The Right Tools To Make Tough Decisions

To create a culture of empowerment, Infinity FCU gives employees a vision to work toward, a decision-making model that managers stand behind, and ongoing training opportunities.

 
 

CU QUICK FACTS

Infinity FCU
Data as of 09.30.18

HQ: Portland, ME
ASSETS: $349.2M
MEMBERS: 17,487
BRANCHES: 4
12-MO SHARE GROWTH: 9.8%
12-MO LOAN GROWTH: 6.2%
ROA: 0.25%

When Liz Hayes joined Infinity Federal Credit Union ($349.2M, Portland, ME) in October of 2014, she realized right away she had inherited a top-down culture where decisions flowed down.

“I had people coming into my office to ask me questions,” the CEO says. “It was, ‘We have a member situation. What do you want me to do?’ or, ‘This has come up. Do you want me to go right or left?’ We needed to unwind all of that.”

Hayes knew the organization wouldn’t grow if employees had to consult her every time they needed to make a difficult decision. So, the new CEO convened Infinity’s senior team to craft a vision statement and core values. Together, the group built a new culture, brick-by-brick, using input from the staff responsible for living it. 

Infinity’ printed its vision statement — “We do banking differently to keep you a step ahead in life” — and core values on posters and hung the posters in each of the credit union’s four branches. But words alone don’t empowerment employees. Giving them the confidence to make the right decision, however, does. 

 

 

 

So, Infinity has made efforts in the past year to improve employee training and fill gaps in the talent pool. It hired Maureen St. John to take on the role of senior performance manager and changed the role of Peter St. Onge from lending manager to lender development officer.

Here, St. John discusses her first days with the credit union, creating a developmental action plan, the ways in which Infinity now trains its employees, and more. 

Maureen St. John, Senior Performance Manager, Infinity FCU

Infinity Federal Credit Union was the topic of Callahan's third quarter "Anatomy Of A Credit Union" series. Read the full profile today.

What is your role at Infinity Federal Credit Union?

Maureen St. John: I’m the senior performance manager. It’s new to Infinity, but the credit union created the role before I joined in March of 2018. I collaborate across the organization’s departments to make our strategic initiatives come to life. I identify the business needs of each department and find opportunities or gaps we have that are getting in the way of how we want to perform. 

What does that cover?

MSJ: It covers training, projects, technology advancements, and more. When I joined the credit union, I met with each department to identify what they viewed as gaps in their ideal performance. Next, I went out to the entire employee base, from managers to front-line staff, and asked them where they thought they had gaps in their performance. From there, we identified three areas of improvement — training, communication, and technology.

How long did it take you to have all those conversations?

MSJ: I met with all the department heads within my firs two weeks at Infinity. From those meetings, I developed two surveys — one for managers and one for all other employees — although the questions were similar. I sent those in April and collected the data. From that, I came up with an action plan with 19 items on it, which I presented to the senior team in May.

There are two things from the survey I’d highlight. One, the organization strongly believes in our decision-making model, MOE (member-organization-employee). Everyone feels that empowers them to make decisions. Two, we heard we need to update our intranet, Infinet, to ensure it becomes a go-to resource. 

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What are you doing from a training aspect?

MSJ: Training is probably my biggest focus right now. We’re trying to automate our training to a certain extent to allow employees to sign up for things online rather than through email. We’re also tracking the trainings people attend through our online learning management system. 

As far as the types of training, we’ve developed a lending pathway training that has five levels. Each level offers a full curriculum of courses, some that are self-paced and some that are one-on-one in a classroom-type setting. We’ve also developed a new employee training plan that includes onboarding for tellers, branch supervisors, and branch managers. It also includes job shadowing and different on-demand courses. We offer sales training but are working with a third-party to create additional modules on relationship building, sales and service, referrals, and leadership — all to enhance what we already have in place. 

Also, as we introduced new products and services, we put together a formal training that we present during an in-person meeting and broadcast on a WebEx call. Everybody learns differently. That’s why we’re offering a variety of training opportunities.

What are some products and services for which you’ve held training?

MSJ: We identified text alerts for fraud as a gap during my early conversations with the team. We just rolled that out and held our WebEx for it in August. 

We usually hold our WebEx trainings from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 a.m. and follow a simple format. We describe what the item is and why we’re doing it. Then, we open things up to questions. Some are longer than others, but they give everyone the ability to stay abreast of what is going on within the organization. We’ll do follow-up reminders as we get closer to launch and create a page on the Infinet where employees can find the video recording, PowerPoint slides, and frequently asked questions.

Does building the Infinet into a comprehensive resource tie into both training and communication?

MSJ: Communication goes hand in hand with training. We’re trying to use the Infinet more in the future to keep the lines of communication open.

Have you made any observations on employee decision-making since you’ve started?

MSJ: One day I was in the lending department and a few employees were at a consultation station having a conversation about a member. The member had applied for a home equity line of credit but also wanted to consolidate debt and withdraw cash. Listening to the way they spoke, I could tell they were taking details of the member’s story into consideration to make a better decision. They realized they could do this for the member, but it would put them too close to their maximum credit capacity. So, they found a different solution.

What’s next for training?

MSJ: Training doesn’t come in a binder, where you go through it, put it on a shelf, and that’s it. Training is constant, and training materials need updating on an ongoing basis. This will help us create that foundation we’re trying to build, where our employees feel knowledgeable and confident every time they talk to a member.

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Jan. 14, 2019


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