With the latest Q3 2019 call report data in, it looks like the median average size credit union in the U.S. now holds around $35 million in assets. It’s useful to put that in perspective. Fully half of the nation’s approximate 5,400 credit unions are at that asset size or smaller and they likely have fewer than 12 employees. So, for most credit unions, the idea of having a Chief Learning Officer (CLO) is pretty unrealistic.
In fact, most credit unions are challenged to have specialized C-suite executives in other important areas like technology, culture, member experience or business development. And yet, most any credit union leader would attest to the importance of training, leadership development and culture enhancements tied to a commitment to employee development.
My guess is that even among larger credit unions, the idea of a dedicated Chief Learning Officer may be an expensive luxury where this function is instead blended with other human resources functions or shared with outside service providers who help with the training function. Certainly, state and national associations and CUSOs help meet many of these training needs very well.
But technology can level the playing field in many areas for credit unions. Customizable learning management systems like CUSG’s TLC360 platform can allow credit unions and CUSOs to create their own digital university that blends soft skills training with core system and frontline skills and resources for leadership development. And shared learning universities can also be created.
One CUSO that creates a collaborative and shared-cost platform for learning is Grand Rapids Michigan-based CU*Answers. With a 50-year anniversary milestone in 2020, CEO Randy Karnes and President/COO Geoff Johnson have built a true cooperative ecosystem at CU*Answers. Their CU*BASE core data processing software is used by 182 credit unions across a 22-state footprint. These credit unions range in size from 600, to over 100,000 members.
But equally impressive is the CUSO’s commitment to helping these owner credit unions achieve their staff training needs. CU*Answers offers CU*Answers University with hundreds of online training courses, in-person training sessions, virtual training opportunities and a robust library of training videos. The course library and calendar include a heavy emphasis on the CUSO’s CU*BASE software but extends to soft skills training, member service basics and even leadership development and board training.
So, beginning in 2020, how will your credit union address the important function of board and staff development that would typically be the role of a Chief Learning Officer?
In the January-February edition of Harvard Business Review, the role of larger company Chief Learning Officers was explored. As I read this article, I considered its relevance to credit unions. Here are a few thoughts:
First, credit unions should know that workplace learning has become a key lever for success in any successful company. The most progressive companies might call their CLOs “Transformer CLOs” because the new role includes the reshaping of culture to shift from the development of skills to the development of mindsets and capabilities to be more experiential and immediate.
As an example of this, I recently attempted to deposit two checks in my checking account using my credit union’s remote deposit capture function, something I had used very often in the past. But in this case, after two attempts, the deposits were rejected and I failed to understand the auto-respond message explaining that my endorsement needed to include, “for mobile deposit only” on the endorsement line. And so, not wanting to deal with the call center, I visited a branch on my way to work where a teller explained the new credit union policy on remote endorsements.
I wondered how many other members had been similarly confused and negatively impacted by this policy change? This would be a good example of experiential and immediate member-driven training that could be done to improve the member experience.
So, while a strong learning management system like CUSG’s TLC360 might be a first step in this direction, credit unions should also gather staff to discuss member service feedback in a more immediate, weekly or monthly manner as opposed to just offering training courses. This is where an experiential real-time learning culture dovetails with the important priority of improving member experience.
This coordination doesn’t have to be done by a dedicated Chief Learning Officer. More realistically, it would be assigned to a member of senior management, especially in smaller credit unions.
Second, leadership development needs to cascade down from the top. Every CEO and every senior leader needs to commit to moving from skill development to changing mindsets and behaviors to better meet the credit union’s objectives. This can then cascade through the organization in monthly coaching meetings by asking simple questions like, “what do we need to be doing differently in our various service areas?”
Third, realize that different methods of training apply to different audiences and skill development needs. For instance, purely digital formats like TLC360 and turnkey videos are best suited for hard skills, mandatory training and simple topics. But face-to-face or blended formats work better for soft skills, ad hoc training and more complex topics. Digital formats are better for larger groups and remote employees making TLC360 a valuable tool. And relying on resources from trade associations and CUSOs might apply better to the face-to-face formats.
The bottom-line takeaway for credit unions is this: In a dynamic, digital and hyper-competitive world of talent acquisition and retention, credit unions of all sizes need a roadmap for an improved learning culture. Most can’t afford a dedicated Chief Learning Officer function, but the deliverables can be achieved with a team approach or by assigning this important function to another senior team member.
As credit unions excel in this area, improved member experience and credit union growth will be facilitated. CUSG looks forward to offering performance management solutions that work together in areas of learning, performance and compensation management. The TLC360 product provides a great solution to help meet these needs.