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6 Reasons to Increase Your Training Budget

6 Reasons to Increase Your Training Budget

Increased employee engagement through education and training is a brilliant strategy. Yet one of the first budget items to go away in tough times is the education and training budget! Why is that? Because community banks and credit unions may not have discovered the true value of continued education and training for their employees. Below are 6 reasons to increase your training budget, or at least continue, your education and training budget during tough economic times.

1. Education and training are different. You need to do both.

Education is more formal in that your employees obtain a college degree or a specific certification in their field. Examples of formal education are a Compliance and Bank Secrecy Act Officer Certification, Commercial Lending School, Financial Management School, Human Resources Certification, Community Bank IT Security Officer Certification, and others.

Training is more informal where your employees attend seminars, webinars, workshops, or simply have one employee train another. Training ensures the standardization of your internal processes and procedures across branches.

2. Education keeps your employees’ minds learning.

The more employees learn the more they learn. In other words, as employees attend training in various areas, employees’ minds open to learn even more. Learning is a tool to keep your employees engaged in their specific jobs and also to learn about other areas of the institution they may want to move to later.

3. Continued and ongoing training creates a culture of cross-training.

The goal in cross-training everyone in the organization is for your customers or members to always be serviced, regardless of who is in the office or out. At the same time, you may find that the person who is cross trained actually performs the duties better than the incumbent. This is good to know in case the employee in that job leaves the organization. You then have an automatic backup already trained. Make sure to add in everyone’s job descriptions that cross-training is part of their jobs so no one can say they didn’t know that learning or doing somebody else’s duties was not part of their job.

4. Education and training create a pipeline for succession planning.

When everyone knows somebody else’s job, they may share their interest in someday doing the other job at some point. Or, at a minimum, they will enjoy performing the other person’s job as a backup and not feel inadequate during that person’s absence. The cross-training culture naturally creates a pipeline for succession planning because the leaders can take notice of who performs each job best. Similarly, cross training opportunities create career paths for everyone.

5. Continued education and training result in a culture of engagement.

A culture of cross-training produces a culture of employee engagement. Employees appreciate that the organization invests in them to train them and give them the tools necessary to succeed in their jobs. Even if they end up leaving, they will never forget that you provided these opportunities to learn. But most likely, they will want to stay to continue learning. Their increased loyalty may lead to new potential career paths they didn’t plan without the additional training.

6. Tracking education and training results in increased credibility with your regulators.

And as an added bonus, when regulators see a robust education and training program, it shows your commitment to investing in your employees, which results in a more safe and sound institution. The more trained your employees are the less errors they will make with account holders. That in turn leads to increased customer satisfaction and potentially higher profits for your institution.

I hope this blog encourages you to keep your education and training budget, and hopefully increase it, during tough times. Employee engagement is a retention strategy. And you can attain increased employee engagement through education and training.

Strategic Planning in Uncertain Times

Strategic Planning in Uncertain Times

Strategic Planning in uncertain times is the most difficult way to start a New Year. What are you going to do to prepare for 2023? “Fight, fight, fight. No Matter What!” That was the response from a NASCAR Truck driver after ending the race in second place. Community Banks and Credit Unions can embrace that same attitude as they prepare budgets and strategic plans during one of the most uncertain times of this generation.

The current uncertainty touches several risk categories such as Interest Rate Risk (IRR), capital, liquidity, human capital, credit, and technology. Because all risk categories are interrelated, the impact on one risk category affects others simultaneously. Many community banks and credit unions are in the process of finalizing their budgets and strategic plans for 2023. Below are some strategies to help your leadership team through this difficult season in banking:

Take care of your people first.

You can have all the capital in the world and without your employees, you’re not going anywhere. Therefore, make retention of your top talent a priority in your strategic planning. It is true that many employees leave because of higher salaries elsewhere. But people leave mostly because of a toxic culture or work environment. To address turnover due to higher salaries, ensure your bank’s compensation and benefits are competitive and introduce new and creative benefits. Communicate to your staff that you surveyed other institutions of similar size in your area, so they know you did your homework. To address the culture problem, conduct periodic surveys, interviews, and truly listen to what your employees tell you.

Cybersecurity is still a top risk.

The investment in technology to safeguard your customers’ sensitive data should not be considered a burdensome expense. It is rather an investment to allow you to retain your existing customers and potentially attract larger businesses that need more sophisticated services such as Treasury Management.

In addition to the investment in hardware and software technology, you need to invest in the right talent to run the technology. This includes the consideration to outsource the expertise to third-party IT managed services. Additionally, ensure you have a strong Vendor Management Program which is crucial to a successful Cybersecurity Program.

Watch Your Balance Sheet and Income Statement closely.

As an ex-CFO, I typically found budgeting for expenses easier than estimating income—especially during uncertain interest rate environments. This year bankers have the additional challenge of low liquidity with their bond portfolio tied up due to unrealized losses. As you know, borrowing to fund your loan demand increases your cost of funds and decreases your Net Interest Margin. Therefore, you need to focus on increasing other sources of income and Treasury Management should be at the top of your list. If you can make your Treasury Management services a competitive advantage, you will attract larger businesses who in turn will bring additional core deposits and additional/new non-interest fee income!

Continue the strategic conversations in your Asset/Liability Committee (ALCO) meetings. Watch your financials closely and stay in constant communication with the Board of Directors. Regulators expect Directors and senior leadership to have a full understanding of your Balance Sheet and the effect of Interest Rate Risk on your Income Statement and bottom line.

Fight, fight, fight. No matter what!

Community banks and credit unions—especially under $1 billion asset size—must continue to fight no matter what. The fight is in several areas: The fight to attract and retain talent as mentioned above continues. The fight to compete against larger financial institutions and Fintechs also continues to be a challenge. And the fight against increased regulation must continue as well. Lastly, you can never rest on the fight against cybercrime.

So as the NASCAR truck race driver said, “Fight, fight, fight. No matter what!” Ending a race on second place is not bad. But everyone wants to win the race and be first. These days, staying in the race and not giving up is what truly matters. You cannot win every race, but you can enjoy small wins by retaining your best talent, ensuring your customers’ data is secure, and knowing your institution is safe and sound during these uncertain times.

Strategic Planning in uncertain times presents many challenges. I hope these strategies help you finalize your budgets and your strategic plan for 2023. We’re here if you need help!

Books by Marcia Malzahn