Times are changing and more and more firms seem to be adapting their T&C schemes to accommodate moving from the traditional live competency assessments where the assessor accompanies the adviser to a client meeting into assessing meetings where the assessor is absent from the meeting but the meeting is audio recorded, with the client’s agreement, or where the meeting is both visually and audio recorded for training purposes.
Costs are the primary reason for the change, but there are other reasons too. For example some national organisations who run regular centralised employee training courses for roles covered under their T&C Scheme may find it more practical as well as less expensive to run virtual training sessions and therefore assess remotely as well. Other firms may decide that for both assessment and for audit trail purposes, as well as more practicality and costs, to record all client meetings due to the geographical locations of their client base, and also those firms who already automatically record all telephone calls might now include recording all client meetings, and incorporate this into their T&C Scheme.
This is a game-changer in a number of ways for those carrying out the requirements of the T&C Scheme for assessing competency. Assessors like myself who previously had been used to travelling to different locations around the country to conduct live competency assessments will now experience two significant benefits from these changes. For starters we won’t, for the most part, have the travelling element and the potential issues that travel can bring. This is a good move since who needs the challenges of trying to find suitable parking, trying to find a location that the satnav can’t, sitting in unexpected traffic jams or public transport delays etc. Even careful planning can go wrong sometimes! We can now conduct assessments remotely, either from an office or even by working from home, and the considerable amounts of time that the travelling took up which is unlikely to be justifiable from a commercial perspective in today’s market can now be used to conduct more assessments in the same period of time, or to undertake other T&C tasks. Planning for assessments may become easier since previously the assessor needed to be available when the adviser had a meeting upon which they could be assessed, but with recorded meetings the assessment can take place within a reasonable time period post-the meeting, so the assessors’ diary becomes more flexible and accommodating the needs to the business.
This is a game-changer in a number of ways for those carrying out the requirements of the T&C Scheme for assessing competency.
The other significant benefit is the change in the actual assessment itself. In a traditional competency assessment the assessor records what is seen and heard. We’ll come onto the seen element in a moment but with regard to what is heard, if something that either the adviser or client has said is unclear there is no means of recovering that statement, since an assessor can hardly interrupt the meeting and ask the adviser or client to repeat what they just said. But with a recorded meeting the assessor can have the recording replayed to capture or clarify exactly what was said, and even to ensure that the exact words used are documented, if necessary, for the purpose of later discussion and if necessary, training or coaching.
Whilst these benefits may seem to be a very positive move, there are always going to be elements of the assessment process that don’t benefit from the changes, so the absence of the assessor in a live competency assessment meeting may have certain drawbacks.
When the assessor is not present in the meeting certain potential useful information can no longer be captured and used in the post-meeting feedback session. This is the seen element and might include the adviser to client (or clients) seating position, which is useful to note from a delivery perspective, for example whether the client(s) can clearly see what is being shown to them, or whether the adviser has to read upside down because they’ve sat opposite rather than beside the client(s). The level of eye contact between the adviser and the client(s) cannot be noted, and neither can the clients physical reactions and responses to what the adviser is asking or saying. That said it is still possible to pick up on language employed and vocal tone to make an interpretation on the clients verbal reactions. There may be other changes too, for example the pre-meeting discussion may now have to be held by telephone, and similarly feedback post-meeting feedback may now have to be held by telephone, unless the adviser is based in the same office as the assessor.
There are advantages for the adviser as well. It’s probably fair to say that very few advisers feel comfortable with an assessor being present at a client meeting, so providing the client(s) agree to the meeting being recorded, the physical absence of the assessor should help the meeting feel more natural. Plus the adviser also won’t have to ask the clients permission in advance to the assessor’s presence.
Does it work? In my opinion, yes it does. For some processes, such as telephone advice, this is the only way to assess competency in this area, particularly when there are a number of advisers conducting a bulk exercise. For individual advice the absence of the assessor at the meeting allows greater scope for assessment, since it would now be possible to assess meetings that might not have been practical to attend before.
So is this the future of assessing in our industry? Well, that very much depends on individual firms. There is, obviously, a cost to setting up a recording facility, but the cost savings will quickly cover the costs of setting it up. The change of the assessing element within the T&C Scheme is straight-forward. As for rolling out the change of process to the advisers? You’ll know how well it is received when the cheering stops!