FORUM CU's Common Sense Consultative Approach to Training Earns Accolades
INDIANAPOLIS -- Want a great training program? Then don't be afraid to scrap some things and start from scratch, said FORUM Credit Union Assistant Vice President Training/Quality Service Andy Janning.
Since being tasked with elevating employee development and essentially developing a training department from the ground up in 1998, Janning, FORUM CU Senior Vice President of Human Resources/Administration Jenny Budreau and FORUM CU training team have torn down and rebuilt countless programs and initiatives.
The continuous evaluation and willingness to retool, revamp, or trash has helped the credit union not only reduce turnover but also garner some national recognition.
For the second consecutive year, Training Magazine has recognized FORUM as one of the top 125 places in the nation for employer-sponsored workforce training and development. FORUM ranks 106 on the 2008 list, up eight places from its 115 spot in 2007.
"When I first moved over to HR our turnover ratio was 52%-- every two people we hired one left, our member service was not as strong, and there was a real need to build a better career path. Last year our turnover ratio was at 22% and the training initiatives have been a big help," said Budreau. "We place a priority on recruiting top talent and providing ongoing training and professional development for staff members. Being recognized as a national leader of training and development programs is an honor reflective of the commitment we make to all FORUM employees and members."
Training Magazine measured each top 125 company on quantitative and qualitative data. Factors influencing the rankings most heavily were training tied to business objectives, number of trainers, employee turnover, and retention. Other important factors taken into consideration included leadership development, tuition assistance, corporate universities, and dollars spent on training.
"One of the hallmarks that separates us from others is our approach of 'what if we blew everything up?'-- there are no sacred cows here," said Janning.
Proof of that came when the team sacrificed its award-winning, nationally-recognized corporate university Motivate U when they realized that its required classes and credits simply were not delivering tangible results. "We're not in the activity business we're in the results business so we retooled to a more performance consulting approach," said Janning. "If we preserved our university just to be cool then we're not doing our job--we're not here to just look good. The employees are our clients and they can 'fire' us at any time by not using or recommending our training programs and initiatives."
The training team partners with division heads asking questions like: What keeps you up at night? Where are you now and where do you need to be? How can we remove barriers?
"The new approach has helped keep our jobs fresh and the staff recognizes that training is not something to do but something that helps them get things done," said Janning.
FORUM has 325 employees, four full-time trainers and, recognizing that the trainers aren't experts in everything, there are also 51 employee "Subject Matter Experts," who lead training classes in their respective fields of expertise.
"Again it's that consultative approach. They really enjoy what they do in that role and it adds another dimension to their jobs," said Budreau.
All new FORUM employees are "career-pathed" through a prescribed set of 20 classes necessary for their development within the organization. Career paths are customized based on department, position and employees' potential needs.
A Branch Buddy program at each branch designed to help new employees transition from training to branch jobs not only helps get new staffers up to speed faster building confidence and competence, but also results in a $22,000 a year savings since it reduces basic operations training by two days said Janning.
Selected Buddies are generally member service representatives with more seniority who have time and want to share and help with new hires. Buddies also provide quarterly feedback to the training team on everything from how training can be recalibrated to better match "real world" experiences, to what tools are needed to better assist them with new employees.
"The concept makes sense we shouldn't get so wrapped in the business of learning that we forget to learn the business," said Janning. "Everyone in the training area has experienced bad training programs so at the end of the day it is about finding out what makes sense for our clients who we respect as professionals and treat them as such rather than fifth graders --they are more unique than that."
"People do not come into work saying they're going to do a bad job today--everyone wants to do a good job so we look for that feedback to help employees meet their goals and ultimately positively impact the bottom line. It is a win, win, win overall," adds Budreau.
With an eye toward developing the future leaders of the organization FORUM developed the Leadership Excellence Accelerating Performance program, in which mentors over a six-month period help address everything from ethical behavior and soft-skill development to how to lead and do performance evaluations. Depending on the unique needs of each class there are generally electives from reading books and presentations to volunteering and heading the credit union's Relay for Life fundraising events. Janning said the program is designed to provide a variety of experiences that are geared toward stretching students and boils down to applications and performance, not grades.
"LEAP is a great experience that creates lasting relationships and at the end of it all they have the tools to be a leader of self and once they can do that they can effectively lead a team," said Budreau. "I worry about the future of our industry with so many CEOs retiring in the next few years. It is important that credit unions as a whole ask 'what are we developing to engage and keep our younger leaders?'"