Training For Those Next In Line

Digital Federal Credit Union strives to promote from within. Learn how it readies employees for the leadership opportunities that come next.


Digital FCU
Data as of 09.30.19

HQ: Malborough, MA
MEMBERS: 856,779
ROA: 0.81%

The national unemployment is at historic lows with September’s rate of 3.5% reaching its the lowest since 1969. In Marlborough, MA, home to Digital Federal Credit Union ($9.1B, Marlborough, MA), the labor market is even tighter; however, its 3.0% unemployment is right in line with that of Boston, 2.9%, and Massachusetts, 3.1%.

Retaining talent is an area of focus at the $9.1 billion shop, which staff members call DCU. We have a great deal of internal movement among employees, whether through promotions or internal transfers, says Jane Fontaine, the senior vice president of human resources and training at DCU. That’s a priority for us.

To do that well, however, requires continuous investment in its employee base to ensure one thing: When opportunity knocks, staff are ready to answer. In this Q&A, Fontaine discusses the past, present, and future of employee development at DCU, including the credit union’s leadership development program.

How did you identify training as an organizational need?

Jane, Fontaine, Senior Vice President of Human Resources and Training, Digital, FCU

Jane Fontaine: We’ve conducted annual engagement surveys in the past and received feedback regarding the importance of training and development. Most people want to learn, do better, and eventually move into a position with greater responsibility. Even if an employee is happy in their role, there’s always opportunity to learn new skills that you can apply each day.

Historically, how has DCU helped employees move up within the organization?

JF: DCU has always offered training to their employees. Until more recently, however, training was on a more informal basis. Over the past few years, we have developed a more robust training program through the reorganization of our training department and the addition of an organizational development team.

Our organizational development team is focused on career pathing. We want employees to have the skills and training they need to move into other roles within the organization. This helps us build bench strength for future leadership opportunities.


Upon assuming a role in leadership, employees at DCU attend a one-day New Manager’s Orientation program. This program begins with breakfast with the CEO who gives an overview of the credit union. The remainder of the day consists with presentations from various members of the management team on topics such as: understanding credit union financials, service excellence, and performance management. It’s an excellent introduction to management that begins with all the necessary basics, Fontaine says.

Talk more about career pathing. What are you doing?

JF: We’re meeting with each department leader to learn their story: What work occurs in this department? What are the career opportunities? What skills and abilities are needed to succeed in various roles? We are working to build a resource that would be available to our employees. This tool will give them information regarding various positions within the credit union. We want our employees to see the different paths available to them within the organization.

How is DCU developing bench strength?

JF: Through various development opportunities including our Leadership Foundations Program, approximately 130 team leaders have enrolled in this comprehensive program. It offers such courses as Crucial Conversations, Reward and Recognizing Employees, Crucial Accountability, and Speed of Trust. The program also utilizes the DISC and StrengthsFinder assessment tools.

We’re trying to help employees see how to get where they want to go.

Jane, Fontaine, Senior Vice President of Human Resources and Training, Digital, FCU

How does it work?

JF: The program, designed to be completed in 18 months, uses a number of offerings from FranklinCovey and VitalSmarts. Our New Manager Orientation is a program that was developed internally to address the specific needs of an individual new to leadership. Courses are offered quarterly on a rotating basis. Members of the learning and development team facilitate most programs with an occasional external vendor delivering a program.

How many employees have gone through the training?

JF: To date, 11 of our team leaders have completed the Leadership Foundations program. At any given time, there are 25-30 leaders going through the program.

Through the completion of various courses and projects, participants have the opportunity to achieve Bronze, Silver, and Gold status. 11 team leaders have reached gold status. These leaders are now being trained on how to become peer mentors. This is an excellent way in which for them to practice their skills and share their knowledge.

How do you define success with this program?

JF: Certainly, the number of people who complete the program is important. We had 120 team leads enter the program this year. However, I think if you ask the participants who’ve gone through it, they all might define it differently. Some might value the ability to move into a leadership role, whereas others value the new communication skills they’ve acquired.

Success can also be found in the fact that there is now more consistency with the training we’re delivering. It’s not departments asking for one-off training for a single person. It’s accessible to all and our senior leadership has given strong support to this initiative.

Providing our employees with the ability to develop their professional skills is important to ensuring they are ready for their next opportunity at DCU and helps in retaining employees. Many of our program offerings help develop skills that can be applied immediately. As the organization continues to grow, having staff ready to advance to the next level is critical.

What best practices have you identified?

JF: Any program or initiative must have support from senior leadership in order to be successful. Great culture starts at the top. It is also important to offer training through various learning modalities including in-person, web-based, and selflearning. You have to understand your audience and how they learn best.

What’s next?

JF: Learning and development is always evolving. Next year brings many possibilities including a new program for emerging leaders and the use of virtual reality in our learnings.


DCU approaches employee recognition in both formal and informal ways. Its service award program recognizes employees at service milestones (in five year increments) with a lunch with the CEO and the senior vice president of human resources and training, as well as a monetary award. In February, all employees are invited to its annual employee celebration, with includes food, fun, and connecting with fellow employees. Informal recognition includes a small rewards program as well as recognition on its Intranet.

Wait, There’s More!

This is just one section of the Anatomy Of Digital Federal Credit Union series that appears in Credit Union Strategy & Performance. Read the whole discussion today.


December 27, 2019

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