Building a Successful Upskilling Strategy in the Financial Sector
With businesses still reeling from the pandemic and lockdown measures, traditional forms of training and upskilling have been revised to fit the new financial climate.
Steven Cox, chief evangelist at IRIS HR Consulting, offers Finance Monthly his advice on how financial services firms can improve their teams’ skills during uncertain times.
One crisis seems to beget another. Regarding the recent drama from the pandemic, which has become a health, economic and social crisis in one rapid, unfortunate development, companies are feeling pressured to anticipate, if not respond to, sweeping change.
Nowhere more is this prevalent than in the financial sector, where harmony must be struck between long-term investment and sustainability and quicker short-term targets. Likewise, a nationwide economic recovery has been, for many, a growing point of focus and alarm.
Financial service firms must keep pace – not only at an organisational level, but also in how they upskill their people. The trouble is that these investments will not mature until long into the future, which does not resolve the urgency of short-term financial targets that ensures the routine running of many private firms.
Is upskilling and cross-pollinating timely skills the best immediate solution for private firms in the financial sector?
Skills need to be developed and shared. With swift economic changes afoot, the firms that are more capable of navigating the crisis seem to be those willing to embrace new skills, especially those that relate to digital technology. Only 17% of CEOs in the financial services sector believe their organisation has made significant progress in areas such as improving workers’ and leaders’ knowledge of technology, according to the PWC’s 23rd Annual Global CEO Survey.
Traditionally, when an employer wants to upskill their workforce, they offer training as a means to reinforce existing skills, while introducing new ones. Rather than seeing the workforce as something fixed, firms are relearning how to flexibly embrace and nurture new skills when they need it most. New ideas about collaboration – such as academic partnerships – are less effective than instilling the required skills in your full-time workforce.
With swift economic changes afoot, the firms that are more capable of navigating the crisis seem to be those willing to embrace new skills, especially those that relate to digital technology.
Upskilling does not have to feel out of reach for many firms. A willingness to listen and learn about new strategies could be the difference between a firm that flourishes and one that flounders. Yet, with certain key tips, your firm could learn to cultivate a culture of success both in the office and beyond it.
1. Micro-learning for those who are time-poor.
Those eager to upskill will likely face the trouble of time, or lack thereof. Is your team already busy, making upskilling a riddle for a fully booked diary?
Micro-learning is a digestible way of intaking new skills without requiring the larger allocations of time. This form of learning enables your employees to pick-up new skills at their own pace. Training is delivered in smaller, manageable slots of time, so that employees can test and acquire new skills in-between the gaps of their diaries.
Encourage staff to make the most of their existing breaks, or gaps in the scheduling, and use this time to pick up and learn new skills that could shape the outcomes of your firm.
2. Empower mentorship to spread skills.
One of your most powerful means of spreading skills across the workforce is to evaluate and embrace the existing strengths of it. This is one of the easiest, most reliable, and cheaper forms of upskilling – and it embraces the resources you already have access to. Encouraging cross-pollination in the workplace can generate impressive results: it means passing on wisdom, key knowledge, and skills that help reach shared goals.
This format of upskilling is especially helpful for new hires or arrivals into your business, where an employee can pick-up your brand through a cross-pollination of skills, knowledge, and wisdom much more easily through a mentorship programme.
A willingness to listen and learn about new strategies could be the difference between a firm that flourishes and one that flounders.
In fact, ideas of mentorship are a growing preference for many young professionals eager and willing to absorb new skills.
3. A collaborative culture is a productive one.
A resourceful business is one that understands the capacities, as much as the limits, of its own workforce and tools. Many professionals underscore collaboration as a critical ingredient in successful culture of work, but it represents a spirit that is not easy to capture, much less to harness.
A collaborative culture can ensure that skills pass around a team of any size with minimal regulation. Involve your HR team in this strategy, or consult a third-party HR consulting expert, and render information (company policies, for example) accessible through the local intranet, or shared storage, so that employees can thrive in an information-rich setting.
4. Listen to the experts.
Physical meetings where knowledge is gathered and shared, like public lectures, are all migrating online, and are now accessible through apps. The greatest benefit of this kind of exposure to new skills and ideas is how portable and accessible training has become. There is a wealth of expert platforms to draw skills from, depending on your desired learning outcomes.
Sometimes the expertise can come from within. Encourage staff to trade and exchange their skills locally and through sharing platforms – like its intranet. As with mentorship, encourage those with the desired skills to make them accessible to others across your business. Your HR team can facilitate this process by encouraging teams who do not normally contact one another to connect through new platforms and share their skills and ideas.
5. Develop one skill at a time.
Identify the strengths you would like your business to absorb and plan a roadmap to achieving this new skill expansion. A strategy is an effective vehicle for mobilising skill across larger workforces, where the likes of progress monitoring can ensure that skills are being absorbed and applied at the right pace.
Upskilling should always be a focused effort, taking careful priority that skill retention is not sacrificed for expediated learning. Managing your skills expansion into digestible learning opportunities can ensure the effectiveness of each employee’s training.
For an expert way of managing this, trial objectives per employee that acknowledge new skills and give them opportunities to apply these new skills around the office (and within their own workflows).