A Transition In Training

Summit Credit Union’s updated employee training program addresses the broader needs of the institution.


Strong employees are the backbone of any successful organization. And providing ongoing training for established employees is just as important as recruiting the best and brightest new hires. Finding the right way to deliver that training, however, can be a challenge.

Before 2005, experienced employees at Summit Credit Union ($1.93B, Madison, WI) conducted training sessions. These employees were experts in their departments; unfortunately, they lacked training know-how. 

“There wasn’t a lot of structure in the training materials and there was no consistency from person to person or between departments,” says Kimberly Fredrickson, former member of the learning and organizational development (L&OD)  team at Summit and current vice president of financial education and business development. “Training was done on demand versus on a planned training schedule.”

So in 2005, the credit union brought on three learning professionals to design, develop, and deliver a training program. The new department created a structured training program that included a training cycle and core training program. After a merger in 2008 nearly doubled the credit union’s employees, the L&OD team made another significant change to its training program and adopted a performance consulting philosophy.

Performance consulting broadens the scope of traditional training by taking into account the opportunity to analyze, improve, and evaluate. Instead of creating a training program to meet a specific need of one department — as would be done with traditional training — a performance consultant evaluates the entire organization to identify the cause of a given deficiency. Performance consulting brings training out of the classroom and into the workplace. It provides an on-the-job learning environment that directly correlates to the business needs of Summit.

Learning specialists within the L&OD department own specific areas of training. For example, one specialist consults for member service representatives, another specialist consults for lender roles, and a third specialist consults for organization-wide needs, such as new employee orientation.

“We sat down with our team to find out where the passion was,” says Fredrickson, who is now vice president of financial education and business development. “From there we decided who would own MSR training, lending training, new employee orientation, and such. And because we involved them in the process, we got employees who are passionate about their area of expertise.”

The L&OD team is in its fourth year of performance consulting. It aims to provide excellent learning and development opportunities to educate, promote, and inspire employee growth and success. A by-product of this standard is an enhanced organizational effectiveness that contributes to the prosperity of the credit union.

The training team focuses on three tasks:

  1. Directly link learning to organizational and business goals.
  2. Focus training on overall performance and organizational effectiveness. The team does this by identifying and analyzing trends, capturing and sharing best practices, and measuring the outcome of new processes.
  3. Deliver learning in a variety of formats. The team offers classroom-like environments as well as web-based platforms.

At Summit, performance consulting means working with and observing employees in their areas of expertise, partnering with human resources and hiring managers to identify performance trends and gaps, and making recommendations about needed skills at the organization. In addition to personal observation, the performance team has access to internal help desk reports and other metrics to identify trends and skill gaps. Once it collects and analyzes this information, it can make an informed recommendation to improve work processes at the credit union.

The performance team sits in on various meetings throughout the year and meets with departments annually to stay informed about challenges and goals. Once it recommends and implements new processes, the team follows up with department leaders to determine whether the new program is adequately addressing business needs. If needed, it changes the strategy based on the new information.

For credit unions interested in implementing a performance consulting philosophy, Summit’s L&OD team offers the following tips:

  • Ask the existing training staff to develop expertise in different areas of the credit union.
  • Build relationships within the organization to better understand one another’s needs as well as the needs of the members.
  • Develop a comprehensive needs assessment process to determine what are training needs and what aren’t.
  • Directly relate measures and evaluations to business results.
  • Educate managers on their role in the learning process and how they can affect its outcome.