The importance of becoming a learning organization

When CEOs are asked what their top priorities are, attracting and retaining talent is always on that list. In fact, a hallmark of successful organizations that are able to grow year-over-year is often related to how the organization manages and administers talent development. In order for credit unions to continue to provide exceptional service to their members and compete with other financial institutions, they must have a sustainable strategy that includes retaining and advancing talent.

Why is attracting and retaining talent just as important as other business strategies? The credit union industry is experiencing disruptive digital forces and increased complexity as the new digital-human workforce is creating a large skill and knowledge gap for over 50 percent of talent, according to the World Economic Forum’s The Future of Jobs Report 2018. Leaders are now faced with this challenge: Can employees whose jobs are impacted by machines be reskilled to perform other types of roles in the credit union?

To address this, credit unions across the country should consider focusing their efforts on becoming a learning organization, which is one that drives improved business results with the learning of its employees, and continuously transforms itself through creating, acquiring and transferring knowledge. For example, some roles now require dramatically more technical skills, while others require a renewed focus on distinctly human skills such as creativity, critical thinking and persuasion. Focusing on learning in these areas will help ensure the workforce will be better prepared to adapt more quickly.

Becoming a learning organization increases employee engagement, boosts member satisfaction and improves business results. There are three components that drive these changes: an engaging learning environment, disciplined processes and practices to share data and knowledge, as well as leaders that reinforce learning and performance.

Establishing the Right Environment

An engaged workforce will drive higher member engagement, lower quality defects and better business outcomes. But what does an engaging learning environment look like? You might already have one or have components that can easily be enhanced to achieve such an environment. In an engaging learning environment, employees are encouraged to bring new ways of operating and collaborating, pursue differing perspectives and challenge the status quo. In order to achieve such an environment in a credit union, employees must feel empowered to provide unique and customized service to members within the appropriate guidelines. Additionally, the environment needs to be consistently refreshed with new learnings and skill enhancements to provide exceptional service to members.

The final piece that many credit unions are lacking is the time and attention to pause, reflect, analyze and diagnose current organizational processes that are not broken, but may need enhancements. This is a powerful piece in creating a true learning environment and exponentially greater business results.

Creating a Culture of Knowledge Sharing

The second component that can elevate a credit union’s success as a thriving learning organization is a disciplined culture of creating, acquiring and documenting, as well as applying and sharing knowledge. The value of knowledge is truly a competitive advantage and can increase business results through higher member satisfaction and value. Your knowledge management practices must be consistent, yet agile enough to continuously capture, update and easily deploy information across your organization. Member-facing employees need the most current and accurate data to ensure continued member trust and loyalty.  

Setting the Tone from Leadership

Lastly, leaders must reinforce and continuously participate in these learning and growing opportunities. If employees see their leaders living the status quo and only focused on the current state, employees will neglect developing new skills and better ways of doing things. On the other hand, if they observe leaders forging new paths and utilizing new innovations to meet members’ needs, employees will follow suit. This top-down approach can facilitate a learning environment as employees will feel comfortable voicing their opinions and ideas.

While becoming a learning organization might at first seem like a daunting or tedious task, the benefits are endless and can be achieved with small tweaks on a daily basis or through larger company-wide initiatives at each credit union’s own pace. Learning organizations not only experience enhanced employee engagement, improved member satisfaction and increased business results, but also establish an environment in which employees feel appreciated and a part of a team.

Karlene Stewart

Karlene Stewart

Karlene Stewart is a seasoned learning and organizational development leader who leverages over 30 years’ experience in the financial services industry and 22 years in learning at PSCU to provide ... Web: Details