With more than 600 employees and 21 branches throughout the state of Washington, the challenge Washington State Employees Credit Union (WSECU) faced mirrored what many organizations have to work through when spread across multiple locations: silos.
But how WSECU is breaking through that pain point isn’t as common. Even more importantly, it appears to be overwhelmingly effective.
Every year, for the past four years, the credit union sends up to 15 employees at a time through eight months of Leadership U, a customized training developed in partnership with Brandman University’s School of Extended Education. The goal is to find a way to deliver high-quality leadership education, consistently, to all mid-level leaders at the credit union.
“From the get-go, Brandman has been in total lockstep with our team,” says Denise Hagen, vice president of People & Culture Services at the credit union. “We have extremely high service values and realized from the beginning that Brandman shares those same standards. The School of Extended Education worked hand-in-hand with us to create the specific curriculum we desired — customizing it to provide us with an innovative and informative leadership program.”
The 144-hour program addresses five core areas that the credit union identified as priorities: developing effective individuals and teams, a learning culture, people for organizational effectiveness, and effective organizations. Brandman’s School of Extended Education’s corporate training division worked closely with WSECU’s team to align curriculum with the organization’s core values and culture.
“We thrive on working closely with industry experts to develop cutting-edge programs that support an evolving workforce’s relentless need to expand existing competencies and build new skills,” said Reagan Forlenzo, senior program manager for Brandman University’s School of Extended Education. “WSECU is an exciting partnership because we’re so aligned in our goal of investing in people to ensure success in their professional lives.”
Because the credit union’s employees come from a variety of professional and educational backgrounds, Leadership U’s cadres are structured to reflect that diversity. Working in cross-functional teams in the small intensive group setting has leveled the playing field, allowing participants to develop relationships and understanding across departments.
Trust and communication have increased, according to WSECU. In its 2016 annual report, employees identified the top two favorite things about working for the credit union as their co-workers and teamwork.
Outside of the monthly, two-day intensive sessions, a formal mentoring program supports leadership development and individual development plans have led to noticeable changes when participants return to their teams.
“The Leadership U program offered me the opportunity to take the time and analyze my effectiveness as a leader,” said participant Tom Meyers, WSECU’s director of Northern Regional Branches. “The practical value surfaced from tailoring the resources to effectively improve specific areas of my leadership. It can be a matter of details or even larger ‘aha!’s that can make the difference for those we serve and in turn the organization as a whole.”
Developing talent from within is part of WSECU’s culture with 40 percent of 187 open positions filled internally, according to its 2016 annual report. Thanks to the leadership training, WSECU is starting to see program results through promotions, retention and increased satisfaction with career development.
For information about how Brandman’s School of Extended Education corporate training programs can help companies or organizations, go to www.brandman.edu.