A strong culture of continuous learning encourages employees to
be proactive partners in their growth and development.
Much has changed at Summit Credit Union in the past three years. A
merger in the fall of 2008 nearly doubled the organizations size,
necessitating the formulation of a new corporate culture.
The credit union has continued to grow through an economic downturn
in Madison, Wisconsin, a capital city that boasts numerous
industries and several higher education institutions.
Tracy Nelson, vice president of learning and organizational
development, and Kimberly Frederickson, assistant vice president of
learning and development, had both been drawn to careers at the
credit union due to an effort by the credit union to invest in
creating a world-class training organization. Seven years later,
they now lead a team of seven professionals, each of whom is fully
functional in e-learning and instructor-led training (ILT) and who
designs, develops, and delivers learning within a specialized area
Weve made a strong shift away from generic off-the-shelf training
and now focus on the design and development of web-based and ILT
programs customized to the specific needs of Summit employees, and
to our organizations goals and initiatives, says Nelson. Even as
recently as two years ago, we were conducting ILT sessions almost
exclusively. Weve rapidly migrated into e-learning and blended
delivery. This will continue to be a focusit creates greater
efficiency as well as greater flexibility to serve our employees,
and enhances our ability to respond quickly to broadened geographic
areas as Summit continues to grow and expand.
Learning and development staff partner closely with the HR function
to implement an integrated talent management approach at Summit.
Training specialists work with recruiters and HR partners to
identify the skill and knowledge sets that help make employees
All of the institutions 366 employees have individual development
plans, annual performance reviews, and a tracked learning history.
Development plans have been integrated into performance management
and are tied to business goals and strategic initiatives. Managers
create a detailed development action plan for each employee, which
could include a range of learning options such as internal
e-learning or ILT, reading materials, job shadowing, project teams,
stretch assignments, and external educational options. The L&OD
team has assembled many of the options into suggested curriculum
tracks by job role residing within the organizations branded LMS,
Summits Center for Professional Development.
Managers track employee progress throughout the year and provide
coaching, which is heavily valued within the organization. We
believe in creating strong partnerships with our managers across
the organization so we are working together to support our
employees in their learning efforts, says Nelson. Managers have a
significant role in preparing employees for training, and we have
an important role in facilitating a smooth hand off when the
employee completes training so the skills and knowledge can be
reinforced back on the job. Managers are provided detailed
information following training on areas in which their employees
excelled and where they could use additional coaching and support,
and ideas for providing that support.
Employees are increasingly encouraged to take a proactive approach
to their career development within Summit. A new initiative,
recently launched, is called CEO of Your Career. Any employee may
attend the event, a cross between an information session and an
internal job fair that aims to give an overview of various jobs
within the credit union and baseline requirements. Participants
then take an assessment based on Marcus Buckinghams book Now,
Discover Your Strengths and put together a personal board of
directors, which includes their manager and representatives from
the learning team and HR department. Together they create a plan to
take their careers to the next step.
Summit also counts on the learning function to play a role in
addressing critical business issues such as efficiency, loan
growth, and increased sales. All learning staff have opportunities
to sit on organizational project teams and play an integral part in
rolling out major initiatives such as new products and services,
new systems, or new regulations.
A recent project that addressed efficiency, loan growth, and sales
was the redesign of the organizations lending curriculum. In its
previous state, learners attended a course on the various types of
loans and the lending system, and then returned later for a course
on lending guidelines, underwriting, and sales skills.
This meant that new lenders were starting to perform the functions
of their jobs without all the necessary skills and information,
Acting as internal performance consultants, L&OD staff
conducted needs assessments with stakeholders and performed
observations of learners performance on the job following training.
They determined the critical skills needed by new lenders and
developed a revised and enhanced curriculum that combines training
on soft and technical skills for consumer lending and then brings
learners back to build additional lending skills. The program has
brought numerous benefits: reduced training time, less travel,
improved new lender performance, and improved efficiency.
Revenue growth is also a critical business issue at Summit. In
designing a new sales training curriculum post-merger, We looked
carefully at what was working and what wasnt in both organizations
and tried to take the best from both, explains Frederickson. The
resulting curriculum has continued to be refined and enhanced as
the organization evolves and further defines our brand and culture.
The organizations mission is Improving members financial lives to
help them reach their dreams. Thus, learning is focused on quality
interactions and relationship-building, empowering employees to
have a positive effect on members lives through financial
education, advice, and partnership. Frontline employees
participated in a series of learning opportunities, including
pre-course observations, web-based courses, ILT, skills practice
and application, manager and peer coaching, role play, and
We strove to create a continuum of learning structured to be
accessible whenever the employee is ready, says Frederickson. The
web-based core curriculum is broken down into modules by skill set,
and has been designed to be highly interactive.
While Level 3 evaluation is conducted for most of their training
programs, evaluations were conducted through Level 4 on their sales
curriculum. Results were impressive. Following the initial program
rollout, sales referrals from tellers to lenders increased 25
percent, and several other key indicators improved.
We are fortunate our organization values learning and development,
says Nelson, who is part of the extended leadership team at Summit,
and our goal is to be strong partners in meeting the needs of our
internal customers so they are well equipped to provide an engaging
and positive experience in
helping our members. Nelson also recently launched an Efficiencies
and Innovation Team in the organization, which will be tackling
organizational initiatives related to improving efficiency and
fostering innovation. The credit union also plans to overhaul its
entire member service and account system in the next year, which
will change all systems training and result in many new projects
and a busy year ahead for the Summit L&OD team.
Nelson and Frederickson have both earned ASTDs CPLP certification,
and both serve on the South Central Wisconsin ASTD chapter board of
directors. Our involvement with ASTD helps ensure we stay abreast
of industry best practices and trends, and allows us to bring this
value back to Summit and our teams, says Nelson.