LGFCU hires with an emphasis on soft skills along with technical ability — finding a balance among practical skills.
The credit union invests in training, shadowing, and travel to bring new hires up to speed.
CU QUICK FACTS
HQ: Raleigh, NC
Data as of 12.31.19
12-MO SHARE GROWTH: 9.6%
12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 7.0%
The Research Triangle region in North Carolina is anchored by three large research universities: Duke, North Carolina State, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It’s also home to an abundance of technology and data companies, some 280 of which are headquartered in Raleigh’s Research Triangle Park, the largest research park in the United States.
For recent graduates or those looking for work in technology or business intelligence, the Triangle is flush with opportunity. For those looking to fill an open technology or business intelligence position, the competition can prove challenging.
Many different companies, regardless of industry, today have technology or data divisions. Local Government Federal Credit Union ($2.2B, Raleigh, NC), for example, employs nearly 200 full-time North Carolinians — currently seven in its BI department, which sits within its finance division and has a strong working relationship with MIS systems and data teams.
In her role as the vice president of business analytics at LGFCU, Alicia Daugherty has learned how to hire and retain talent in a region where the Lenovo’s and Cisco’s rule. In this Q&A, she discusses hiring on culture, training for expertise, and best practices to bridge the gap in-between the two.
How does LGFCU’s location in the Research Triangle help or hinder its ability to attract and retain business analytics hires?
Alicia Daugherty: There is a large population of people who work or want to work in technology and data. Because of that, there’s a big pool of qualified applicants from which to recruit. But, there’s also a lot of competition among employers. As a credit union, we’ve found people might not recognize our name or the industry. We don’t have as much recognition as a Cisco or Lenovo or the other larger companies. Potential hires also might not associate a credit union with data and analytics.
How do you recruit from your region’s pool of qualified applicants?
AD: We look for people with the experience and technical skills to do the job, of course, but we’re also looking for a good fit with our culture. That means personality and soft skills. We want the technical skills and experience, but with the competition, sometimes we can attract better candidates when we focus on an applicant’s other qualities in addition to their technical experience.
What kind of other qualities?
Alicia Daugherty, Vice President of Business Analytics, LGFCU
AD: An ability to think critically and a willingness to think outside the box.
One thing I love about LGFCU is our work-life balance, so we’re looking for someone who has a personality that meshes with that, who is eager to learn and take advantage of opportunities. We look for people who bring ideas to the table and feel comfortable making recommendations. We want them to help us see what can bring value to the organization. We’ve had more success with those applicants than those who have all the technical skills and none of the personality.
We also invest heavily in employee education. If they fit our team and are willing to learn, we can sign them up for trainings, conferences, and webinars — my team is great at helping new people learn that way. We also believe in job shadowing and we pass along experience and information that way.
What qualities do you try to avoid?
AD: Someone who is set in their ways. We are very different from Cisco or Lenovo. They have specific cultures and, if an applicant fits well into those, it might be hard to fit into ours. You need a different personality to succeed there versus at LGFCU.
With data professionals especially, it can be easy to clock in, put your head down, and become an individual contributor. That’s not how we operate here. We work closely with stakeholders across the organization, so they need to be open to working with others and openly communicate. In our experience, it’s much harder to train on the soft skills.
After you bring them in, how do you train them?
AD: It depends who we are bringing onto the team and what their level of experience is, but we tend to use SAS as our primary analytic tool. SAS training enhances their technical skills. For domain knowledge, we train them on the various products the credit union offers, what drives our business growth and performance, and how we create value for our members.
We also have them shadow other employees who will help bring them up to speed on the various aspects of our business, such as how we market products.
You mentioned conferences. What conferences have you found valuable?
AD: We’ve done the SAS conferences. This includes both the SAS Global Forum and the Analytics Experience conferences, depending on the training we’re looking for. We use the SAS Global Forum for program or tool training and the Analytics Experience for learning new analytic methods or best practices that will help us approach current or future projects.
Really, any conference that helps us see different ideas that we can bring back to LGFCU is valuable. It’s less a specific conference than the actual content it produces. For example, if we’re working on a specific project and there’s a conference or seminar that’s related to it, we’ll make a point to attend. Last year, we had team members attend the NABE Economic Measurement Seminar in Washington, DC, to better understand a new source of data we’re trying to integrate. This year, we’ll also attend the AI in Finance Summit in New York and hopefully CULytics, TDWI Data Conference, and the Data Governance and Information Quality conference.
What skills do you hope employees take from these conferences?
AD: On the technical side: advanced programming and best practices for using the tools we already have. On the analytical side: learning new and different ways to segment member data, building or improving upon statistical models.
Some of the value from attending these conferences and trainings is the networking. There have been instances where a session related to a project we were working on and we were able to exchange contact information with the speaker. In doing so, we can reach back out with specific questions and use their knowledge and experience to help us move forward when we’re stuck.
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With your focus on culture and training, what’s been the impact on retention?
AD: We invest in our employees, but that’s just one part of their career journey. I don’t want to lose them, and we’re investing in them for the benefit of LGFCU; at the same time, I want my team to feel they’re being given the tools to grow. I think there’s value in doing that. I believe an organization that invests in me and cares about my development is an organization where my team is more apt to stay.
It starts with culture. By hiring with our culture in mind, we’ve created a team of engaged, happy, hard-working employees who feel supported by one another and our leaders.
Are there any best practices or lessons learned from this approach?
AD: We’ve undergone an evolution in hiring philosophy from looking for applicants who have the experience and technical skills to someone who has more of the soft skills. We also focus on creating an environment where people feel comfortable, empowered, and heard.
There’s so much competition for data folks these days. Everyone wants data people because they’re able to dig into the numbers and provide value to the organization. Well, we want to provide them value, too.
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