LIBERTY LAKE, Wash. – Credit unions would concur they want their employees to be proactive with members, but that can sometimes be easier said than done. Planning strategies and conveying messages and expectations to staff often turns into a hit-and-miss scenario. That’s why it’s become the objective of Spokane Training CUSO to provide effective, cost-efficient training to credit union staffs so CUs’ strategies can succeed. “Credit unions are of the mindset that if they provide the training that will be enough to make employees to be more proactive with marketing new products to members. But sometimes that message isn’t conveyed to them. What’s evolved is we’ve become strategic and found out why we expect people to perform certain ways and why they don’t,” explains Ev Hopkins, director of training and development for Spokane Teachers CU and the Spokane Training CUSO. To illustrate her point, she gave the example of a credit union that instructs its tellers that the number of transactions they do per hour is critical, “but the mantra we give them is build member relations. So in essence we’re giving conflicting messages.” Or a credit union instructs its employees to offer products that meet a member’s needs, but then it says it has a new product that it wants the employee to offer every member. “Credit unions have to make sure all employees are on the same page with the same message, and that requires a high level of commitment from everybody. Credit unions have to change their frame of reference to measure employee performance,” says Hopkins. The CUSO was formed in 1995 by Spokane FCU, Spokane Teachers CU, Spokane Postal CU, and United Health Services CU. The four had already collaborated on a check processing CUSO and from time to time discussed other common needs they could collaborate on to address. One common thread among them was they all wanted access to an employee trainer, but none of them could afford to hire someone on their own. The four CUs formed the CUSO and hired Hopkins to offer sales training to CU staff. Global CU recently joined the CUSO also. In addition to Hopkins, Spokane Training CUSO’s six-person training team includes Michael Norton, Rachelle Bruesch, Justine Denison, Toni Johnson, and Robyn Stengle. All of the trainers are “technically” employees of Spokane Teachers CU, and the CUSO pays a portion of their salaries. Coming into the credit union world from a retail sales environment, Hopkins found credit union employees “want to sincerely feel they’re helping members. They resist any behavioral expectation they feel isn’t sincere.” At one point the CUSO invited a consultant to come into a credit union to launch an incentive program, but the CUSO found that the credit union’s employees weren’t motivated by an incentive, but rather by the feeling they were helping the member. “So we never approach any training by saying `we want to do a product dump,’ You lose credibility that way. You don’t push a product just for the sake of pushing it, or for example, offer a high interest credit card to a member who has a lot of debt,” she explains. Hopkins describes this type of situation is the “conundrum of the credit union world” – credit union employees want to help members, but that creates challenges to find ways for employees to offer members products that they may not know they need. That’s where member relationship management comes in, she says. It involves credit unions evaluating their relationship with each of their members and using all of the information it has on that member to deepen its relationship with them. “The challenge for each credit union is determining how to evaluate the member and then respond to them. That involves things such as how does the member like to be called, or what level of contact does the member want their credit union to have with them. Whenever a member contacts their credit union by phone, that’s an awesome opportunity for the credit union to make the human connection with them and ask them some well thought out questions. Then the credit union has to have a way to catalog that information. “It’s one thing to have information on a member, but it’s another thing to find ways to use that information to the member’s advantage,” says Hopkins. Spokane Training CUSO offers training classes in a wide spectrum of areas including services, sales and computer training. The open enrollment classes are held at several convenient credit union locations through the central Spokane and Liberty Lake areas that have facilities suitable for holding the training classes. Hopkins says the most popular classes offered by the CUSO are the leadership classes which focus on connecting employee performance to the strategic vision of the credit union. Attendees learn how to convey their credit union’s performance expectation clearly and to recognize correct performance. “It’s critical to make sure leaders understand how all the dots connect in the organization,” says Hopkins. “Training is only a small percentage of performance improvement, it just supports what you’re trying to achieve. Leaders have to set up an environment that supports the behavior they expect.” The CUSO tries to keep the training classes to between 12-16 people, and technical training classes are smaller than that. Quarterly calendars are sent to all the CUSO participating credit unions with a listing of classes 90-120 days out. Employees of non-participating credit unions can receive training from the CUSO, and these CUs are charged a one-time fee for the training the employee receives. Hopkins is very proud of Spokane Training CUSO and the training that the credit unions cooperatively offer. “I don’t know of any other industry where something like this would work. I can just imagine what bank trainers would say if they were asked to do something like this. They’d probably say something like, `why would we want to help train our competitor banks?,’ ” she says. -

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