18 Continuing professional development

Demonstrating initial and ongoing competency of our employees is one key part of regulation. Now our training and competence schemes are fully operative we may have identified areas where individuals need additional training to help them demonstrate their competency in a particular work area.

Many organisations have recognised the benefits of developing their employees and all these still apply. So while we are mindful of the need to ensure our staff are able to competently perform their job functions, we shouldn't forget the actual benefits of investing in the people who are representing our businesses.

Such benefits include: the potential for increased productivity; efficiency; enhanced level of customer service; and improving or developing staff and manager relations.

And, of course, making staff feel they are valued by investing time and money in their development.

Training and coaching
Conducting training sessions does not necessarily need to be left to a 'trainer'. You may identify an individual, or individuals, within your business who are able to share their knowledge, experience and the practical application of these to the role.

There are two key parts to helping an individual become competent in a particular work area. Training is the most obvious one. However, training alone may only do half the job.

Training can be defined as when one party imparts knowledge and/or a skill and another party acquires it. For example, teaching someone the features and benefits of a particular product (knowledge), or how to close a sale (skill).

However, the danger is that we stop the learning process at that point. Through training, an individual may have acquired sufficient knowledge to pass a competency test. But they may not necessarily be able to apply that knowledge in their day-to-day role. For example, they understand how they should close a sale, but when it comes to doing it they find it is much harder to put into practice.

This is where the second part of competency comes in: coaching.

The aim of coaching is to assist with the transfer of knowledge. It will help the individual to apply their knowledge and/or skill practically to the job and will also develop these further in order to be more effective.

Knowledge transfer

Before you start any 'training' exercise, don't assume it is training that the individual needs. It is easy to make such an assumption and then be surprised when the individual has not improved as a result.

Identify whether the individual knows what he or she needs to know and how to do it. If he or she has this knowledge you may find that coaching is what is needed, not more training. Also remember that, whether they have a need for training or coaching (or both), could well vary for different parts of their role.

There are two forms of coaching, directive and non-directive.

Directive coaching is where the coach will reach a conclusion about how the knowledge and skills should be applied to the role, and then direct the individual accordingly. This can be an appropriate method of coaching in situations where the individual has no ideas or suggestions on how to apply the knowledge to the job, either through lack of experience or even lack of confidence.

But, there are some potential disadvantages to this approach:

  • If the coach's suggestion does not work, the individual may be reluctant to ask again
  • The coach has taken responsibility for 'sorting the matter' rather than the individual taking ownership
  • It is an easy option for the individual as they do not need to think about the matter themselves and consider what may work for them.
  • Alternative suggestions
    If this approach is adopted, the coach should try to encourage the individual to participate by sharing their experiences. At the same time he or she could ask for input and alternative suggestions to find a way that will work.

    Non-directive coaching is where the coach encourages individuals to do the thinking so they identify their own solutions.

    The advantage of this approach is that there is more chance the individual will find something he or she is comfortable with and that works. It is much easier to practice a style or approach that you have thought of yourself, rather than applying somebody else's.

    In summary, while there is a regulatory need to ensure your employees can demonstrate competency, there are many other benefits to your business of investing in your people.

    Give your employees responsibility for their own learning and development and make them accountable for it. People work much harder to make their own ideas work so encourage them to drive their own learning and in return support them wherever you can. IT

    ' Elizabeth Mills is head of HR, compliance and training at The Broker Network

    CPD answers 24 February - The answer to Question 14 should have read:
    1 - By the postcode in which the vehicle is kept.