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Empowering Growth: Cultivating a Dynamic Training Environment in Your Bank

Understanding the Banking Landscape

The dynamic nature of the banking industry is shaped by factors ranging from technological advancements to global economic shifts to changing customer expectations. Small banks in particular may have more difficulties, for instance in diversifying their risks, making them more vulnerable to economic downturns.  As a cornerstone of their community, they are often closely tied to the local economy. Economic downturns or specific local market challenges can impact their financial health. However, in recent times, community banks have performed well in comparison to larger banks. They are essential players in supporting lending to the small businesses which are the backbone of the nation’s economy. In 2022, community banks held nearly 24% of total small business loans.

The challenge that’s common to banking institutions of all sizes is talent development. Banks need to take a proactive approach to talent development to ensure their continued ability to serve customers and pursue strategies for business growth. Creating a dynamic training environment is one of the keys to every banking institution’s success.

Challenges and Opportunities for Small Training Departments

Small bank training departments are constantly balancing challenges and opportunities that can significantly impact their effectiveness within organizations. Some of the top challenges include:

  • Ever-changing compliance environment — As mentioned above, training departments allocate nearly a fourth of employees’ total training time to regulatory compliance. The burden of compliance has a disproportionate impact on the smallest community banks, and small training departments need to find a way to overcome this challenge.
  • Technology adoption and cybersecurity — Small banks may struggle to keep pace with technological advancements due to budget constraints. It follows that nearly 93% of community bankers cited cybersecurity risk as either an “extremely important” or “very important” internal risk in the 2023 CSBS Annual Survey of Community Banks. This puts added pressure on small training departments to ensure employees have access to and complete effective cybersecurity training.

Despite these challenges, small banks also have certain advantages, such as their ability to offer personalized service, a strong community presence, and flexibility in decision-making. Success for small banks often involves finding a balance between addressing training challenges and enhancing their unique strengths with training.

One opportunity for small bank training departments is talent development. According to research with training managers, HR professionals, and L&D specialists, new hire onboarding and professional growth are one of the most common training goals in financial institutions. Banks need to get new hires up to speed and able to perform, error-free, as soon as possible. Providing effective training in this area is essential for empowering growth and ensuring employees have confidence at work and feel prepared for their roles. Over the long term, professional development is an opportunity for small bank training departments to help employees move forward in their careers and remain with the bank.

Helping bank employees strengthen their skills in customer service and relationship building is a key opportunity for building a competitive advantage. Smaller banks may not always be able to compete with larger banks and credit unions in terms of consumer deposits or price. However, they can compete on personalized, exceptional customer service.

Key Components of an Effective Training Program

Here are the essentials for a highly effective small bank training program:

  • Set a goal for your training program that will guide you in developing and updating it. You might state your goal as “providing engaging and flexible training that empowers employee growth.”
  • Build out your training courses in professional development, especially in soft skills, in addition to compliance, licensing, and continuing education
  • Integrate different course formats to create a dynamic training environment. Including live webinars, on-demand self-paced videos, gamification, and other formats enables employees to choose the training that best fits their learning style
  • Select, track, and report the metrics that will give you the most visibility into the effectiveness of your training program and its impact on your institution

Finally, consider partnering with an online provider that can deliver a comprehensive training solution to simplify training management for your team. A single-source solution can improve your efficiency by streamlining training management, and make it easier for employees to access and complete their training, too.

Strategies for Engaging Bank Employees

Make use of these best practices for talent development in banks in your training program:

  • Allow employees enough time to do the required training without rushing
  • Create a culture that values training, which can motivate employees to get more from their training and complete it on time
  • Choose courses that are developed by experts to keep the employee’s attention
  • Offer flexibility in training formats, so employees can choose a blend of formats that align with how they like to learn best
  • Collaborate with employees to develop the right personalized mix of courses that will help them meet compliance needs, strengthen skills and fill skill gaps where needed, and position them to move into challenging roles

Measuring the Impact of Training

Putting metrics and regular reporting in place will help you understand if employees have completed their course requirements or are behind on their training. The data you track can also be used to guide adjustments as needed for continuous bank training program improvementProfessionals and decision-makers involved in talent development, training, and human resources within bank training departments indicated they use these metrics in the State of Learning and Development in Financial Service report:

  • Employee Skill/Competency Levels
  • Employee Evaluations of Training Facilitator(s)
  • Training Assessment Scores
  • Training Course Progress
  • Feedback on the Learning Experience

Be sure to put the metrics in place that will deliver the most value for your institution.

 Success Stories of Small Bank Training Departments

OnCourse Learning is a comprehensive training solution for banks and credit unions. OnCourse enables bank training programs to offer best-in-class training designed with employees in mind, in formats including online, microlearning, webinar, video, animation, and more. It simplifies learning program administration and offers engaging courses that support both employee and bank goals. The following small bank training departments are optimizing their program’s effectiveness and efficiency with OnCourse:

Security First Bank, a Nebraska-chartered, privately-held community bank with more than two dozen branches in Nebraska and South Dakota, knew early on that they needed a partner who could help ensure the accuracy of compliance training courses. OnCourse Learning provides engaging E3 compliance training courses that include animation, video, infographics, and a variety of role-based scenarios. “E3 courses have been huge. Courses are effective and efficient – students feel like it takes less time,” noted Saphron Watson, VP of Human Resources at Security First Bank.

Accurately and efficiently tracking training completion is also a goal for this small bank training department of three.  OnCourse Learning’s robust reporting functionality allows Watson to effectively pull a report and provide an accurate update for the bi-monthly compliance meetings.  Read this success story.

Martha’s Vineyard Bank, a Massachusetts state-chartered bank, wanted a trusted training provider that would work with their lean training department to customize a bank training program for their specific training needs. OnCourse Learning enabled Martha’s Vineyard Bank to implement a robust training and development program while maintaining a lean training department. OnCourse Learning helped to streamline reporting, provide more visibility and access to training completion, and educate employees in ways that are meaningful to them.

Training and Development Manager John Shorrock is able to customize courses easily. He shared, “I’ll go in and insert pages that link directly to our policies and procedures. When I do that, it’s proven to keep people focused. They now know what our policy is, and they don’t have to go look for it. It does have an impact as we have less findings after we complete a training.”  Read this success story.


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