A culture change swept through Warren Federal Credit Union ($515.6M, Cheyenne, WY) in 2009 when the board and executive team decided the organization should take a more deliberate approach to member service. Member service had always been a priority at the credit union, but in 2009, it became the central focus.
“Our products will bring people in, but service is what keeps them,” says Stacy Maatman, assistant vice president of human resources at Warren.
CU QUICK FACTS
Warren Federal Credit Union
data as of 06.30.14
HQ: Cheyenne, WY
12-MO SHARE GROWTH: 9.9%
12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 21.0%
To shift focus across the organization, Warren had to rethink the way it trained its most influential employees. Before 2010, Warren sent managers to a local college to receive leadership training through Development Dimensions International, a global talent management consultancy. DDI specializes in onboarding employees and creating custom training programs. The DDI leadership program taught in Cheyenne, WY (where Warren is headquartered), has a good reputation in the business community, but Warren managers attended classes with people from other organizations and at times studied material not directly applicable to work at the credit union.
Also, not all Warren managers received leadership training.
“A new manager would come on and, if we had the money that year to do it, we would run them through the program,” Maatman says. “But we’d miss a lot of people.”
A Salute To Service
As the credit union shifted to a service focus in 2009, executives realized managers needed formal training on how to approach their jobs through a service lens and how to coach their direct reports on how to be stronger employees. That’s when Warren’s CEO Stephanie Tuebner challenged the human resources department to create a program that teaches incoming managers how to be better leaders.
The result is an in-house program that Warren launched in summer 2010.
Now, all incoming managers and up-and-coming talent enter a nine-month leadership program. The program is split into two levels: newly hired management, which hovers around three per year because turnover is low, and staff with management potential, which equals approximately six per year.
“We want new hires to go through our leadership development so they understand our expectations at Warren,” Maatman says. “Especially when it comes to coaching staff.”
Maatman and another HR team member lead the program using training materials from DDI and CUNA’s Creating Member Loyalty program. The program includes one class per month, with nine classes running from January through October — the extra month allows Warren the flexibility to make up a class if needed. Each class lasts from four to five hours and takes place during business hours.
Prior to 2010, the DDI leadership training that Warren managers completed included eight sessions. By bringing the program in-house, the credit union was able to include an additional session that further instills employee coaching skills.
“We added that extra class to go through scenarios,” Maatman says. “What does it look like to terminate an employee? What does it look like to tell an employee they’re not meeting their goals?”
In this way, Warren is extending service beyond member relationships and into employee relationships.
“If a member overdrafts their account, we don’t just shut them off,” Maatman says. “We ask questions: ‘What’s going on? Is there something we can do so you’re not constantly overdrawing?’ Same thing with our employees. We want to help them be successful.”
Click here for an outline of the nine courses offered in Warren FCU’s in-house leadership development program.
Better Training Means Better Results
According to Maatman, now that the program has been in place four years, managers are moving more efficiently on hiring and firing decisions. That wasn’t always the case.
“We were either holding onto employees too long or we were really quick to let them go,” she says.
Now when employees are struggling, the credit union can put them on a service improvement plan to get their performance on par with Warren’s expectations. And when mangers identify employees who aren’t receptive to coaching, the credit union can likewise act accordingly.
Warren’s growth numbers are soaring. Its 12-month loan and share growth hit 21% and 9.9%, respectively, at midyear, according to Search & Analyze data on CreditUnions.com. Although Maatman is hesitant to say there is a direct correlation, she does say the service culture is related to the growth.
In addition to bottom line results, bringing the training program in-house gave Warren the ability to offer it to more team members, which will further help the credit union meet its service goals.
“All we did was managers the first year, but then we realized we have employees we should be grooming,” Maatman says. “And now that we own the program, we can do whatever we want with it. We can change it and use it for whatever our needs are.”
For Warren, the benefits of an in-house program outweigh the costs. It is able to use its existing HR resources and maintain lower training expenses than when outsourcing. However, the credit union does acknowledge that assembling the program and coursework required up-front effort. It also had to overcome the stigma of moving away from the well-liked DDI program.
That program, however, is not forgotten. Maatman and the other trainer are both graduates of the local course, so they incorporate some of its concepts into their sessions with a careful eye toward making all content applicable to the credit union’s distinct needs.
“In the past we were limited; we got trained and that was it,” Maatman says. “Now, the possibilities are endless.”
3 Tips From The Front Line
Stacy Maatman has run the in-house leadership training program at Warren Federal Credit Union for four years. Here are some lessons she’s learned along the way.
After classes, managers can immediately put the principles into practice. Employees don’t have this luxury, so Warren assigns non-managers 30 minutes of homework that is meant to put their skills to the test.
Researching and creating customized workbooks for an in-house program is expensive. For Warren, outsourcing that aspect saves time and money.
An in-house program offers the luxury of spending extra time on specific skills the credit union really wants to develop, so schedule in some flex time to return to important or difficult-to-grasp lessons.