We’ve come a long way in the world of Financial Services in the last few decades. The days of ‘selling’ are long gone; we now advise on customer centric products, using customer focused processes. Gone is the ‘Man from the Pru’ and whilst we will all breathe a sigh of relief that some of his behaviours have gone with him, I do wonder if we in learning are keeping up with all the changes taking place around us?
The advisers sweeping into the industry now are bringing with them a whole new suite of behaviours and expectations. Many are no longer coming to the role via historic proven routes which saw them join from the banking sector having previously been in customer facing roles. Instead, we are seeing a greater number who have achieved their Diploma by taking advantage of a reduced commuting time created by the Pandemic but who have never had any front-line customer experience. Whilst I would agree that we can teach many of the skills advisers need to be successful, many of these skills build on natural traits you either possess or you don’t… and herein lies the first problem.
I believe we now have a full range of media available to us to deliver learning to individuals that is ‘just in time, just enough and just for them’, but we need to make sure we keep up.
Skills are not learnt overnight; yes, you can learn the theory of a new skill in a few hours but to master it takes time and practise. Ideally, you need to have the time to dissect the skill and learn each element in turn, effecting each element individually before attempting to put them all together, and then taking the time to practise over and over again, receiving and implementing feedback, adjusting your approach – well, you get the idea. When the skill is something that the trainee has no awareness of either through experience, or it is not a natural trait, the timeline extends further. The trouble is, we no longer have the luxury of time.
This new generation of advisers expect to be an overnight success. Whereas historically, many of the Baby Boomers and Generation Xers typically will not want to switch companies any more frequently than every five years for fear of how that looks on their CV, whereas the new breed of advisers are not concerned. Many of them are quite happy to switch companies, and even careers, more frequently. Therefore, the Return on Investment (ROI) of our training programmes needs to be realised much sooner.
Couple these problems with the ever-growing call to develop a training methodology that complements the increasingly popular agile approach to delivering change, and we find ourselves facing a few issues that could rapidly escalate unless we find some solutions. As learning professionals, we have also transformed so much during the same period. I believe we now have a full range of media available to us to deliver learning to individuals that is ‘just in time, just enough and just for them’, but we need to make sure we keep up.
As I see it, the way to start to tackling these issues is to use a multi-pronged approach:
- Use your Training and Competence Scheme to retain your talent. A good T&C Scheme sets out an individual’s route to competence but it should also show career progression. I like to include a mentor role wherever I can as it is a great way for individuals to take their first steps into supervision without all the responsibilities of being a line manager but I also like to include a ‘growing’ stage in the Scheme’s Framework. This allows an individual to retain competence in one role whilst developing a new set of skills for a different role within a defined period of time and to a defined standard. Importantly, individuals report that they feel the defined pathway is a clear demonstration of the company’s commitment to their internal progression.
- Focus on developing a toolbox instead of a programme. I recently read a scathing attack on how learning functions typically approach developing materials to support agile change programmes by a leading consultancy company. Although, I could appreciate (some of) their sentiment, they offered no solutions to the problem, so let me. As a function, I think we need to start thinking in terms of toolboxes. In a tradesman toolbox, there are individual tools that, when in skilled hands, all work together to fix a problem. For some tasks they use one tool, but for others, they will use multiple. A tradesman will also have not one screwdriver but a whole range. We could do the same; develop and release training on for example the standard flat head screwdriver, followed by the Phillips head, followed by the Posi head. The theory of how to use a screwdriver remains the same whatever type you use, and once learnt, doesn’t need to be repeated, therefore the subsequent training only needs to focus on the application of that specific screwdriver head. If we can break our learning down into individual ‘tools’ then the ROI could be realised much sooner.
- Define the adviser of the future. I agree that, with the shift in the industry’s culture, some natural traits we have looked for in advisers in the past are no longer appropriate but have we taken the time to define what we want the adviser of the future to look like? Some of the strawmen I have seen include updated behaviours but how do we define a ‘successful’ adviser now that we no longer use the achievement of sales targets as a key measure? Do we want them to be proficient communicators or does the advent of technology mean that that is no longer required? Do they need to elude confidence and charisma as in days gone by or is curiosity sufficient now? Do they need to be competitive and enjoy closing the deal? Is empathy and the ability to connect now a higher preference? Without this being clearly defined, it is hard to know if we are recruiting the right individuals or designing training that meets the need.