PSCU Financial Services, a nonprofit financial services company that provides traditional and online financial services to the credit union industry, has over 700 employees and also delivers learning to more than 511 member credit unions, which represent over 5 million cardholders. For PSCU Financial Services, it is critical to ensure that employees have the tools and resources they need to be as productive as possible and to meet or exceed the expectations and needs of member-owners.
“Training is certainly a very valued component of that,” said Ernie Hudson, chief administrative officer at PSCU Financial Services. “We want to make sure that they receive the needed training just in time to be effective, so they’ll retain it, remember it and be able to apply it every day, very efficiently.”
The main challenges of getting learning to employees and member-owners, according to Hudson, are geographical. For the most part, PSCU Financial Services’ employees work in St. Petersburg, Fla., and Phoenix, Ariz., but many others, including workers in sales and marketing positions, work from their homes and are located across the United States. In addition, PSCU Financial Services delivers training to its member credit unions, which are spread across the country as well. Hudson added, “There are vast differences in needs of training and levels of training, so being able to mirror or match our training needs to those of the employees directly and their specific needs is a challenge.”
Often the training must be delivered quickly to coincide with the release of new products to market, according to Todd Slater, director of creative media services at PSCU Financial Services. “We look for the fastest way to deliver the training and to a dispersed audience, as well as our members, our clients,” he said. “We’ve been looking at more of a distance tool—it has helped us in that area.”
Add to these challenges the fact that the company went through a reduction in its workforce and operating expenses in June 2003, and there is a heavy impact on training. To make up for that, Hudson said, “we’re relying even more heavily on technology and these tools to deliver training efficiently and cost-effectively.”
PSCU Financial Services has been using Microsoft Office Live Meeting (formerly PlaceWare) for the past three or four years for both internal training and client training, in addition to sales presentations. “Being geographically dispersed, it’s too hard on us to try to fly to each location or to have regional seminars,” said Slater. “They want more and more training, so the best way for us to do it is to be able to deliver it live using this type of tool right in their credit union.” In addition to a reduction in travel costs, Slater said the tool makes learning more productive by allowing trainers to deliver learning to more students at one time.
For example, when PSCU Financial Services’ partner First Data Resources rebuilt its systems, training was required for all members and employees within 30 days, said Hudson and Slater. “We had to not only determine the changes, we had to then turn and push the training out to the 511 end points,” Slater said. “We couldn’t have physically gone out there and done that.”
PSCU Financial Services measures various levels of feedback for its learning initiatives, including effectiveness, which is judged by the participants, and a 60-day follow-up with management or the credit union to see if there’s been an increase in productivity. “We certainly look for productivity improvements and reductions and certain metrics,” said Hudson. “We use different metrics that are indications of, did the training work? Was it effective?” said Hudson.
Slater said that when the distance learning was compared with in-person training, users rated both at about 4.5 on a 5-point scale in terms of effectiveness. “It’s a new training medium for many of our credit unions, and it was really nice to see that they’re starting to adapt and see positives in there,” he said.
And that acceptance is growing, according to Hudson. In 2003-2004, the learning mix was 75 percent classroom and 25 percent distance. “I’m amazed to see that has now gone to 50 percent classroom and 50 percent distance,” Hudson said.
“I’ve been in the Web conferencing area since its beginning, and I’m really glad to see it taking hold out there,” Slater said. “It’s a cultural change for a lot of learners, and I think a lot of people are under the impression they can just take a traditional course and push it out on the Web and it would be successful. We do a lot of work to customize it for the environment, which I think is a key to its success.”