Introducing VEC to the Team
Posted on Monday, September 09, 2013
All of you are aware that our initial training classes as part of our new, Victory Enrichment Commitment (VEC) are scheduled to begin in the near future. This initiative is a significant commitment of time and resources, and a number of questions about it have apparently been posed by members of our team. I am writing to better explain what we are doing and why, and to specifically answer some of the questions. However, both Shelly and I would be glad to answer questions about VEC directly at any time, now or during the program.
I will begin by paraphrasing what I believe to be the most important piece of wisdom concerning business that I have ever read, written by Dr. Peter Senge of the School of Business at MIT in his seminal work, The Fifth Discipline. Dr. Senge wrote, “The only sustainable advantage that any business has is its ability to learn.” Our statement of purpose recognizes how important this is in several ways, emphasizing that The Victory bank is a “Learning Organization,” that also values “Adaptation and Innovation.”
Many modern companies dedicate as much as 25-30% of every person’s time to learning, training and growth, in the realization that the world is changing quickly, and the things we already know may not be sufficient to generate success in the future. This is why we have students in banking schools and other training programs with the PBA. I am a faculty member of the PBA’s advanced school of banking and serve as a capstone advisor to several students a year at the ABA’s Stonier Advanced School of Banking, and I regularly read The American Banker, The Economist and am always reading business books. I point this out so that you will realize that I am a life-long learner, and deeply believe this is crucial to my personal success and to the success of the company.
Please note that the required classes in this first semester of VEC are really only the beginning of a much greater program. VEC is about the entire company being dedicated to learning, growth and innovation, and being part of this process will be an expectation for every member of the team, now and for the rest of your career here at The Victory Bank. So, I am most excited to answer the following questions that were indirectly relayed to me this afternoon:
- Why did we select these classes instead of JHA or product specific training? – The classes chosen are business and banking fundamentals, and are designed to make us all more efficient and help us better understand the core strategy of the company. That is, why we do what we do, and how can we do those things more efficiently. This is not to say that JHA or product specific training is not valuable also, and this sort of training is expected to be part of future VEC initiatives. Understanding our bank and its core strategy, client service, and personal efficiency are also extremely important and are being emphasized in the initial classes.
- Why are operational people going to a Exceeding Client Expectation class? – Everybody in a bank has clients. Some of us deal mostly with outside clients, e.g., a retail banker or an RM, and others of us deal with inside clients, e.g., Leslie’s clients are the RM’s, and mine include shareholders and the board. And almost ALL of us have some dealing with outside clients and prospects as we promote the bank and solve problems. Perhaps the most important and fundamental strategic belief of this company is that we must consistently deliver an exceptional client experience. Obviously, this is everybody’s job, everyday!!!
- Why did we start with such a big endeavor with seemingly so little lead time? - Well, first of all, this initiative has been in the works for over a year and is just now beginning to “take flight.” Part of the process was to promote Shelly into a leadership position so that we had a “champion” in place to make this whole thing go. Secondly, although this endeavor is crucially important, I would hardly describe it as “big.” Our estimates of the short-term resources dedicated to this process have ranged between 5-7% of our collective time, and this is only for the times when training is in session. As contrasted with many other modern and progressive companies, a dedication of 5-7% of our time to learning and growth seems quite modest. Please expect more to come in the future.
- Why are we forcing so many items during that one week – three days of training starting the same week as Board and Fun Day? - Scheduling for this initiative is one of the biggest challenges we will face, now and forever! Unfortunately, training is almost always viewed as a low priority, compared with doing what we are used to doing and what we deem to be “real work.” I expect that our transition into a revised schedule that incorporates an ongoing training effort may be difficult and even stressful for most of us. Believe me, there is never a perfect time to start something like this, and so we have done the very best we can to take into account the various schedules and priorities of the faculty and students in getting started. Fun Day and the Board will make for a frenetic week, but let’s try to keep a good attitude about it and focus on what we are learning and on having a great time doing it!
- We are spending up to 10% of our time for the next 18 months, how are we-YOU AS MANAGEMENT - going to assess the value of this training ? – I honestly don’t think this will average 10% of our time, but even if it does it should be viewed as an investment in productivity rather than as an expenditure. In any company, but especially small ones, it is usually difficult to quantify the value of training and learning. But to deny that it is really is kind of silly, too, because under that logic, we shouldn’t waste our time sending our children to school but should instead contract them out as indentured servants when they are 8 years old. To me, continued investment in client service training is absolutely priceless, indeed it is an investment in the very bedrock of the company. A course like Time Management and Personal Organization by definition is built to teach everyone in this company how to work smarter and more efficiently. Can we directly measure the results of this investment? Well, the answer is “no,” but we can’t measure the value of having fresh flowers in the lobby and of putting up Christmas decorations, either and we still do it, because we have a sense based in our life experiences that creating the proper mood in our retail bank generates long-terms benefits. Thus it is when we consider training and growth, and please don’t think that this will be over in 18 months. All of us are expected to be life-long learners as part of our jobs here at the bank.
I will end by thanking all of you for your interest and your comments and questions. As with most new initiatives, I’ll bet there are things we haven’t thought about and that will require revisions and changes. This may include the curriculum, the faculty, scheduling ,etc., but we are fast approaching the “shakedown cruise” for VEC, and I would ask each of you to view this as an opportunity for personal and corporate growth – a way for all of us to get a little better and answer our professional calling with greater talent, knowledge and vigor. Thanks!!!