Our leadership training programs combine human and science-centered curricula with real-world practice for an impact that can be felt by participants and their organizations right away. We're proud of the leaders we’ve helped — here are a few of their stories.
East Kootenay Community Credit Union faced two crucial talent management hurdles: an onset of approaching retirements as a result of an aging workforce, and lower than desired overall employee engagement.
With its pool of eligible leaders for succession declining, developing leadership capacity from within was a logical choice. This strategy could provide efficiencies and give current employees what they want — an organization that values them and is willing to invest in them. But finding accessible, affordable, and effective training to support leadership development was a challenge.
Beth Cornelson, Senior Manager Human Resources, explains, “We wanted to provide access to training that would help managers have a positive impact while promoting accountability." The Human Resources team kicked into high gear, enrolling the group in webinars and other educational efforts. But moving the needle proved difficult.
Deborah Ross, Human Resources Analyst, administered an engagement survey to assess their leadership training progress. “It wasn’t good,” she explains. “We were at 69% overall engagement.” Considering the challenges of finding and training new talent, they knew they needed to boost engagement in order to retain employees.
Instead of asking managers to take more of the same piecemeal training, the HR leadership team developed a new strategy to address their talent management challenges. Enrolling managers in eLeadership Academy™ for a two-year period, the leadership team linked participation with performance requirements in order to measure and hold managers accountable for the employee engagement metric.
In year one, the group would take part in the 8-week eLEAD program, and in year two, the group would participate in the 8-week eCOACH program. The decision to space the programs over two years would give time to allow the core concepts of personal leadership, emotional intelligence, motivation and influence, and change agility to settle in.
“The Academy had everything we were looking for…theory and practicum,” Beth says. “As an instructor, Sandra is very honest about her own leadership learning moments, and she is a dynamic and passionate speaker. I felt that her style would really inspire and motivate our team.”
Deborah personally enrolled as well — in order to provide support for the group, and to further develop her own leadership skills. In her account of the coursework, she says, “It is so effective because Sandra makes it personal. It’s really about looking inside and finding ways to become the best leader you can be, not in a nebulous, futuristic sort of way, but through practical steps that you can take every day.”
The group is only half-way through their two-year leadership development coursework, but East Kootenay Community Credit Union is already seeing results. Overall, the organization’s employee engagement score has gone up 11 percentage points, and one manager’s personal engagement score has skyrocketed to a whopping 95%.
Community Futures Ontario provides financing and assistance with strategic planning for rural Ontario businesses. Although the organization has been around for over 30 years, it has recently experienced a need for more employees in Senior Management positions. Leadership training would be important for new employees and for those looking to be promoted from within.
In addition to boosting internal management effectiveness, Community Futures Ontario also wanted to enhance its day-to-day efforts leading community partners to success. But with employees spread out across 61 different offices, getting everyone on the same leadership page would require a different approach. They needed an online training solution that would cover their geographical reach, without requiring everyone to travel or take time off work. After finding eLeadership Academy™, Community Futures Ontario decided to enroll leaders across 20 of its offices.
Diana Jedig, Executive Director, explains, “We really liked what we saw. The curriculum, convenience of online coursework, and the 8-week timeframe of eLEAD seemed ideal for us. And we liked that we could enroll people from different offices into the same cohort group, connecting them across municipalities, and helping to build the relationships needed for collaboration.”
The training was well received and a great success. “Our leaders appreciated the variety in the way that lessons were presented, with reading, video, chat rooms, and webinars. I think that part of the reason they responded so positively was because the program appealed to many different learning styles,” Diana says.
Thanks to the unique, cohort-based model, Community Futures Ontario achieved an important goal from the training: the members from different offices got to interact with each other throughout the course. Because they’re dispersed geographically, they don’t normally have the opportunity to work together, but for eight weeks, they shared stories, lessons, and feedback. “They may have known a little about each other beforehand, but after the forum dialogues, they got to know each other much better. At one in-person meeting that happened after we completed the program, a group from different offices recognized each other and they all assumed the ‘power position.’ They were putting into practice what they learned in the course, and they’d formed a new camaraderie. That was really great to see,” Diana recalls.
As a result of the program’s success, Community Futures Ontario invited eLeadership Academy™ Founder Sandra McDowell to speak at its annual conference, and the organization now actively recommends eLeadership Academy™ to other offices.
Located in a rural area, Encompass Credit Union is situated a few hours travel from the nearest in-person leadership training program, and that was a big challenge. Vice President of Human Resources Connie McMann explains, “If we send even a few employees on a 3-day workshop, then our workforce and finances take a hit. We’ve got employees out of the office for an extended period, plus the added expense of travel and accommodations.”
However, avoiding leadership training altogether wasn’t an option. The size of Encompass Credit Union doesn’t allow them the luxury of having internal experts who can build and deliver the training needed. Some of the more experienced employees needed refreshers in their leadership training, and several newer employees hadn’t yet had the opportunity for formal training.
