Embedding or Training?

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There is a strong school of thought within financial services businesses that it is good to train people and rightly so.  It is a complex industry where those in a client facing role especially, need to have sufficient understanding of the current legal, tax, financial and regulatory elements to ensure client’s needs are met.

There is a trend, especially in the client facing arena, to recruit those that already have the right knowledge and have undertaken some training or examinations, who can fit into the business quickly.  But even in these cases some degree of initial training is required, to acclimatise new employees to the company and its systems as well as assessing their level of knowledge and competence, identifying any development needs on the way.

In these early stages, those responsible for T&C are often heavily involved in ensuring such new recruits, however experienced, apply the training provided, so that they are able to be fully productive more quickly, for their own sanity as well as that of their sales manager.  But even once this has happened, the involvement of T&C Supervisors remains high as, until a new employee has proved themselves consistently competent, a decision cannot be made about applying a lighter supervisory touch.

During this period, the T&C Supervisor is helping to embed the provided training with the individual, to make sure that the information and processes have been covered during the initial training, are carried forward and applied in the client facing environment and to enhance both their learning and their development.

The flurry of activity often stops when the training is created and delivered, with everyone involved patting themselves on the back when it’s done, who later can’t understand why it doesn’t really seem to have worked. 

T&C Supervisors are well placed to do this because of their understanding of both business and regulatory requirements.  This is possible because T&C Supervisors are often part of the delivery mechanism for the training, either presenting it themselves, formally or as part of coaching, or they work with those who deliver training and understand important elements that need to be applied outside of the classroom.

However, once this initial well organised process is complete, the understanding within the business of the need to embed training and the potential place of T&C Supervisors to achieve this, seems all but forgotten.

Those at or near the top of a business will always be looking for ways to improve the bottom line, and one option is training, say on a new way to approach clients.  This may come from an internal assessment, or as a result of an external approach that piques their interest.  Depending on the catalyst and the size of the firm, HR may be approached to see if the training could be developed internally or should be sourced from outside. The project stable door then is firmly locked, shuttered and bolted before the horse wakes up, let alone has chance to bolt, with a virtual fence erected around the project and a large, imposing notice “No Outsiders!”.

As a result, during this feeding frenzy of senior managers negotiating budgets and HR professionals dusting off their costly but underused, CIPD training qualifications, two things are often lost:

  • What employees should be able to do that they can’t do already?
  • How to ensure the training is embedded, resulting in improved performance?

It is the FCA’s contention after all, that it’s not what training an employee has attended, but what they can do as a result, that’s important.

However, I can hear people now reading this saying, I do factor that in, it’s very important.  My response is, but do you really?  Do you set out to ensure the training is designed to reach all types of advisors, those who need pointing in the right direction and those that will make it their own?  Do you set out to measure the success of the training using a global target of say increasing sales by 4% overall, or do you set out to say that success is when every advisor’s sales have increased by a minimum of 4%?  There is a big difference between them.

The flurry of activity often stops when the training is created and delivered, with everyone involved patting themselves on the back when it’s done, who later can’t understand why it doesn’t really seem to have worked.  Perhaps they should have first remembered Alan Lakein’s statement that “Failing to plan is planning to fail”.

T&C Supervisors are ideally placed to help remind employees of training they have attended and how they might use some elements in their work, so why are they not often used in this way?  The answer might relate to the perception of T&C within a business, where it can be seen as something that has to be there because the FCA says so, or it’s to do with the quality of work rather than the sales element, so T&C can’t be relevant.

The perception of relevance is also informed by where T&C sits within a business, with the main candidates being Compliance, HR or Sales.  I won’t go into the reasons behind where T&C should or shouldn’t sit, but regardless of where that is, there are people in a T&C Supervisor role who are able to assess how well an employee deals with clients, how well they communicate and how well their approaches are received.  Apart from that they regularly observe employees and can therefore share innovation and best practice, so why wouldn’t you use such a resource as much as possible in a business?

However, to allow a T&C Team to embed learning, they do have to understand what behaviours are expected and where advisers need to be focussed following any training.  This means they either need to be involved during the planning stage, be part of the delivery team or at least, attend the training, where it is being delivered by an outside organisation, but often none of these occur.

I can’t entirely blame the business or HR for this lack of involvement, as they don’t always know or understand fully what the role and capabilities of the T&C team are.  This may come down to those in charge of T&C in the organization not reaching out to their colleagues to explain what they do, to regularly explore areas of overlap, where gaps in development may be and also what training and recruitment plans are being made.

One of the best training courses I have ever attended was as a T&C Supervisor, after I heard from one of my supervisees they were being invited on a Consultative Selling Skills course provided by an external trainer.  As I hadn’t had an invitation, I followed this up with my line manager and got agreement to cover the cost, if required, before speaking to HR and the organiser of the training, to get myself on the course.

The training proved very useful and was aimed at the wider client facing side of the business which included traditional financial advisors, pensions’ actuaries and an investment team.  The course was split into three elements; a formal interactive training, an attendee presentation and follow up telephone-based forums. The latter was a vehicle to allow attendees to share where they had been able to use part of the content, so that success and potential best practice could be shared as part of the embedding process.

I volunteered to facilitate one of the forums and having attended the course, I was able to bridge the potential disconnects between the different types of attendees and make the learning relevant.  I must have done this fairly well, based upon the praise I got at the time and the feedback that went to the business, proving that a T&C Supervisor could add more to the embedding of such training, than purely via a client observation.

My advice to those responsible for T&C in a business therefore, is to communicate with your colleagues in the client facing side and those responsible for recruitment and training, if you don’t do so already.  My advice for those in these other departments is to make themselves more aware of the capabilities of the T&C Team in helping to achieve the success of specific training initiatives.

To me, a quote from Benjamin Franklin sums up the value of maximising the effect of the embedding process:

“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”

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Derek T Davies is a freelance Consultant,Editor and Writer

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