‘Develop U’ Takes Top CU Training Honor

Innovative team makes a core system conversion look easy.

February 03, 2013
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“Every day, we live and breathe our vision of being a financial cooperative that enriches the lives of our members and our communities. To do that, we need the best team—employees who believe in breaking the barriers of mediocrity and delivering world-class service.”– 2012 CUNA ELLy Awards submission, Gesa Credit Union, Richland, Wash.

Each year, among the highlights of CUNA Experience Learning Live! is the presentation of the CUNA ELLy Training Professional of the Year Award, honoring exceptional achievements in performance and learning by a credit union training professional or department.

CUNA hosts the CUNA ELLy Training Awards annually to recognize excellence and innovation in training practices, making it one of the only national awards ceremonies devoted to credit union trainers. The awards are presented in five categories: Chi Pi Delta Award, eLearning Award, Training Champion Award, Training Professional of the Year Award, and WOW Award.

The 2012 recipient of the Training Professional of the Year Award is the training & education department from $1.1 billion asset Gesa Credit Union in Richland, Wash.

This training team, a long-time user of CUNA Creating Member Loyalty™, received the award for helping Gesa and its employees smoothly handle a core system conversion through the creation of the Develop U training program.

The four-trainer team’s approach to the task involved the delivery of 13 training courses, some of which were created specifically for Develop U, to more than 170 employees over a two-week period.

Those courses covered a wide range of topics specifically selected to ease the stress and confusion of a core system conversion.

“The ultimate goal of Develop U was to take some of the load off,” says Brandon Allison, training and development specialist. “A core system conversion can be stressful on people—everyone gets some extra workload, so we offered many classes on stress and time management.”

Develop U focuses on issues ranging from team building and embracing change to training in Microsoft Excel, Word, and Outlook—and even a course titled, “T.G.I.F. (Thank Goodness It’s Friday),” designed to increase employees’ workplace happiness.

The next obstacle the training team faced was to introduce its aggressive two-week course plan to the rest of the credit union staff. Unsure of what employees’ reaction would be, the team introduced the idea for Develop U six weeks before it planned to commence the coursework.

Team members were caught off guard when the response from Gesa’s employees was resoundingly positive.

“The outcome was great,” says Patty Nelson, Gesa’s training and development lead. “A lot more people signed up than we had anticipated. We even got testimonials in our submission from the people who had taken the class.”

After the two-week Develop U training period, Gesa recorded the following data:

To date, Gesa’s training and education development team uses Develop U coursework to administer branch training to employees who were unable to attend the original program.

Allison considers it beneficial for trainees to be present at their home branch during training, explaining that “some of the courses work better if you’re with the team you work with.”

To keep its enthusiasm soaring, the training team purchased Develop U-themed T-shirts and chocolates.

“I think [the program] brought us together as a training team because it took so much effort on all our parts,” Nelson says.

It only seems right that the effort paid off in Gesa’s 2012 CUNA ELLy Training Professional of the Year Award.

MARLO FOLTZ is CUNA’s director of blended learning.

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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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