The organization tackled this challenge by enrolling a group in eLEAD, including Connie, herself. “The main initial drivers were accessibility, convenience, and flexibility,” Connie says. “Because employees could access the coursework online, nobody had to take off work or travel to benefit from leadership training. They could access it from their desks, or even on their phones. And there were options for employees to access recorded versions of the sessions outside of the scheduled lessons, so nobody had to miss important work events in order to attend.”
Connie appreciated the fact that employees learned to incorporate their new leadership skills over a period of time, versus a 3-day offsite course, where participants tend to leave their lessons at the workshop, rather than bringing what they’ve learned back to work with them.
She says, “I was impressed by Sandra’s ability to keep people engaged. She really helped to build a community among those taking the course, and they came back with a very wholesome understanding of leadership."
Because Connie had also enrolled in the program, she boosted her own leadership skills and importantly, she was able to more fully support the eLEAD participants within the office. This approach ensured that the learning was embedded.
The trial run was such a success, Encompass Credit Union has continued to enroll their management team in eLEAD, and have begun enrollment in eCOACH. The more employees enroll, the more the leadership team benefits from a shared leadership vocabulary. The results have been tangible. Connie says, “Employees have shared feedback that they felt that their managers’ competency had improved. We’ve seen happier employees overall, and for me, witnessing our leadership’s personal growth has made it all worthwhile.”
With the current war for talent, one priority for VantageOne Credit Union is promoting from within the organization. But advancing personal leadership skills and taking on new roles within an organization can be difficult for both emerging and established leaders.
Beki Held, Vice President of Human Resources explains, “Most of our new leaders come from within the employee group. One day they’re a peer and the next, they’re leading the people with whom they were just sharing secrets and personal information. That can be tricky to navigate. We wanted to give our leaders the tools they need to succeed in their new roles and beyond.”
After hearing eLeadership Academy™ founder Sandra McDowell speak at a conference, Beki felt that the Academy would be a good fit. She says, “The idea that healthy brains make for healthy leaders totally resonated with us. It was inspiring. And we appreciated that Sandra had Credit Union experience; the programs that she designed made sense for our needs.”
VantageOne Credit Union enrolled a handful of leaders in eLEAD to start. The cohort-based program meant that participants could share the experience with each other in real time, along with other Credit Union employees within the system. Beki notes, “That piece was key. It enabled our teams to learn from each other. Our leaders had an eye-opening experience of what was expected from leaders at other Credit Unions in the same roles, and that was really beneficial.”
For the mid-level managers they’d enrolled in eLEAD, Beki saw a difference in their confidence levels. “Difficult conversations seem to be the hardest thing for all managers. This program gave them the tools and courage they needed to do that. And we can use what we learned from the program to hold ourselves accountable too,” she says.
Enrolling in eLeadership Academy™ was so effective, VantageOne has continued to enroll more leaders in the program, expanding into eCOACH training as well. Beki sees leadership development as ongoing, noting that “The programs are a great tool in our leadership toolbox that we can use for development. It gives our leaders a way to build confidence. And it is really rewarding to see them grow personally and professionally.”
For Jennifer Swain, Learning and Development Specialist at Access Credit Union, it’s all about moving forward. She explains, “Innovation is huge. We have an Innovation Centre with specialists who look outside the box to make sure that we’re on the forefront of our business. We’re constantly looking at policies and procedures to be more innovative, and not just with technology.”
For this type of initiative to succeed, excellent leadership is crucial. Leaders need to feel empowered to make their own decisions, and they need to know how to empower others to come forward with creative ideas and suggestions.
Jennifer creates and procures training programs to support employees in their current positions and to help them achieve their future career goals. In finding a leadership training program, it was important to the entire HR team at Access Credit Union that the training be relatable and relevant to their organizational mission. “eLEAD is reflective of our core values, and the teachings are a great fit for our Credit Union mindset,” Jennifer says.
After enrolling their first group in eLEAD, it became evident that the program was the right choice. “The support that participants were getting—face-to-face facilitation and discussion forums instead of just textbook readings—it really boosted engagement and participation. And the fact that the program covers real life scenarios and practices made the coursework applicable from day one,” Jennifer explains.
Access Credit Union saw a big impact from their first enrollment. Jennifer says, “We saw a growth in our leaders’ confidence which allowed them to lead better. And because we had encouraged employees without direct reports to take the course as well, we saw their confidence and self-awareness increase. That has made them better equipped to work cooperatively in a way that drives innovation. It's really helped everyone bring out the best in each other.”
Thanks to the success of the program, Access Credit Union continues to enroll its employees in eLEAD and eCOACH. Jennifer says, “It would take a lot for us to deviate from this. The value that we get and the discussions that eLeadership Academy™ has sparked have been great. We haven’t seen these results from any other leadership option out there, and I can’t see us going with any other option in the near future.”
Find out how organizations and past participants really feel about their experience with eLeadership Academy™. View their testimonials to hear it from their point of view.
Every great initiative starts with a strategy. Take advantage of our free leadership development strategy consultation, and let’s map out a plan together. Book your free strategy session now.