So you’ve got a great staff at your credit union, but do they really know what a credit union is all about?
Your staff, especially member-facing staff, are all ambassadors of your credit union brand. Not only will better training around what a credit union is help your staff better communicate your credit union difference, but it can assist in recruiting and retaining employees. People generally want to work at a job that’s rewarding and where they are part of a global movement that helps people and communities.
I’m continually amazed at the varying levels of understanding around credit union values and co-operative principles across the system. One of my favorite parts of my job at the National Credit Union Foundation is working on our Credit Union Development Education (DE) Training, which is a week-long program that helps credit union professionals gain a new understanding of how to promote cooperative principles and credit union values as distinct advantages in today’s competitive financial services marketplace.
Time and time again, DE Training attendees cite a lack of knowledge of what the cooperative principles are. They say many employees at their organization can’t articulate the credit union difference and some don’t even know that credit unions are a type of financial cooperative. Why? Well, maybe no one ever told them.
Take a hard look at your credit union organization’s new employee orientation. Does it contain information on our rich credit union history? Credit union philosophy/values and the credit union difference? The cooperative principles? The credit union system? If it does, is it engaging and up-to-date?
There are other opportunities too. Incorporate the above elements into your next all-staff training. Surely you have room for a 45-minute session to train your employees on the foundation of everything you do? If you’ve already done that, find local co-ops in the area and highlight them. You can even plan a field trip for a tour and Q&A.
Make the training compelling. Add in some stories of how your credit union has put people over profit. Tell stories about credit union pioneers such as Ed Filene, Roy Bergengren, Thomas Doig, Louise Herring, and others. Share news and information on the Credit Union National Association and the World Council of Credit Unions.
Devise an elevator pitch for your credit union. This could be driven by all-staff as part of an internal contest, a special cross-departmental team of people, or elsewhere. After it’s developed, train your staff on how to use it and why it’s important. Next time a member, friend or family member asks them what the credit union is all about they’ll be ready.
Measure. Evaluate. Refresh. Repeat. Take baby steps if need be. It can start with just putting the co-op principles on the wall. Remember big things start small. And don’t forget, once all is said and done, you might find a better understanding of the credit union difference amongst staff can even turn some ambassadors into evangelists.