Training and competency should forever be intertwined, and the success of any T&C management initiative hinges on a culture that supports learning. Ruairi Nash, Star's resident expert on all things individual accountability and training and competency, explains
Training and competency can be a challenge for many firms, as there's no one-size-fits-all solution. Development efforts must continuously adapt and evolve, lest training becomes outdated or unengaging. Even when competency is achieved, it still requires both the individual and the firm to work together to maintain and increase employee competency and capability, and to continue to raise the performance bar. T&C management, then, is a never-ending project, often complicated by a myriad of internal and external factors.
THE CORE PAIN POINTS OF T&C MANAGEMENT
From a leadership and compliance perspective, the complexities involved in training and competency can be wide-ranging. Depending on the nature of the T&C requirements, the challenge could relate purely to managing the risk of individuals or to maintaining the oversight necessary for monitoring the ever-changing regulatory landscape. Such a task is more challenging when a firm spans multiple jurisdictions and regulatory requirements.
Complicating matters further is financial services' typically heavy employee workloads. Mandatory tasks related to said employees' jobs must be performed first and foremost, often leaving limited time for competency development. But if everyone is underperforming, managers themselves are tasked with more work to bring their teams up to acceptable levels. While this kind of process may keep your firm from running into regulatory problems, having managers constantly play regulatory catchup is not a productive use of time and resources.
Another pain point is keeping up with a changing status quo. Roles and responsibilities within your firm can constantly change. Realignments within the organization can be quite common, as can team expansion. Staying on top of new responsibilities as your remit changes is challenging enough. When you factor in the training and competency of employees, the process becomes even more time-consuming.
Finally, firms often face difficulties when trying to fit T&C management onto an existing compliance framework. Compliance must be instilled into firm culture from the start. Consider this from Aristotle: “Virtues are formed in man by his doing the actions.” Or, put more simply by Will Durant: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit.” To establish such a habit, firms require a framework or operating system that is specifically built to ensure and remedy gaps in competency. Only then can compliance officers arrive at the proper metrics, identify opportunities for improvement, and ensure processes hold up under scrutiny.
UNCOMPLICATING AN OFTEN COMPLICATED PROCESS
Historically, training and ongoing competency management have been seen as a burden: a necessary obligation to meet regulatory requirements. In some organizations, there's a split between the training and competency element and the performance-management element: where performance (the what) will always trump compliance or behaviors (the how). Such a stigma drives poor behavior from the person being developed. It can do the same for managers responsible for maintaining the competence level of their staffs. There are ways, however, to uncomplicate this process. When initiating T&C management efforts, try the following:
1. BUILD A CULTURE OF LEARNING
It’s no secret that training and competency play a critical role in employee success. When woven into the fabric of a firm, however, T&C takes on greater meaning. Learning and development becomes a strategic asset, and your team adopts an almost independent quest for knowledge. They seek out opportunities to continually improve and then find ways to apply those skills to advance operational goals. Set the tone from the top by practicing what you preach. Make training opportunities available, reward continuous learning, and educate employees on the importance of T&C. More importantly, hire right from the very start. If you bring in talent with an innate sense of curiosity, it often takes less time and effort to train and develop their skills.
2. DEFINE THE DESIRED OUTCOMES
To drive the overall purpose of the T&C management framework, and better focus your efforts, you must arrive at a consensus on the desired outcomes. What do they look like, for firm and client alike? The framework should support both. When you arrive at a final answer, provide examples that employees can adopt and emulate.
3. REMOVE BARRIERS TO PARTICIPATION
If people view an activity as something that must be done, with no understanding its value, a disconnect forms. But it's one that can be bridged by way of centralization. A centralized compliance system for processes and data provides all the right stakeholders with the accessibility necessary to support a T&C management framework. Employees are also kept in the know, and it becomes much easier to identify knowledge gaps.
4. MAKE THE INVESTMENT IN AUTOMATION
Remove the paper burden and manual lift from your team by investing in smart tools and software solutions. Compliance management software can streamline processes, provide greater visibility into compliance performance, and house all compliance requirements in one place. It can also surface information vital to compliance, allowing it to act quickly and intervene when necessary, even proactively and preemptively.
5. SELL THE VISION OF TRAINING AND COMPETENCY
If you create a good T&C management framework and support it with a good software system, you’re saving money by having a centralized function. Further, employing a truly effective risk-based approach can only be achieved by having a powerful tool at the center of it. With such a tool, you can demonstrate good control immediately, breeding confidence and building competence, capability, and capacity. Otherwise, you must scale up your resource to provide the oversight necessary to monitor your whole network, i.e., advisors, branches, offices. With time, you will witness a return on investment and can grow and scale efficiently and effectively.