Create a Culture of Learning in Your CU

Nine steps Mountain America CU has taken to establish a learning culture.

November 18, 2010
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Creating a learning culture can give your credit union a competitive advantage.

At Mountain America Credit Union (MACU), learning is part of our culture and contributes to our success.

Nine things we’ve done to establish this learning culture:

1. Senior leadership and board members are committed to employee learning. They understand that employee training impacts the quality of service our members receive. Subscribe to Credit Union MagazineThey’ve also been willing to dedicate credit union resources for learning and development.

2. Branch and department supervisors support employee development. They give their employees time and encouragement to complete educational classes in operations, and personal and professional development.

3. MACU rewards and recognizes employee learning. We created an online university through which employees complete curriculum based on their roles at the credit union.

They earn rewards by completing various levels in Mountain America University. And performance evaluations often are tied to the completion of learning goals employees establish with their supervisors.

4. The credit union has established a culture of excellence in its training team. At MACU, positions in educational services are highly desirable, so we can hire great people from within the credit union with expertise in credit union operations and culture.

Our trainers also have opportunities for professional development and collaboration with other areas of the organization.

5. Training has a seat at the table in project planning. Including a trainer on all project teams greatly increases initiatives’ success. Training often represents the employee perspective as well as strong technical knowledge.

6. A learning culture contributes to a great place to work. MACU employees consider opportunities for learning and development an important employment benefit. It helps them in their current jobs and prepares them for future opportunities.

7. MACU has maintained its support of and commitment to training, despite the economic downturn.

8. The credit union has established a “Learning Council” which includes representatives from all areas of the credit union who meet together quarterly. Council members give feedback on existing training resources and test new learning initiatives prior to implementation. They also assist with training needs assessment for their areas.

9. We regularly communicate critical information to employees. We created a weekly e-mail update, “Keeping Current,” that contains all organizational and training-related information. This helps to increase consistency of knowledge across the credit union.

Managers also review Keeping Current during their weekly staff meetings.

At MACU, we realize that every employee, no matter their position, represents the credit union to our membership and beyond. It’s important to provide learning and development opportunities employees need to be successful in their jobs and enable them to give great service to our members.

This ultimately leads to higher employee satisfaction and greater member loyalty.

SUZANNE OLIVER is senior vice president, educational services, for $2.8 billion asset Mountain America Credit Union, West Jordan, Utah, and vice chair of the CUNA HR/TD Council.

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Great article! Unfortunately, most employees don’t feel valued or appreciated by their supervisors or employers. In fact, research has shown that the predominant reason team members quit their jobs is because they don’t feel valued. This is in spite of the fact that employee recognition programs have proliferated in the workplace – over 90% of all organizations in the U.S. has some form of employee recognition activities in place. But most employee recognition programs are viewed with skepticism and cynicism – because they aren’t viewed as being genuine in their communication of appreciation. Getting the “employee of the month” award, receiving a certificate of recognition, or a “Way to go, team!” email just don’t get the job done. How do you communicate authentic appreciation? We have found people have different ways that they want to be shown appreciation, and if you don’t communicate in the language of appreciation important to them, you essentially “miss the mark”. Additionally, employees need to receive recognition more than once a year at their performance review. Otherwise, they view the praise as “going through the motions”. A third component of authentic appreciation is that the communication has to be about them personally – not the department, not their group, but something they did. Finally, they have to believe that you mean what you say. How you treat them has to match the words you use. If you are not sure how your team members want to be shown appreciation, the Motivating By Appreciation Inventory ( will identify the language of appreciation and specific actions preferred by each employee. You then can create a group profile for your team, so everyone knows how to encourage one another. Remember, employees want to know that they are valued for what they contribute to the success of the organization. And communicating authentic appreciation in the ways they desire it can make the difference between keeping your quality team members or having a negative work environment that everyone wants to leave. Paul White, Ph.D., is the co-author of The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace with Dr. Gary Chapman.

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