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CU: First Flight FCU

Category: Training

Mystery shoppers at First Flight Federal Credit Union are giving employees high marks since their participation in ongoing employee training created to improve member service.

"Since we started with a score of 6.58 on a scale of 1 to 10, we've increased that to 8.14 in three quarters," said Cathy Campbell, director of Administration/Training at the $148-million FFFCU. "Our initial goal was an 8."

Campbell expected the scores would increase even more as employees continue to participate in its Products & Services Knowledge Program, which includes ongoing, mandatory and voluntary sessions designed to improve job skills and create advancement opportunities within the company.

Campbell said the comprehensive training program was created as part of an overall employee mission to "speak with a common voice and a thorough understanding of First Flight's products and services.

"When our current President, Al Fallon, came on board in October 2003, he began holding focus groups with our employees," Campbell said, explaining that it became clear that employees wanted more formal and more comprehensive training.

Campbell, who had served as executive secretary for seven years, immediately underwent her own extensive training through Langevin Learning Services, Ogdensburg, N.Y., and became the head of the CU's new training department. Through Langevin's train-the-trainer programs, Campbell achieved Training Generalist, Master Trainer, Instructional Designer/Developer along with other Training Manager/Director certifications.With these personal tools, Campbell said, she and her staff were able to build the Products & Services Knowledge Program from scratch.

"We started with the front line positions that deal directly with the members. We looked at what they need first-orientation and teller training."

From that point, she said, staff evaluated the needs of each job segment, than created individualized learning plans for each.

The program includes in-house training sessions as well as tests to ensure that the staff understands the CU's products and services, she said. It is followed with professionalism training and the implementation of specific standards by which the CU's employees are judged.

To ensure that both of these pieces were functioning as intended, Campbell said, she introduced both external and internal Mystery Shops. External shops are conducted by Performance Dynamics Company, Castro Valley, Calif. For internal shops, Campbell said, she recruits individuals through the CU's "Catch Them Doing Something Right" program.

She said it became clear after the first quarter that the program was having an effect. "Eight employees achieved perfect scores while the credit union's overall score rose 35%," she said.

To keep employees motivated, CU staff introduced an awards system for consecutive perfect scores. In addition to getting bragging rights as the results are posted in the CU's quarterly newsletter, "The Flight Path," employees receive certificates for each course they complete.

"And once they complete their entire learning plan, they receive certification and can begin working on career path opportunities to advance within the company."

Campbell said while she didn't have comparative numbers from previous years, she suspects that the CU has experienced substantial loan growth and increased employee retention.

"That's one of the reasons we started this program," she said of the latter. "And, we've gotten a lot of favorable response from the staff."

She said employees are asked to give opinions on what works, what doesn't work, whether they are able to apply their newfound knowledge to the job, and what aspects of the training need to be changed.

"We have learned some lessons along the way," Campbell said. For example, "Some of the modules that we thought would be suited for individual job training needed to be moved into the orientation program."

The problem, she said, was that some of the products and services training was self paced and included manuals for individual study. "We found that some of the employees needed a little bit more clarification so we've moved those training sessions into a classroom environment."

In addition to her Products & Services Knowledge program, Campbell established Teller Training, Mentor Teller Training, and other training programs to further enhance the CU's employee's skill sets.

To track the progress, she launched First Flight U, an online tracking tool that she said would eventually include a media library as well as training plans and certification standards for specific positions within the CU.

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