Apple Federal Credit Union’s Jennifer Madden wants learning to be fun and interactive. Madden has a say in making that happen as Apple FCU’s Director of Training & Development.
Apple FCU sets aside at least one hour every week for each of its employees to learn something new through Apple FCUniversity. Workers can check off required training or invest time in learning skills that might lead to a promotion. In many cases, employees spend the hour learning via desktop computers in the credit union’s branches. Madden says the organization wants training to meet the needs of its employees, on their terms. That may seem like a tall order, especially in the regulated world in which credit unions operate.
As the fifth largest credit union in the Washington, D.C. area, Apple FCU, with $1.5 billion in assets, serves employees and students of school systems and universities in the Virginia counties of Fairfax, Frederick, Loudoun, Prince William, and Stafford, along with other employer groups. The credit union has more than 300 employees spread across 21 branches. Some work from PCs, while others rely on thin clients that tap into remote servers.
To deliver training, Apple FCU must consider geography, industry regulations, generational differences, learning styles, and varied technology. Apple FCU provides face-to-face classes each week, says Madden, and the credit union records these face-to-face classes for later use. But since Apple FCU embraces a culture of e-learning, the majority of its classes are online.
Developing and Flexing its Learning Muscles
It has taken Madden and her colleagues almost four years to bring Apple FCU’s training to its current state, one in which the credit union can recommend compelling training as easily as it delivers and reports on the outcome. Madden says finding learning management technology, as well as online content, that works efficiently on a PC or thin client, was critical.
Madden and her team looked at 10 learning management systems, and narrowed its list to two. Apple FCU’s learning council, which includes Madden and interdepartmental representatives from Apple FCUniversity, looked at the two remaining learning management systems before selecting one from BAI.
The new LMS helps Madden’s team of three training specialists and one e-learning specialist tailor education to the way a multi-generational workforce wants to learn. For younger workers born in the 1980s, that usually means online courses. For others (typically Baby Boomers), the LMS allows them to opt for face-to-face training. When employees tap into the new LMS, workers at all levels can see their career path including the training they need to take. A calendar of opportunities in the LMS highlights courses and will automatically add workers to a class.
The system also offers a library of regulatory training, which Apple FCU delivers via the LMS. “We do create training in-house,” remarks Madden. “But having a catalogue of regulatory training as part of the LMS gives us more time to build product courses.”
LMS Helps With an Acquisition
One of the first tests for the new LMS came last fall. Apple FCU acquired Synergy One Federal Credit Union, which operated branches in Prince William County, Virginia. Apple FCU’s training department relied on the LMS to teach Synergy’s workforce about Apple FCU’s culture, products and services as the two companies were integrating other operations.
“Having the LMS in place introduced Synergy to Apple FCU, and kept us on track with regard to what we were teaching them as the acquisition progressed,” notes Jennifer Pic, eLearning specialist for Apple FCU. “We conducted about a month’s worth of courses, both instructor-led training and e-learning.”
A Culture Promoting Learning
“As part of my job, I train new-hires,” says Pic. “And their first impression is that everyone at Apple FCU is so nice, so pleasant. We like people to have fun, but we rely on our employees to do things on their own because we have a lean staffing model.”
To train people to work in an environment where they embrace doing more, Apple FCU is relying, in part, on its LMS. For instance, employees at the Apple FCU call center are taught to handle a wide variety of requests from wire transfers to loan applications, instead of passing a member to another department. According to Pic, there are numerous examples of a part-time teller moving up to full-time teller and even loan officer because the culture supports learning new skills. An emphasis on developing oneself and having positive interpersonal skills also keeps people on the job, on average, from four to seven years, says Pic.
From its president to its newest teller, Apple FCU says every employee has access to and regularly uses the LMS. The credit union industry mandates some of the courses Apple FCU delivers to its employees; other training comes as a directive from Apple FCU’s board of directors. Some courses, such as Regulation CC, identity theft and the Bank Secrecy Act, happen every year. Apple FCU’s board members also pursue continuing education through the LMS. And the LMS prompts learners and records the outcome of training.
Along with automatically tracking what people are learning, the LMS affords Madden and her team a variety of tools for spurring training. Whenever Apple FCU hosts an instructor-led class, the training team records the session and uploads it to the LMS. The LMS, then, makes the course available to employees. Using software from Articulate, Pic creates tests that she embeds in training delivered by the LMS.
“We can use the LMS to assign tests to employees based on when they were hired,” adds Pic. “That helps us determine who might need a refresher course or a certain kind of product training, or even a recap on our vision statement.”
Apple FCU’s training team also chose its LMS with Web 2.0 technologies in mind. Since younger employees are communicating with social media and looking for an employer who embraces social learning, Apple FCU wants to attract them.
“Our LMS has a capability for creating online communities where learners can interact,” says Madden. “We’re looking to update our social media policy and then create community user guidelines. We want a ‘facilitator,’ someone who ‘manages’ the community, so the experience is valuable for all learners.”
When Apple decides to take advantage of Web 2.0 tools, users no doubt will find it equal parts interactive and fun.