Train & Strain

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Training often receives scant attention from credit union CEOs because the executives find it difficult to quantify cost versus benefit-at least according to one CEO.

Glenn Strebe, president and CEO of Air Academy Federal Credit Union in Colorado Springs, Colo., told a group of HR professionals and trainers at the recent CUNA Human Resources Training and Development Council conference here his perspective can be summed up this way: "I worry about my 150 or so employees, and they worry about the membership. I don't have to worry about the members."

"There is not a process a credit union has that does not involve people. But we forget about people because they are a given," he said. "We assume people will be there and they want to do a good job. Every time there is a problem, however, it is blamed on a lack of training."

CEOs need to be convinced of several things before they will agree to spend money on training, Strebe said. They want to know if the training program will contribute to the business, if training will change or improve processes, what processes currently are ineffective and must be changed, minimized or eliminated, and what things are successful and should be expanded.

Another element is the HR person's credibility in presenting a program. According to Strebe, most training programs need a champion whose opinion the CEO trusts.

To sell the CEO on a program, HR managers or trainers should aim for "CEO trigger points." Strebe said these include:

* How will this help the strategic plan?

* How will this help the implementation of the business plan?

* How will this increase efficiency? Decrease expenses? Decrease delinquency?

* How will this increase income? Deposits? Loans? Members?

* How will the lack of training make things fail?

Part of the difficulty in getting CEOs to agree to invest in training, he continued, is training has visible costs, while there are hidden costs to not training.

"The former are easy to define, the latter include lost productivity, lost opportunity and wasted training investments," said Strebe. "When talking to the CEO, emphasize the indirect effect training has on income by increasing deposits, loans and members. Use personal examples for how a lack of training can cost a credit union."

Strebe said an inexperienced teller might not recognize certain signs of check fraud, and might cause a CU to get hit with a $40,000 loss. "If the credit union couldn't quantify the value of training before the loss, it certainly can after," he said.

The tangible benefits of training include an improvement in organizational health, a demonstration of organizational commitment, increased job satisfaction, decreased complaints, improved service to members and a reduction of conflict. On the other hand, the "hidden costs" are impossible to quantify, said Strebe. These include a sense of caring for employees, perceived appreciation, the "greater good," and fostering loyalty.

"A credit union's training and development priorities should be that which makes the business better, and that which improves organizational imperatives," he declared. "Trainers should ask their CEO: 'If you were in my position, how would you quantify the value of training?'"

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