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Keeping your staff’s skills and knowledge up to date is increasingly tough – which is why credit unions should consider adopting new, technology-based training techniques, like e-learning. Adding e-learning to your training repertoire is a great way to maximize your investment in your staff – your most valuable asset. E-learning usually refers to two types of learning that use the Internet or an Intranet as the delivery channel. Synchronous e-learning simulates a classroom environment: students access a course that’s led by a live instructor via the Web at a pre-scheduled time, and can even do hands-on “lab” work while the instructor views their desktops remotely. Asynchronous e-learning is self-paced and on-demand, with students signing on whenever it’s convenient to download content or use tutorials. E-learning got its start in the military and really took off there, in part because of its portability. (Picture a Navy sub surfacing, downloading content via satellite, and then delivering a course while submerged. It beats having to keep instructors on board!) E-learning is truly ripe for the credit union industry today. As more employees are hired from outside the industry (often to bring in retail-type sales skills), more new hires need basic training on credit unions and financial services. As the regulatory climate grows more complex, keeping staff current and in compliance grows more challenging. And as competition intensifies, the pressure to roll out new products and services faster continues to mount. In this environment, the ability to deliver effective and cost-efficient education is a tremendous competitive advantage. And e-learning is a great way to make training more effective and affordable. A Deloitte Consulting Research study found that e-learning programs cost 30-70% less to develop and deliver than equivalent classroom training. Savings that are easy to quantify include reduced travel for students and instructors, lower costs for course development and maintenance, and less need for classroom facilities and equipment. More difficult to quantify, but equally important, are the increased productivity that comes from spending less time away from the job; faster time to market with new products and services; and greater consistency of the training from session to session. Convenience is another reason to consider e-learning. Your employees may find it tough to travel to a central location for training; but they can probably find time to log into a Web-based course from their own workstations. Self-paced programs available 24/7 offer the ultimate in convenience, allowing the busiest of employees to train off-hours. Before jumping on the e-learning bandwagon, keep in mind that it’s not a panacea meant to replace classroom training; instead, it should supplement and complement classroom programs. The classroom is still ideal for complex subjects and those that demand extensive interaction among students. But e-learning is perfect for many other credit union applications, like portions of your new employee orientation. Regardless of their job functions, all new hires will need common training on topics like use of the phone and e-mail systems, HR policies, and general office procedures. Staff hired from outside the industry will also need a primer on credit unions and financial services. E-learning is also ideal for delivering preparatory material in advance of a classroom program – a great way to ensure all participants start with the same baseline knowledge. Let’s say your credit union plans to introduce Health Savings Accounts. You might use e-learning to provide general background on HSAs, and then run a classroom session to educate staff on the specifics of your HSA product and the procedures it will require. The same approach could work for any product or service launch: use e-learning to deliver background, while reserving classroom time for the specifics of your program. If you decide to incorporate e-learning into your training, you’ll have to choose whether to “buy or build” the content. Building it in-house gives you the freedom to tailor the material, but that freedom comes at a price, as you’ll need to buy or subscribe to the necessary technology tools and devote staff time to program development. For a smaller initial investment, consider starting with off-the-shelf e-learning programs specifically geared to credit unions, available from CUNA, CUES, or even your core data processing partner (which may offer e-learning options for training on their new software solutions). Many other providers offer generic content that’s ideal for training on common software applications (like Microsoft Office) or leadership skills, for example. And most content providers will build custom applications for you, which allows you to gain back some of the flexibility you lose when outsourcing the content development. Your staff is your credit union’s most valuable asset, so it’s critical that you keep their skills and knowledge as current as possible. At a time when so many demands are vying for your budget, e-learning can help you maximize your training investment and ensure that staff education gets the attention and priority it deserves.

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