Applying a marginal gains mind-set to CPD management


In 2010 David Brailsford was appointed Performance Director of Team Sky and faced one of the toughest jobs in sport. Up to that point no British cyclist had ever won the Tour de France; his task was to change that. Brailsford’s approach was simple. He set in place the doctrine of Marginal Gains whereby making small incremental improvements to individual processes would lead to a significant improvement in overall performance when they are combined.

All aspects of riding a racing bike were closely scrutinised by Brailsford and his team.  By experimenting in a wind tunnel, he noted that the bike was not sufficiently aerodynamic. Through analysing the mechanics area in the team truck, he discovered that dust was accumulating on the floor thus undermining bike maintenance. He then had the floor painted white so that impurities could be easily spotted.

This may seem over the top but British cyclists have now won the Tour de France three times in four years and Team GB has since accumulated 16 Gold medals from two Olympic Games.

Firms now look at CPD as an empowering exercise which plays a critical part in enhancing the performance of the firm and delivering excellent outcomes for customers.

It is therefore quite clear that the application of Marginal Gains in sport has significant impact upon results. What might the impact be when applying this approach to CPD and how it is used to improve the knowledge, capability and skill of your staff to benefit your firm and your customers?

Over the past few years the industry has rightly revisited CPD and its importance in raising standards and professionalism. Firms now look at CPD as an empowering exercise which plays a critical part in enhancing the performance of the firm and delivering excellent outcomes for customers.

This article will look at 4 components of CPD management and will suggest incremental enhancements that could be made to help make CPD even more of a valuable contributor to increased standards, performance levels and customer outcomes.

Formulating a CPD Strategy
Is there a concrete strategy in place, what does that strategy look like and what outcomes need to be delivered? Sometimes this simply involves leaving CPD planning to the individual and only monitoring that the required number of hours have been completed to meet the Regulators prescribed obligations. However that is unlikely to get the most out of staff and their potential, however by adopting a collaborative approach you can unlock that potential and improve performance.

  • Be Proactive – Whilst CPD is very much about the individual it shouldn’t mean the firm has no involvement. If CPD is planned with both the individual and the firm in mind, then tracked and monitored closely by the business, it can deliver uplift in competence that has an impact on organisational goals including commercial, regulatory and customer.
  • Link to Personal Objectives – How closely does your firm monitor Reflective Statements? We know that in the eyes of accredited and professional bodies, Reflective Statements are a fundamental measure of the impact the CPD activity has had on the individual and also on their firm and customers. To proactively capture and monitor reflective statements made by staff in your firm will help you understand the impact of the CPD completed and its relevance to the objectives of the individual and the firm.
  • Relate to the Role – CPD is not only about meeting the expectations of a professional or accredited body to maintain membership or indeed an SPS for specific roles. By linking CPD to role competencies and KPI’s across your business not only can staff be more engaged, CPD will become integral and accepted as appropriate and valuable learning and development.

Providing Visibility of CPD Activities
A significant factor in making the Marginal Gains approach so successful for Team Sky was Brailsford ensuring he had full visibility of each team and their processes. By doing this he was able to analyse and interpret the data behind any incremental enhancements being made to understand their impact on performance.

The scenario:

  • You have a large number of employees with professional and accredited body memberships spread across numerous institutes.
  • Each body requires members to complete relevant CPD to attain or maintain their memberships and in some cases Statements of Professional Standing.
  • Individual employees record CPD only on their institute’s in-house CPD recording tool.

This is a fairly common approach but how do you know; what CPD has been completed, the reasons, the activity involved and the results? If a firm was making sure complete records of CPD are being maintained or can easily be accessed from professional and accredited bodies, it will be able to link that to performance, meaning the impact CPD has on staff can be analysed and understood.

By having evidence to identify strengths, weaknesses and therefore gaps in competence, future CPD activity, focus and structured programmes can be planned to improve knowledge and skills.  As part of a proactive strategy, CPD will have increased relevance to personal and business objectives.

Capturing Data and Providing MI and Reporting
In order to make informed decisions on how individual processes could be enhanced, Brailsford needed robust MI which was easily accessible and could be efficiently distributed and analysed across different teams.

For firms still using paper records, for example across a number of excel spreadsheets, the process of analysing then distributing robust MI amongst compliance, HR and T&C teams can be laborious and time consuming. The risk is that data and MI can be disparate, unstructured and potentially difficult to interpret.

What enhancements could be made here and what might the benefits be for your firm if you have a robust data capture and reporting solution?

  • A complete view of the firm and the accumulated CPD of its population for analysis.
  • Robust Data and MI to answer fundamental questions on what CPD your staff are actually completing and the quality.
  • How effective your CPD and learning strategies are.
  • Understanding of the impact your CPD and learning strategy has on operational performance, your staff and your customers.
  • Whether your staff are meeting the regulatory requirements and the standards set by professional and accredited bodies.
  • How it is saving time and resource which could be better spent on understanding how performance could be improved even further.

Ultimately the process becomes more streamlined and cost effective allowing firms to ensure CPD activities are relevant, support the business plans for growth and ensure good, compliant customer outcomes. Notwithstanding that it is still incumbent on your firm to ensure your staff are competent, robust evidence of effective and appropriate CPD goes a long way to supporting your T&C scheme.

CPD and Accountability
Looking ahead to the implementation of the Individual Accountability Regimes next March and also the recent Treasury announcement that these will be extended across financial services by 2018 stimulates thought about the role T&C and CPD can play in delivering a firms ambitions around conduct and culture.  Incremental enhancements will help here too.

We know that the regulation places responsibility on the firm for ensuring that impacted staff are trained on Conduct Rules and particularly how the rules are applied in their day to day jobs. It can be argued that this cannot just be a one off exercise and that ongoing refresher training and development will have a positive impact on the successful embedding of good conduct standards. It is important to consider how your T&C and CPD strategy can be adapted to help tackle the new regulatory demands.

  • How can CPD inform and contribute evidence to the competence and capability elements within a Fit and Proper assessment?
  • How can CPD support your firm’s ambitions and help drive good conduct and culture?
  • Does CPD need to be extended to a wider population as good practice?
  • Will your CPD record keeping mean that you can provide evidence to your Board and the Regulator about how you and your staff are developing their knowledge and application of good conduct and culture?

Brailsford discussed the principles of Marginal Gains Theory in a BBC interview in 2012 and spoke of enhancing small things that then collectively make a big difference.

The foundations of CPD management have shifted somewhat over the past few years to being one of the central tenets behind increasing standards across the industry and rightly so. We see a number of positive approaches to CPD through our conversations with businesses and recognise the excellent work being done across the industry in raising standards and professionalism.

By breaking down how your firm manages CPD and the processes involved you too could look for and perhaps make incremental enhancements to increase the performance of your organisation, enhance the quality of customer outcomes and of course deliver regulatory compliance.

The increasing demands of new regulation and the focus on conduct and culture challenges systems and controls. Reliance on paper processes and records may therefore present additional risk. So perhaps it is also time to review your T&C management and CPD IT solutions to make sure they are up to the challenge.

What could adopting a Marginal Gains Mind-Set in how you manage CPD do for your firm in 2016?


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We help institutions across the Financial Services industry with regulatory compliance, best practice, competency frameworks, people risk and accountability software. And we’re at the forefront of compliance technology – creating governance tools and frameworks that evolve, as regulation gets more complex, helping our clients to keep one step ahead. Team

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