Langley FCU hosts a one-day conference on Columbus Day that gives all employees the experience of attending a large, national conference.
In the months it takes to plan Langley U Summit, the credit union must choose a conference theme as well as schedule keynote speakers and breakout sessions.
CU QUICK FACTS
HQ: Newport News, VA
Data as of 06.30.19
12-MO SHARE GROWTH: 11.4%
12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 9.9%
Conferences are a powerful training tool. Keynote speakers inspire attendees or push them to think differently about a given field while breakout sessions offer a chance to dig deeper into specific topics. And then there’s the opportunity to network with like-minded peers, which is a large part of the conference value proposition.
Organizations approach conference attendance in different ways; however, one common variable is that not everyone can go. But, what if instead of sending employees to a conference, an organization could bring the conference to the employees?
That’s exactly what Langley Federal Credit Union ($3.0B, Newport News, VA) is trying to accomplish with its Langley U Summit.
This past Columbus Day, Langley welcomed all 550 of its employees to a local convention center for a full day of industry and credit union presentations, career-focused education, and peer networking. For many in the crowd, it was their first conference experience.
Our employees are our organization’s key stakeholders, and we believe it’s important to invest in them.
“We’re hoping to create the opportunity for all of our employees to have the national conference experience,” says CEO Tom Ryan. “It’s an investment back in them and their career.”
In this Q&A, Ryan and Melissa Alexy, vice president of human resources, dish on the details behind the Langley U Summit, including what it take to plan and execute such as an event, how the credit union assigns value to the summit, and best practices for hosting a companywide conference that aims high.
How did the Langley U Summit start?
Tom Ryan, CEO, Langley FCU
Tom Ryan: Based on internal conversations, we developed our Langley U Summit in a conference style with different speakers and topics to encourage professional development. This was our first year running the Summit like a one-day conference. We asked attendees to sign up for three breakout sessions in advance.
We chose Columbus Day because it’s a day the credit union is closed, so we’re able to get everyone in a room together focused on learning. There’s a little bit of magic in that. You see people you haven’t seen in a while and you put faces to names. It’s a bit like a family reunion. In return, we give them a floating holiday for their attendance.
During his keynote, Langley CEO Tom Ryan presented on the future the credit union industry and shared Langley's key performance metrics.
Why create your own one-day conference?
TR: Executives and managers get to attend national conferences, which provide networking opportunities and the ability to hear from renowned speakers. Our employees are our organization’s key stakeholders, and we believe it’s important to invest in them. We realized that many of our employees might not have the opportunity to attend conferences, but could we bring that conference to them?
Like many credit unions, one of our goals is to make Langley the best place our employees will ever work. That doesn’t mean we expect our employees to stay with us forever. They learn skills, develop, and move on. The days of someone starting at a company and working there for the next 40 years are gone. But we do expect that employees work hard while they’re working for us. That means we need to help them grow. In doing that, we hope we’re able to retain our employees, of course, and also attract new ones because they understand that Langley is a place you come to grow professionally.
The breakout sessions you held included lessons on career development. What does it take to offer sessions focused on career progression?
TR: It takes courage and trust. It goes back to the notion, which we embrace, that Langley will be a stop in their career journey. But we also love to promote from within. In 2018, 12% of the workforce received a promotion. This year we are tracking to reach a similar number.
These are competitive opportunities, and our internal candidates were not as polished as external ones. Even great employees weren’t interviewing well, so we thought there was a coaching opportunity to teach them the skills we look for as we hire. We saw it as a way to invest in them. In fact, we didn’t have any sessions at the Summit about our products and services. We provide that education in other ways. With the Summit, we’re trying to help them better their career and their lives, which is why we also included sessions on stress and time management, among other skills.
How long does it take to plan the event? What has to be coordinated?
Melissa Alexy, Vice President of Human Resources, Langley FCU
Melisa Alexy: This was our first time with this format, so we started in May 2019 for the Columbus Day event. We’ve already started for next year. With creating a theme for the event and booking keynote speakers in accordance to that, you have to start early.
How do you decide on your theme?
MA: In the past, we were more focused on finding the keynote, someone with great credibility who can bring a positive, powerful, motivating message and can speak to our entire employee population. We don’t always need a theme to pick a keynote speaker.
This year, however, we were deliberate in choosing our theme. We wanted to focus our efforts on keynotes and sessions that aligned with current thinking around a “meaningful workplace.” Employees want career development, they want workplaces where they feel empowered, they want financial or work-life support. We looked for speakers or presenters who could help our employees think about career development in different ways.
But we also knew we needed something for everyone, as we have a large, diverse employee population. Some people might be nearing the end of their careers or have a greater interest in other topics, like satisfaction more than development. We wanted our sessions to speak to a broad audience.
Keynote speaker and conference MC Antonio Neves helped employees identify ways to re-engage and re-energize at work.
Was coordinating these sessions a challenge?
MA: We started by reaching out to our vendors to see if they would be willing to present. For example, our 401(k) provider presented two sessions on budgeting and Gallup delivered a session geared to managers on engagement and leadership.
Then we reached out to internal credit union employees and other external presenters to gauge interest. We were able to put together a long list of topics and speakers we eventually chose from.
You’ve mentioned the value the Langley U Summit provides employees. But what does it contribute to the credit union?
TR: In my keynote, I provided background information about the credit union movement and showed our own internal financial performance. We want them to feel a sense of pride that they are part of a winning team because that doesn’t just happen by accident. Everyone has a role to play.
We see the Summit as a way to build a culture of appreciation and trust. When the organization has the best interest of employees at heart, I believe that helps retain fully engaged employees. Where are you going to work harder than at a place that appreciates you, believes in you, and wants to see you succeed?
Have you received any feedback from employees on the Summit?
MA: We sent a survey, and all the feedback has been positive. Anecdotally, too, people were happy with the format and want to do it again next year. Speakers or sessions will change, but this appeals to all our employees equally, and it’s something we’ll continue.
What are some best practices to hosting this kind of event?
TR: I doubt we invented this concept, and I would not profess to be the expert. Though, I firmly believe that when you invest in your employees, they notice and value the company more for doing that.
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