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TD Magazine

A Laser Focus on Staff Needs

Thursday, June 15, 2023

Apple Federal Credit Union: 2023 BEST Award Winner, #18

Photo of Sam Dowell, Asst. Manager, TD; Jen Madden, Associate VP, TD; Sharon Camper, Chief People Officer; Andy Grimm, President & CEO Not pictured: Lauren Harvey, Manager, TD
Talent development solutions empower Apple Federal Credit Union's team.


Providing excellent member experience is a strategic imperative for Apple Federal Credit Union, a multiyear BEST Award winner that operates in a highly competitive industry located in the Washington, DC, metro area. The organization believes strong talent development practices provide it with a competitive edge.

Innovation is critical in the financial services arena. Technology is always advancing, and competitors for Apple FCU's services now include nonbanks and person-to-person lenders such as PayPal, Amazon, Apple (no relation), Google, and fintech startups. In 2022, Apple FCU's TD team was keenly focused on upskilling staff for new roles and delivering learning support for the many technology initiatives the organization has adopted to stay competitive.

The business-critical issues facing the organization last year were all technology related, and the TD team was front and center to provide the right solutions to empower team members.

Tech support

Apple FCU is committed to leveraging technology and serving members well in the digital age. Last year, the organization implemented appointment scheduling software in its branches so that members could schedule appointments and see wait times from their devices. That approach was vastly different from how branches operated; previously, they only received walk-in service.

To address the large training gap, TD became heavily involved in a pilot with two branches to learn how the system worked, including a sandbox environment in which to practice. TD then created e-learning and job aids for the phase 2 enterprise-wide rollout. As a result, adoption was smooth and member experience improved.

Another critical business issue facing the organization was migrating phone systems. The previous system was antiquated and plagued with technical issues that had an adverse impact on member service. To migrate to a new system, the IT team performed the integration on the technical side, and the TD team assisted by performing a needs assessment that formed the foundation for a phased training initiative that ensured a seamless transition. Each phase included an instructor-led session, a quick reference guide, a testing phase, and a dedicated testing communication channel with IT support. An intranet resource page accompanied the phases to support employees at their point of need.

Learning by doing

Indeed, making sure employees have the tools they need when they need them is a hallmark of TD efforts at Apple FCU. That commitment empowers staff and serves the broader strategy of ensuring excellent member service. A further example of that is onboarding new hires.

One of the organization's most successful on-the-job learning initiatives occurs when new hires in the Member Solutions Center transition from classroom training to their next onboarding phase known as "nesting." In that phase, the company pairs new hires with seasoned agents for further development.

The first two weeks include diving deeper into systems, listening to calls, and participating in role-play activities. During the third week, new hires take a more hands-on approach by taking live calls while their mentor navigates the system. The next day, the roles reverse—the mentor takes calls while the new hire navigates the system. The following day, the new hire takes calls and navigates the system while the seasoned team member shadows. At the end of nesting, new hires take calls while the mentor silently monitors, screen shares remotely, and guides accordingly.

At the end of all training, new hires take a final assessment. The metrics show the on-the-job training is working well: Average talk time of six minutes and nine seconds is under the eight-minute standard; first-call resolution of 91 percent exceeds the standard; new hires have a Net Promoter Score of 9.13, exceeding the standard of 9; and they are averaging 50 calls per day, compared to almost meeting a seasoned employee's goal of 65 calls per day.

Another example of learning by doing is an initiative focused on improving branch managers' knowledge of how to use the frontline teller equipment to enhance member service. The TD team created a three-hour learning experience in a classroom that simulates the branch environment. Managers learn how to use several types of equipment through hands-on practice in addition to receiving clarification and suggestions on how to improve efficiencies.

"The creativity, talent, and productivity of our talent development team has effectively supported the organization's initiatives and success," states Andy Grimm, Apple FCU's president and CEO. "The continuous training model they facilitate provides our team with leadership skills that promote employee engagement and enables them to generate a pipeline of future leaders."

In addition, Grimm continues, TD team members "deliver a high volume of product and skills training. I truly believe that their quality of content and proactive responsiveness to organizational needs provide the institution with a distinct competitive advantage."


TD for TD

To ensure that the TD team can deliver on multiple initiatives with precision, there's a high premium on TD team members' professional development; the standards for education and certifications for the team are similarly high.

TD leaders expect team members to model the value of lifelong learning. Further, leaders observe TD specialists on a quarterly basis and give feedback and coaching.

In addition, the organization has a Toastmasters International Club, where staff develop skills in communication and leadership, including techniques for providing feedback.

For e-learning team members, leaders evaluate them by their skill sets and measure team members by the number of authoring tools and programs they can use to create content, as well as proficiencies in those tools.

All TD staff and management have career paths and select two personal development goals each year, which can include technical training, certifications, or other goals.

View the entire list of 2023 BEST Award winners.

About the Author

Kristen Fyfe-Mills is the director of employee development and engagement at Farmer Focus, an innovative organization with the fastest-growing poultry brand in the US. In her role, she supports nearly 900 team members, from front-line hourly associates to the executive team. Before joining Farmer Focus, Kristen served in many roles at the Association for Talent Development, culminating in her position as director of marketing and strategic communications.

Kristen holds two master’s degrees, one in pastoral and spiritual care from Marymount University and the other in journalism from Northwestern University. She serves on the advisory board for Shenandoah University’s Transformative Leadership program. She is the mom of two exceptional humans, and she and her husband Doug live in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

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