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Chances are your credit union looks different today than it did just five years ago. There are new faces, technology, products, procedures and maybe even new branch locations. With all of these operational changes, could it be possible your approach to training hasn’t changed much? Maybe you’ve added a full-time employee to coordinate your training initiatives, or even added an entire training department. But in today’s complex, ever changing financial services industry – is a training department enough? With a focus on creating “learning organizations,” credit unions are moving towards building more structure in their training functions with corporate universities. What is a corporate university? Maybe this is the first time you’ve read about corporate universities, or thought they were reserved for larger, more “corporate” type environments with huge budgets and disposable funds available to build a “campus” for their training department. For very large corporations like Sprint or Motorola, that may be true. But for a credit union, a corporate university does not have to be a place, but rather a forum for learning. It’s a way to brand your internal training initiatives and deliver training programs in a fun, supportive manner while maximizing employee learning. All of those benefits, without the huge budgets or campus. It’s important not to think of corporate universities as brick and mortar, or a new department within your credit union. It’s a structured delivery channel for your training programs. The main objective for a credit union’s launching of a corporate university should be to improve the links between training and strategic business objectives. Your corporate university should be a strategic business partner because the way in which training and other internal communication is designed and delivered is a reflection of your credit union’s evolution to a learning organization. Developing and launching a corporate university is not simply a name change for your training department, or identifying somebody as the “Dean of Employee Learning”. Before a name is selected and a logo designed, upper-management support, and employee feedback are required to build a solid, employee-focused corporate university. This process can be accomplished by forming an Advisory Council with both senior management and employee representation. This team should assist in the development and launching phases, quality improvement, planning and quality control activities. The main benefit of the Advisory Council is incorporating valuable input in all stages of design, purchasing, quality, marketing, and delivery of training. Senior management support for this concept is needed, but should not be hard to obtain. There is no better way to track training expenses and return on investment (ROI) than by launching a corporate university. Credit union specific training must result in measurable improvements in daily operational processes, product sales, financial performance, employee retention, and other indicators of training success. To show ROI, it is essential that the training department understand the performance measures that drive operational efficiency and profitability. Historically, the most common measures of training success were limited to oral and/or written understanding of program content. However, in today’s changing economic client more credit unions are seeking measures that directly impact bottom-line results. If they can quantify the improvement in areas like member retention and sales, they are able to demonstrate the actual return on training investments. Having the ability to quantify training results will sustain senior management support for the corporate university concept. While tracking ROI is an important function of a corporate university, tracking employee training and education is another added advantage. Establishing a database with your employee population as “students” will enable you to enroll and track each employee’s training progress. Your credit union may be considering or already using the Internet to deliver training to employees. Even though this type of delivery channel has proven to reduce training costs, it does not replace structured internal training programs. Because of this, corporate universities should be prepared to incorporate this type of learning into the organization to support and supplement traditional training programs. Your corporate university should monitor and retain training records for this type of learning as well as instructor-led delivery. By now, a corporate university probably sounds like the right fit for your credit union. Since you’re already training new employees in their jobs, and existing employees on new products and services, you might as well receive the biggest return on your investment, and take advantage of the valuable data gathering corporate universities provide. Maybe you’re looking to add validity and structure to your existing training programs. Either way, there are dangers to launching a corporate university on your own without first laying the groundwork. To assist you with this transition, consultants are available who will work with you to successfully design, develop, and deliver a corporate university that meets your specific organization’s strategic objectives. A proven, systematic approach should be used to create and launch a solid program that will help employees realize their personal potential while significantly improving member service and achieving other strategic initiatives.

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