There are probably only two aims for a training and development programme: namely to make it work for your company and to make it work for your employees. All other benefits – and there are plenty of them – flow from that principle.
That’s why a training strategy must always be embedded in the fundamental goals of the business. Too often I’ve seen firms abandon schemes, usually on cost grounds, not because they weren’t good enough but because they didn’t fit with the direction of travel of the business. So the first imperative is to get the executive board committed and engaged in the strategic planning of the programme. But it doesn’t end there. Management also needs constant data to prove that investment in training and education is paying off.
That proof – easier recruitment, more motivated staff, better customer relations, higher profits – is the single reason, I believe, that we as a business have been able to buck the trend of the drastic cut-backs of training programmes in the claims sector. In my view you don’t protect profits by cost cutting on training but you create profit by imaginative investment in people.
Let’s be blunt about it – reduction in training isn’t good for our employees, for the quality of service we provide our customers or for our relationship with insurers. And ultimately it damages our competitiveness and profitability. However, for investment in professionalism to support business growth, there needs to be clarity about the specific training and qualifications required and the right models to deliver them.
Investment in both technical development and office-based skills, with the emphasis on qualifications, needs to be bound up with eliminating career progression barriers and establishing a pathway to the jobs that are being created within the business. Simply by equipping staff to take responsibility for their own career progression we’ve been able to promote190 people internally over the past two years, with massive savings on expensive recruitment.
Getting delivery methods right is a big factor in cost control and ultimate success. Conferences, workshops, tutorials, webinars and e-learning sites all have their strengths and weakness. There will be one solution for office staff and another for technicians in the field. Flexibility and openness to innovation are the watchwords. We like to involve clients in the training process too because it translates into a more consistent approach to handling their claims.
To illustrate the impact of a training initiative on outcomes for the entire business I’ll cite our partnership with Staffordshire University. It began just over two years ago with career talks and lectures and sponsorship of prizes. It has since blossomed into other areas, such as a two year graduate programme, which begins with developing skills across the profession and narrows down in year two to job roles relating directly to career aspirations.
The point is that we are now finding graduates coming into the industry with their eyes wide open to the opportunities whereas before there was no more than a fuzzy appreciation of what insurance was about. More recently we have developed a diploma in leadership and management programme with the university.
By carefully measuring customer-facing skills, customer-satisfaction and staff retention levels we know that these programmes are creating a strong foundation on which to grow the business. Investment in professionalism unequivocally supports business growth as well as acting as a beacon for the claims industry in attracting young, talented people.
Strengthening skills and developing talent have enabled the business to grow with ease. And we wouldn’t be doing any of it if it didn’t make economic sense for the company and for the people who work there.
CEO, Davies Group