When people ask me what the greatest strength of the Fort Knox Federal Credit Union is, I tell them, undoubtedly, it’s our people.
The 240 employees who support our more than 90,000 members are the reason we are successful. Those familiar faces at each of our branches, your friends and family, are the fabric of our organization and our community. Building a great team like ours doesn’t happen accidentally. While recruiting talent is a critical human resource function, what’s equally, if not more, important is retaining talent and growing the next generation of leaders.
That’s why when the Lincoln Trail Workforce Development Board asked me to write a Work Matters column on talent development and the value of the local leadership programs, I welcomed the opportunity.
Renowned business expert, Peter Drucker once said, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” That speaks directly to the importance of talent development. While it’s great that two-thirds of our management team has 20 or more years of experience, our future success depends on who will eventually succeed them.
That’s why we take a deliberate multi-tiered approach to talent development that starts with mentorship, online training and exposure to various aspects of the organization. As leaders grow in our organization, they participate in a six-month Kentucky Credit Union League leadership program and ultimately in a national credit union industry leadership program.
While many small businesses don’t have access to those types of industry resources, one thing we can all take advantage of as employers are the leadership programs throughout our region.
At any given time, upwards of 5 percent of our credit union employees are participating in these programs, spending one day a month exploring the various aspects of our communities. From law enforcement to the economy, history to healthcare, education to government and much more, these programs allow participants to learn what makes our communities work and where we can improve. It’s an unvarnished look that fosters understanding, appreciation and civic engagement.
Hodgenville Branch Manager Katie McDowell participated in Leadership LaRue County. “I have lived in this community my entire life, but I still learned new things. It helped me appreciate the community even more,” said McDowell. “I love the people here and have always wanted to give back. Leadership LaRue County provided me with that opportunity.”
While Katie and the community are clearly beneficiaries of the program, it also benefits the credit union in three ways.
First, having a well-networked and engaged workforce no matter the product or service you provide is good for business. Leadership programs reinforce the value of community to future credit union leaders. “It allowed me to contribute to the community and represent our brand in the marketplace,” said Lynn Pleasant, member resource branch manager and Leadership Hardin County graduate.
Secondly, we know that our employees grow as leaders through their participation. They experience different leadership styles. They learn to work as a team with people from different parts of our communities. For some it may be their first foray into public speaking, and you can see a transformation as their confidence grows.
Lastly, it’s a talent retention tool. Mortgage Loan Manager Andi Williams participated in Leadership Hardin County. “I saw they were investing in me,” said Williams. “It just reinforced that this was a company I wanted to work for and a place I could call home.” In fact, when Williams’ husband saw how much she was getting out of it, he applied for Leadership Meade County and had an equally enriching experience.
Whether you have 10 or 210 employees, having a deliberate talent development effort that includes these leadership programs is a winning strategy - for the business, the employee and the community.
Ray Springsteen is president and CEO of the Fort Knox Federal Credit Union. With 16 branches and $1.3 billion dollars in assets, the credit union provides financial services to members and small businesses throughout central Kentucky.