Staff at The Cumberland have qualified in a renowned training programme used by companies such as Amazon, Toyota and First Direct.

Seventeen colleagues within the operations team at the building society have achieved the Lean Six Sigma qualifications, which focus on the processes within the businesses and finding ways to improve services.

The training took place online due to Covid restrictions and has already led to colleagues identifying ways to make changes in the business to further improve service and value for its customers.

Stephen Donne, head of operations at The Cumberland said the training had represented a significant investment for the building society, but had already demonstrated its worth.

“The operations team is made up of multiple teams covering lending, servicing and banking, with lots of processes, over time these processes have inevitably become complex and sometimes confusing for our customers and staff.”

“This meant we weren’t giving our customers the best customer experience, so we embarked on a programme to change this, which started by investing in our people, giving them the skills to identify problem areas and empower them to make the changes,” he said.

“We took this approach because it is the teams who know what isn’t working for them and in turn know what impacts our customers. This investment also ensures we are set up for today, but also for future years with a culture of continuous improvement beginning,” he added.

The training was undertaken by Neon Partnerships who worked with the operations team to train and coach 30 colleagues through their first improvement.

Nicola Moran, of Neon Partnerships, said the programme had empowered people to identify real improvements in the business such as speeding up the mortgage application process and reducing the time it takes to pay invoices.

She said: “It has been fantastic to work with The Cumberland where customer service is already at the forefront of the business. Bringing the teams together through this training and coaching has shown how much impact colleagues can make to customer experience. There has been a real team effort in a challenging virtual world and the colleagues can be proud of what they have achieved so far.”

One of the biggest projects tackled using the approach was a detailed look at all the stages of the mortgage application process. Nicola explained how the colleagues had reviewed the effectiveness and efficiency of the process as they followed the customer journey from beginning to end.

“We looked at each element of the process and examined why the applications were going backwards and forwards in the pipeline.

“The Lean Six Sigma training is a way of unpicking the challenges that build up in processes over time. This allows them to be more effective for the customer and the colleagues.”

Lean Six Sigma training was originally developed at Toyota and Motorola and has been widely used in manufacturing and the financial services. Each Lean Six Sigma project carried out within an organisation follows a defined sequence of steps and has specific value targets, for example: increase customer satisfaction, reduce process cycle time, reduce pollution, reduce costs and increase profits.

The Sigma training is part of a wider investment by The Cumberland in its staff which has had a strong theme of empowering teams to make a difference to the business.

This has included ‘Power Hours’ sessions which have enabled staff to gather online to discuss topics such as Strategies of Resilient People, Building Trust and Dealing with Uncertainty.

The structured sessions are being overseen by Shelley Hayward, who joined The Cumberland in last July as its new head of development and talent. The structured discussions are linked to follow-up sessions and training with the focus on empowering people amid all the challenges of working remotely.

The Power Hours are another indicator of how The Cumberland has changed in recent years, shedding its sometimes stuffy and traditional image and focusing instead on its Brighter Banking ethos.

Training is therefore less about the transactional approach of a course aimed at boosting sales and more about collaboration and developing people as individuals.

For Shelley the programme is part of a cultural change for the business.

“When I joined in July, people were impressed that, as an organisation, we are investing in learning and development by bringing someone in to head it up.

“I’m responsible for all training and learning across the organisation which is key to our transformation programme which is seeking to be something different within banking. It’s not just bog-standard training – we’re looking to create a learning culture where people really love what they do and are really proactive about using their talents and learning within the organisation, so it’s a pretty exciting time.”