It is late 2023 as I write this piece intended to look ahead to our plans and priorities for the coming year, but in order to look forward I am first finding myself looking back at the previous 12 months.
In what was another busy year for the industry, the Learning and Development team at the Credit Services Association (CSA) was again challenged to adapt and stay informed with what firms within our sector need in terms of meeting regulatory requirements and to tackle operational demands.
As the only national trade association in the UK for organisations active in the debt collection and purchase industry, the CSA possess the experience and knowledge needed to deliver first-class training (to both members and non-members) across a range of business areas.
In this post-pandemic backdrop firms are continuing to face challenges such as recruitment and retention of staff. The CSA regularly engages with members (and monitor the financial service sector as a whole) to establish the areas where we can provide training and support to assist with these areas.
Naturally in 2023 the introduction of the Financial Conduct Authority’s (FCA) Consumer Duty was at the front of members’ minds, with the duty intended to set higher standards of consumer protection across financial services and deliver the best outcomes for customers.
With this in mind, the CSA identified that support was needed for frontline staff. As a result, the CSA Consumer Duty Online Training Module was developed and launched in Spring 2023. This new popular online training resource complimented the work of our existing compliance, guidance and policy work, as well as that of the Consumer Duty Resource Hub that was launched and made available exclusively to our members in 2023.
In terms of our ever-growing apprenticeship arm of our organisation, it was pleasing to see the CSA’s overall rating (from both employers and learners) on the government’s apprenticeship platform rising to the maximum four stars (‘Excellent’) based on reviews, and 2023 also saw the launch of our Level 6 Trading Standards apprenticeship.
Looking now towards 2024 – as with many organisations – we will be watching closely as Artificial Intelligence (AI) continues to develop. We need to assess and explore the role it can play in business, and also in learning and training.
AI is obviously a very fast-moving technology. It is presenting a massive challenge for providers of education and training in terms of how to deal with the more negative aspects such as plagiarism, but also how it has the potential to raise productivity in the production of learning content and increase variety and engagement for learners. Similar challenges are also being faced by the members of the CSA as they grapple with how this rapidly-evolving area can be utilised efficiently and effectively, and how it can best fit into their existing systems and processes while maintaining adherence to the aims of the Consumer Duty.
Within our department we have a member of the team who is currently undertaking a Level 5 Learning and Development Business Partner/Consultant apprenticeship, and for whom the development of AI is a key focus. I am looking forward to the innovation in learning products and services which will be the result.
AI can clearly help us to work more efficiently and effectively – however, like all tech, it’s still just a tool and ultimately it is our responsibility to learn how we use that tool effectively and safely.
In 2024 we will also be turning the spotlight on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) and how learning and development can support members as they plan for and implement the FCA’s new regulatory framework in this area.
One option we are exploring is extending the work we currently do to identify neurodiverse learners in order to continue to adapt learning content, and provide such learners with the additional support they need to ensure an equal opportunity to achieve positive outcomes.
This has the potential to be adapted and to apply it to how firms manage their workforce in terms of the training and even how they are managed on a daily basis. Transferring this approach has the potential to support the needs of individual staff and also contribute towards increased retention rates, productivity and innovation. This all feeds back in to some of the challenges currently facing firms.
The Neurodiversity at Work 2023 report by Birkbeck, University of London and commissioned by Neurodiversity in Business gathered responses from 990 neurodivergent employees/workers and 127 employers to explore retention and wellbeing. One finding of the report was that 27.7% of workers responded that they were ‘very likely to leave’ their current organization in the next 12 months.
The report also found that only 29.9% of respondents had access to ‘adjustments’ (flexible schedules, private spaces, adaption of rules etc) – with the concern about stigma and discrimination ranked highest in the list of barriers staff had in disclosing their neurodivergence.
Assisting firms to implement adjustments in the workplace could play a key role in lowering the likelihood that a neurodivergent worker may leave a company and increase levels of wellbeing and inclusion.
This all feeds back to our belief that supporting frontline staff through effective and inclusive training ultimately contributes to achieving the best outcomes for customers, and is something that we as a training provider will continue to strive for as we head into 2024.
If you would like to learn more about the CSA’s learning and development products and services you can visit our website: www.csa-uk.com/csa-learning