, in large part, will help decide how well members’ needs are met and your position as a leader in the post-coronavirus financial products and services marketplace.

There are three key elements upon which to focus when it comes to the content of your training for staff, executive leaders/managers and your board, whether it be delivered remotely or in person. By focusing on these three areas, your credit union will help continue the vitally important role overall staff engagement plays in your future financial success.

Leadership Training

Middle managers and your leadership team make or break your credit union. Their ability to communicate effectively with their employees significantly impacts the level of employee engagement and productivity within your organization. The truth is you don’t need managers. You need leaders and mentors – people who engage, connect with and empower their employees.

Proactive leadership training (during and after) the pandemic will address the unique leadership challenges facing your organization. Taking that a step further, leadership training takes the approach of presenting leadership in terms of your culture and expectations (and also fully encompasses your brand). It also enables you to grow leaders and mentors from within your credit union, and then investing in them to meet your evolving needs. Leadership training is a true investment in your credit union’s future and can have a significant impact on your bottom line.

As Cinnamon Beaugh, operations manager at Meritus Credit Union in Lafayette, La., noted: “Knowing how to deal with different personalities, what motivates people, how to coach and develop them to get them where they need to be is truly a value. Leadership training is definitely a benefit. You can’t have a position just because you have a position and think that you’re going to be a good leader. You need constant development and you want to develop other people to be leaders.”

Member Experience Training

After the pandemic passes, credit union members will expect even higher levels of service from their credit union. We simply cannot afford to go back to business as usual in the future. Member experience training is an investment in your staff that takes your brand a step further, fully operationalizing the brand and giving your staff the tools they need to more deeply engage with members on many different levels.

Your employees are your brand ambassadors – the critical link between your brand and members. You must invest in and train them to connect with and engage members. Member experience training not only trains employees to your service and experience expectations, it also transforms their role in your organization from employees to brand champions and brand ambassadors.

Proactive member experience training also provides a customized learning experience for your employees based on the member journey map you create. It empowers employees to aspire to higher service and experience expectations, and addresses why these expectations are important to your credit union’s success. When done correctly, member experience training focuses on consumer experiences, not just sales. It also provides clear guidelines, expectations and accountability to brand for every position at your credit union. Member experience training also engages employees, enables them to role play your newly-defined member experience, and addresses any issues your credit union may face when implementing these new standards.

Strategic Planning

Boxing legend Mike Tyson is famous for saying, “Everyone has a plan until you get punched in the face.” For many credit unions, their strategic plan took a hard uppercut to the chin with the combination of the coronavirus and economic downturn. As it exists now, the strategic plan that was put together last year will simply not serve many credit unions in this rapidly evolving new environment. Strategic planning, when viewed through this lens, is definitely a form of invaluable training for your credit union.

While strategic planning may not appear overtly as a “training/investment” piece as leadership and member experience training, it actually is. Without continuous and dynamic strategic planning, your credit union will face a daunting future regardless of the direction the virus and economy takes. Strategic planning is a training investment in your board and leadership team, and it filters down to your staff in the form of concrete direction for the credit union within a specified future timeframe (12 months, two years, etc.).

Strategic planning is a process that sets the foundation for your credit union’s future. It’s not a date on a calendar or a meeting you leave with a glorified to-do list, and it doesn’t just focus on numbers. As an investment in your board and leadership team, strategic planning accomplishes a number of things. It engages your participants, ensuring everyone gets a chance to talk often. It takes a deep dive to examine how your credit union is performing, and encourages participants to think outside the box before narrowing their focus to several key strategic initiatives. It guides a credit union toward a set of strategic initiatives and priorities. At the end of a strategic planning session that focuses on success during and after the pandemic, your credit union should have a vibrant, comprehensive document that will help guide you through uncharted waters in the near future.

Again, continuing with last year’s strategic plan is simply not an option for most credit unions. The investment in a new strategic plan for credit unions during and after the pandemic is vital to the success of your credit union’s future.

The type of content you deliver to staff, leadership and your board of directors during and after the pandemic is truly important. While it does help bridge the gap between virtual delivery and the eventual return to more traditional training methods, it is just as important as any training you’ve ever done before; perhaps even more so. When focusing on leadership training, member experience training and looking at your next strategic planning session as an investment in training, credit unions can position themselves as heroes in the narrative of many members’ financial stories – and that’s a goal we can all be proud of.

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