Justice Federal Credit Union launched a targeted program to retain and improve frontline staff and found the efforts paid off significantly, says Sue Bogan, Justice FCU’s training manager.
“We were noticing there was kind of a revolving door in our call center,” Bogan says. “So our senior team got together to look what they could do to improve that. They realized that call center employees need to know more information than anyone else in the entire credit union because they get questions about everything. So we really wanted to improve their knowledge level so that they could be better at member service.”
Justice Federal Credit Union ($510M, Chantilly, VA) first targeted its call center staff then, later on, expanded the training program to the rest of its frontline employees in the branches. The credit union wanted to changed the way other perceived those jobs and underscore that the frontline positions were not entry-level positions, but position that require a certain level of knowledge, skills, abilities to do the tasks they need to do.
Employees receive raises as they complete the tiers; Justice FCU’s reported expenses for employee compensation and benefits has risen 8.1% from the third quarter 2011 compared with a year prior, from $6.9 million in Sept. 2010 to $7.4 million as of Sept. 2011, according to Callahan & Associates’ Peer-to-Peer data.
The knowledge-based training program, which spans 34 months total, is broken down into four tiers of increasingly advanced skills sets. At the basic level are the skills new hires learn during onboarding – for example what the fees are for everything. At the most advanced level, employees learn the art of personal interaction and teaching other employees the job.
“Obviously if they know more they can give better member service,” Bogan says. “One of the things we noticed also was if they know the answer or weren’t sure of the answer, they didn’t have another resource, so they would pick up the phone and call the departments. And that was starting to cause some problems because the departments had things to do also. We wanted to decrease that by increasing their knowledge. And then obviously we wanted them to grow and stay with us.”
The first tier is a rehash of what employees learned during new hire orientation, but unlike the new hire test, the training program’s test is not open book. Bogan said many employees struggled with that portion of the training because of the amount of information they had to memorize. The first tier of training also included some member service skills and phone skills training.
The second tier of training included more indepth study on deposits and products such as e-services. On the third level, employees learned how to better cross-sell and really delved into the credit and debit card issues like fraud and credit charge disputes. They also learn the mortgage side of the business at the third tier.
Finally, the fourth level is the credit union’s soft skill level. Employees learn about leadership, dealing with difficult members and how to train others. They really focus on business writing at this final stage, Bogan says.
“Everyone in those (frontline) positions must attend and score a 90%,” Bogan says. “They’re job titles and job descriptions change. When they complete a tier, they receive a salary increase because they’ve proven they’re worth more.”