Hold up your hands those of you who were prepared for 2016 before the New Year started. By prepared I mean making sure that all files are set up for the New Year, all documents are dated for the New Year, and where necessary, depending on how you run the scheme, the previous year’s files are archived thus reducing the inevitable clutter in your system folders, assuming you run the scheme electronically and not manually. Most important of all, that you have a documented plan for the next twelve months. Now hold up your hands if you were ready.
Planning for the New Year should always be undertaken well in advance of the New Year starting, so that you’re ready to hit the ground running on the first day you return to work. Often this doesn’t happen for any number of reasons, for example the inevitable push to get business concluded prior to Christmas, completing the final tasks in the T&C diary, even waiting for the last set of MI. So it comes as no surprise that preparation and planning for the New Year often gets deferred until, well, you’ve guessed it, the New Year. So if you’re not completely ready for 2016, now’s the time to deal with it.
The best plans start with looking back. The chances are that the tasks in the T&C diary are going to look pretty much the same this year as they did last year, but how many of us in the T&C world review the previous year’s delivery? What went well, what didn’t go so well, and what could we have done better? It’s worth talking the time to do this since it could contain the key to how we can offer a more efficient or more effective delivery over the next twelve months.
Delivery, of course, depend on how we are required to run the T&C Scheme’ Perhaps this is a passive approach, where changes are implemented only when necessary, or perhaps it is a proactive scheme, where we can plan to make improvements to the delivery, and maybe add value too? The chances are that we are going to want to make improvements, such as changing the timing of some tasks to different months so that we don’t repeat the previous year with where members of the scheme had to complete returns such as their annual declaration and benchmarking tests in consecutive months, or perhaps one of these tasks fell during the summer holidays, thus delaying completion. Or maybe we want to revise the way that we record or communicate results from file checks and competency assessments. Whatever changes we want to make need to start at the beginning of the year, not halfway through February.
Engagement is vital to a successful outcome, and you may have other stakeholders who need to be involved with any changes that you plan to make, for example a Head of, or perhaps the HR Manager, who may also wish to have an input as well as being advised of your intentions. It could well be that if you provide T&C information to the Head of they may appreciate the opportunity to tell you how they’d like to receive that information, perhaps in a different style to how this is currently supplied. They might also require more or even less information. The HR Manager might not be advised when individuals pass exams, so a process to pass this information on could be agreed. Most importantly, don’t forget the scheme members. You won’t want have your changes open to discussion, but you should at least see what feedback you get. Positioned well and communicated in advance of implementation demonstrates that you have considered their interests as well, and decreases the inevitable challenges. After all, the last thing you need is prolonged delays.
I will be expanding on a stance that it’s not what you see in front of you when looking at the file, but what you don’t see
Now you might at this point be thinking that this is all standard stuff. Best practice and all that. And you’d be right, it is. But equally you might be surprised at how many people are not prepared for the New Year. I’ve worked with people who don’t prepare, and still do.
I mentioned earlier the term “adding value”. Personally I see no point in just doing a piece of work unless I can add value, so here’s some examples of changes that I’ve already set up for 2016, and how they can add value.
Some Advisers I work with tend to concentrate on the obvious opportunity or just the subject that the client wishes to discuss, and the file will then reflect this. In 2016 at each file check review I will be expanding on a stance that it’s not what you see in front of you when looking at the file, but what you don’t see and, though having a discussion with the Adviser in which questions are asked about certain aspects of the clients’ circumstances that are perhaps less well covered, this may encourage the Adviser to go back and do the same with the client, and could lead to further business, as well as better documented KYC on that file and also future files.
I’ll be working with a new Supervisor this year whom I know appreciates T&C information that they can read at a glance, so to cover this I have built a “dashboard” that provides a complete overview on one page. I have also planned and changed the accompanying detail, for example information on the file checks, competency assessments, and customer surveys feedback, so that this builds up over the year on a monthly by month basis, as opposed to it being in the previous current month only format. And for the competency assessments themselves I have taken December out of scope to avoid receiving invites to accompany advisers to a client meeting at the last minute. Of course I will do assessments in December to ensure completion, but I won’t communicate that unless absolutely necessary.
For another client for whom I conduct regular roleplay assessments at their training centre which are pre-set back to back product deliveries I have proposed splitting the roleplays into single product deliveries which would make the roleplays shorter but snappier and offer the delegates more opportunities to concentrate on each product more. Although only at discussion stage everything is ready and I could implement the changes tomorrow if directed to.
Not everyone will have been prepared for the New Year. In mid-December 2015 I asked a group of advisers if they had prepared their 2016 business plans, with the aim of getting these linked to their Training Needs and CPD objectives. None had even drafted their business plan, and some even said that when they did it would look very much like the previous year’s plan. So you can guess where that will be heading.
Perhaps if we’re prepared for the New Year, we can encourage other to be prepared as well?