2023 is already looking like it’s going to be a tough year for the general insurance industry. Giving your people the skills to grow could be your best chance of leading your business through and stealing a march on your competitors. The likelihood is that if you are reading this article, that you understand the importance of learning and development, so please share it within your business to help others.
What the challenges of the last few years has taught us is that we have an amazing ability to build resilience in the face of adversity. If we quickly reflect on these challenges, they included (but were not limited to):
- The global shock of dealing with the COVID pandemic and lockdowns, including all the knock-on impacts within the whole insurance industry.
- Unprecedented consolidation in the insurance broking sector, which has seen the number of firms shrink rapidly, and a very large shift in human capital alignment as a result.
- A more intrusive and digitally capable regulator that has an even greater focus on the reduction of customer harm in the financial services markets.
- A rapidly changing consumer market – which has never been as vulnerable – that requires a more modern approach to risk management and claims support.
The industry has shown that it is robust, and central to this has been a solid financial services regulatory framework. However, the keystone to this resilience is the skills and knowledge of the people that work within the industry, right across the distribution chain, and this strength has been built over the last 120 years in the UK.
However, the keystone to this resilience is the skills and knowledge of the people that work within the industry
How L&D can support you in 2023 and beyond.
We now find ourselves in the middle of a talent management and recruitment crunch right across the insurance industry. It is going to continue, and possibly accelerate, yet it is also unlikely to get all the headlines during the cost-of-living crisis.
That is why firms that put in place a learning & development and people management strategy as a top priority at the start of the year will continue to build strength and develop more sustainable growth opportunities. It’s why the larger firms invest so heavily in talent management, and why they can attract or tempt your own employees to join them.
Here are our top 5 tips for turbo-charging learning and development in your organisation this year:
- Make learning & development accessible to all staff
Providing personal and professional development opportunities shows your people that you care. It is a fundamental part of motivation in the workplace. Learning new skills aids career development and with this a sense of pride in the work we do. If your staff are motivated, enjoy the work that they do, and can see personal growth opportunities within your organisation, then they are less likely to look elsewhere for employment. Remember, it is more cost effective to retain and train existing staff than it is to replace and recruit new employees.
- Set an annual training budget
The FCA expects firms to evidence adequate systems and controls, including the ability to adhere to your T&C requirements. This means that you need to have the funds available to ensure that staff remain competent to fulfil their roles. If you cannot do this, then one could question how you satisfy Threshold Condition 4, and it could be argued that a lack of a training budget should be added as a visible red item on your risk register to highlight that your firm has to find the funds for necessary training as and when you need it.
How much should you set in the budget? That is for you to decide but do consider making it transparent to your employees. When sat alongside a salary and benefits package, it can be quite attractive and help with staff retention and acquisition. Remember, training should be an investment for you; the new skills an employee can learn, the greater the impact they will have on your business.
- Start by looking at the job role
The FCA expects your staff to be competent to do the job they set out to do. This starts with their job description. Sit down with your staff and review this document now. Is it still up to date? Does it need changing? What skills are needed to perform the role and has a gap analysis on these skills be completed? How do you know if they are competent and what training is needed? This is not a long or difficult exercise, but it so often gets overlooked.
It’s important that you work with your employees to conduct regular performance development reviews that not only look backwards at previous performance, but also forwards to where you want them to be, as well as where they themselves want to be. Think about your own succession plans, and where your future leaders are going to come from. They will need training and coaching in areas that are probably not yet in their job descriptions.
Work closely with your HR and people management teams if you have them.
- Focus on professional AND personal development
Don’t make T&C a tick-box exercise. Whilst the concept of regulated CPD is driving up professional standards and consumer confidence in the insurance industry, it also risks devaluing T&C as firms rush to record their CPD hours each year. We speak to many firms and learners who are desperate to get back into the classroom in 2023, where training comes back to life and begins to make a real impact on their development. Give your staff the opportunities to do this.
As we head back to face-to-face training, consider which of the basic core skills might need to be revisited away from the usual tick box online assessment. We work in a dramatically different space and with a very different regulator, so it might be useful to bring these core areas of development back to life in an engaging and thought provoking manner.
Make sure that your people can learn not just technical skills, but also business skills, management and leadership skills (where appropriate) and soft skills. Let your staff know that you want them to develop a career with your organisation and work with them to identify a clear path to personal development. This will have a big impact on retention and develops a positive workforce culture.
- Your customers will ultimately benefit and that’s good for business
A more competent workforce will have the skills to support your customers, not just with their technical knowledge, but with how they handle and manage customer relationships. At the heart of professional standards is giving the right advice at the right time and ensuring that the opportunities for customer harm are reduced. Dealing with vulnerable customers, reducing claims repudiation, handling difficult conversations, generating new business, understanding emerging risks, supporting claims management, and building trust as well as developing the future leaders in the industry, are all positive outcomes of an effective training and competency scheme.
As you can see, focusing on L&D is not difficult, but it’s important that you start now. Don’t leave it too late. If you involve your staff in the planning process, then it will begin to build an attachment and sense of ownership that will motivate and add value to what is likely to be a tough year ahead.
Do nothing and you will probably find your workforce begin to look at what else might be out there for them, which is something the industry cannot afford.