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GRANTS PASS, Ore. – At Southern Oregon Federal Credit Union, keeping tellers happy is a matter of value. “Above all else we always make sure they understand that that they are the number one representative of the credit union and our biggest asset,” said Southern Oregon FCU Vice President Peggy Mull. “Let’s face it, they are the ones in the trenches on the front line. They are our unsung heroes, if it weren’t for tellers none of us would have a job. We never want tellers to feel like they are `just a teller.’ ” It must be working because for the third year in a row the $154 million credit union has been awarded first place for Friendliest Tellers in Rogue Valley by local Sneak Preview Magazine readers. “ We do stress friendliness above everything and maybe it is because our employees are so involved with the community,” said Mull. “We are in almost every community event, and even when we participate in parades you can hear members yell out employees’ names from the sidelines and that could help in our tellers coming across as so friendly.” Mull says a recently introduced training program called SOFCU University has also helped establish a feeling of accomplishment in tellers and all employees. Created by SOFCU Training Developer Vonda Ross, the program helps beat the “I’m just a teller” blues by adding more dimensions of responsibility to the position. The University offers associate, bachelor and masters degrees in every department and requires completion of certain assignments, which become increasingly more challenging as employees advance through the program. For tellers, once they complete core curriculum courses ranging from handling cash and connecting with members to identifying fraud and cross selling/listening skills they can move on to earn their degrees. So, for example, to earn an associate’s degree the teller could attend an offsite training, then present what they learned to the entire staff; write an article for the newsletter; find the next guest speaker for an upcoming seminar or prepare a course for the training department. “It is wonderful because this way everyone is always learning and growing and it prevents the feeling of doing the same thing everyday,” said Mull. “With the new training program employees can pick an area to they want to develop and since we usually fill positions from within there is a real sense that there are opportunities available to go somewhere in the credit union.” So far some four staffers have graduated and Mull says a few more will graduate this year. Ross made sure that graduation is a big event complete with cap and gown, a graduation ceremony, certificate and reception. Just as the program has taken on a life of its own SOFCU lost its trainer. In honor of Ross’ dedication to employee education SOFCU established the Vonda Ross Path to Excellence Award. Unfortunately Ross died this past December from cancer. Operations Vice President Margaret Rice has stepped in to run the program and coach staffers. “Vonda lived long enough to get this program off the ground and running,” said Mull. “She believed that by giving employees a good start with all the upfront training for every department it would help them better understand our whole philosophy-and she was right.” According to Mull, teller turnover is average but that is due to the credit union’s policy of promoting from within. [email protected]

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