In my credit union, I am usually the go-to person for projects. I simply love working on them. What I quickly realized, though, is that this project of developing a formal training program is the most complex and detailed one that I have ever undertaken.
First, I had to figure out where to even begin! I met with my CEO and department supervisors to find out what they want from a training program. Having never had a formal program, we had a definite idea of what we do want: a program that is consistent, comprehensive, effective, and even fun. Our credit union – in fact, any credit union – is only as effective as its staff. By having more standardized and uniform training, we can ensure that all of our employees are working in the most efficient way to serve our members and increase our membership and its use of our services, which is of one of our strategic planning goals, as it is for most credit unions. We want to be able to address issues of new employee training as well as ongoing education for staff in procedures, policies, communication, team-building and member education.
However, I knew it was also important to get the input of all of my staff, not just my management team. One of the best resources for my project is the people who are daily doing the job tasks or seeing the issues and concerns that we want to address. So, in order to gather as much data as possible, I created two surveys for our employees to complete. In the first survey, I asked my staff about job duties, knowledge of tasks, interests in professional development and training, and how they feel they learn best. It is a quick, simple survey, but it provides important information, like what kind of ongoing training we need to consider and who might be potential candidates for movement into other departments or positions. Because I also needed more specific feedback about different areas, the second survey is a little longer and more detailed, and I made it anonymous and confidential. In this survey, I used both multiple-choice ratings and open-ended questions to give my staff a chance to reflect on positive and negative aspects of job satisfaction, management, staff communication, and training. This information can be used in specific training sessions or topics, to help us improve in our roles as employees and coworkers, and for ongoing staff support and encouragement. I’ve sent the surveys out, but in order to give everyone adequate time to complete them around scheduling issues, the staff has until August 16 to turn in the surveys. To help preserve anonymity, I will not even look at any confidential surveys I receive until after that date.
In the meantime, because I want to apply my knowledge of education and learning to increase the efficiency of our training program, I have been doing research. I’ve reviewed data about cognitive processing, including theories on working memory, effective studying and reading strategies, the best ways to recall information, interference in learning, even how people process and recall facial features (which I thought would be interesting and useful in security training). I plan to continue going through all of this data in order to pull out the things that I think would best help employees learn and retain information.
But during this process, I realized that the scope of this project has become overwhelming! Knowing that I can’t do everything all at once, I’ve decided to narrow my focus. Based on my coaching session with Susan Geear, my discussions with management staff, and our credit union’s needs, I’ve realized that right now the priority of our training program needs to be on new employees and the member services department. These staff members are our front-line contacts with members and other departments. We need to ensure that they make the best impressions on members through communication and efficient task performance, understand and believe in credit union philosophy so they can live it and advocate it, and work confidently and consistently to help the credit union meet its strategic goals. In addition, I also want to address the main issues from survey responses.
To move my project forward, I plan to continue my research about learning, meet with management for ongoing feedback, analyze survey data, research effective training/teaching practices, and make contact with other credit unions to learn about their training programs – all with my new areas of focus in mind.