Purposeful Talent Development: Visions’ Vision for Growing Its People

man using laptop
By Derek Matts

5 minutes

It’s important to be aspirational about creating and delivering learning programs.

I spent 12 years leading sales teams and developing sales representatives at Disney. The main focus of my role was talent development. Since Disney is an organization with vast resources, in my work there I saw what an organization focused on development could have—that is, I saw what was possible.

Then, in 2016, I decided to leave Tampa and Disney and return to my home region of upstate New York, that eventually led to a great opportunity: to help Visions Federal Credit Union grow its leadership development and staff learning programs.

Learning Expansion

When I started in my role at Visions in early 2017, we had two experienced trainers and a strong desire to start a formalized leadership development program. Back then, we offered few professional development offerings to our 500-plus employees, and I quickly learned from our VP/human resources that this would be one of my first priorities. Coming from such a rich learning environment at Disney, I felt enthusiastic about this opportunity.

One of the first things we did was start an organization-wide Toastmasters club in 2018. While the group has been very successful, including winning a Corporate Toastmasters award in 2021, the reach was limited. Since the club’s beginning, we’ve consistently had about 25 people invested in the program.

As I looked to open additional opportunities for staff, we experimented with platforms like LinkedIn Learning, which is a great online resource. We still maintain a small number of licenses for certain roles that regularly utilize the platform but, due to the substantial cost and low overall utilization, we could not really justify it for our entire staff.

At the end of 2019, I was fortunate to meet up with CUES VP/Sales and Member Relations Northeast Russell Evans. He shared with me everything that we could be using and doing with CUES. And that lit the light bulb.

Not everyone wants to develop into a leader, but everyone appreciates opportunities to grow in their professional field. CUES was a great find for us. It allowed us to offer employees more professional development, including credit union-specific learning.

In 2020, the pandemic hit. New York was affected earlier than many other states. To mitigate the chances of having to close branches, we decided to split our branch staff and introduce a hybrid work schedule. Half worked from home one week, while the other worked in the branch. The next week, they would switch.

We needed something constructive for those employees working from home—and we immediately decided on professional development and started a big push to get everything set up and rolled out. Within six weeks, our branch staff completed more than 16,000 CUES videos and articles within various learning pathways in the CUES Learning Portal. It was a huge success.

Connecting Learning with Succession Planning

We’re in the midst of rolling out a succession planning program that will be directly linked to learning. The plan will include using an internally designed assessment to identify gaps in the knowledge or skills of the participant. Using CUES membership and other resources, we are putting together curricula to specifically address any learning gaps we identify—the goal being that when the time comes and when positions open, we’ll have a stronger pool of candidates available to fill the openings.

We also see opportunities to utilize CUES resources for other future programs, including individual development plans and career paths across the organization.

Training the Trainer, Too

Importantly, CUES has provided opportunities for those of us in leadership roles to grow as well.

I enjoyed and benefited from participating in the first-ever TalentNext, which was my first time attending an HR and learning conference specific to credit unions. Organized by CUES, the event was a great opportunity to network with peers from other credit unions and share ideas. Since then, I’ve had follow-up calls with many connections I made at the conference, and the sharing has continued. I especially love that we all rally around one goal: “people helping people.”

Since returning from the event, I have investigated and discussed ideas brought up by each of the presenters. I found value in the 70-20-10-25 discussion—the idea that 70% of a person’s learning is internal and experience-based; 20% comes from interacting with other employees, leaders and mentors; 10% is the result of formal training; and 25% is learning from mistakes. This has me rethinking how we might address gaps in employee skills through our succession planning program moving forward. 

We’ve also taken advantage of the online certificate courses CUES offers with Cornell University. For example, I completed the Strategic Human Resource Leadership program through CUES last year, and several team members are attending the CUES Advanced Management Program from Cornell University. We’re thrilled to have access to certificate programs through this partnership with Cornell. Like each new experience we’ve had with CUES professional development, we’ve found the online tracks with CUES and Cornell to be valuable and rewarding as we strengthen our Learning and Development team.

Next Steps in Talent Development

Today, all staff have access to CUES Learning Portal, and we are pushing CUES as our primary resource for personal and professional development.

Since introducing CUES learning to Visions in 2019, we’ve utilized the “group” functionality within CUES Learning Portal as a social hub for our internal Emerging Leaders program. This is an eight-month internal program facilitated by senior leaders and outside facilitators that prepares those who are interested in learning more about leadership at Visions and helps to develop skills necessary to become a leader. As participants work on capstone projects, CUES Learning Portal is a place where small teams go to collaborate and share ideas privately.

We’ve also linked learning resources across various online applications to optimize staff access to these tools. I like that CUES allows me to tag outside resources that we have in our learning management system and books in our learning library so learners can go to one place—CUES Learning Portal—to find all kinds of resources. As employees and managers identify additional learning opportunities, we’ll be able to have additional resources ready for them, with help from CUES.

Sometimes I feel like we’ve only scratched the surface. We’re still in the early stages of making a culture shift towards development but I’m confident that, as this new culture gains steam, we’ll see engagement with CUES continue to grow across our organization—and a great deal of learning and growth happen for our team members.

CUES member Derek Matts is director of organizational development for $5.6 billion Visions Federal Credit Union, Endicott, New York.

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