Independent training companies came under the spotlight at the recent CII Conference. Waltham Pitglow explains the dangers of their 'tick-box' approach to recommended training

At the CII conference last week the hottest topic of discussion among the training specialists attending was training needs analysis.A particular story that came from a broker struck me as a very healthy warning that readers might benefit from. The broker had allowed his staff to undergo a 'tick-box' training need analysis by a training firm. The firm's trainers had recommended a raft of training at fairly substantial cost.The point that the broker made was that perhaps there is something of a conflict of interest if the training company, whose job is the selling of training, is undertaking such an analysis.The reality is of course that independent analysis tools are available via the likes of BrokerASSESS. So as far a technical knowledge and understanding is concerned, brokers should be able to measure gaps in knowledge and choose how to fill those gaps, often without the cost of what could be over-expensive external training.To some extent the better training companies are changing their tune on this question of who (or what system) should undertake the needs analysis. We as a firm are looking more and more at the results of independent or in-house knowledge assessments before recommending training programmes.But that of course is only half the problem and this was highlighted by the FSA presentation on training and competence at the CII conference.A delegate asked the FSA panel: "Does the FSA really mean 'training' when it uses the word or does it accept that the more modern reference to 'learning' (which includes training) is the more ideal word." The response was the correct one in that the FSA, like many others, uses the word 'training' as a generic word to encompass all forms of learning.

Learning points that arose

  • 1 Beware the tick box training needs analysis. It might be ok, but isn't that how the pensions mis-selling era began?
  • 2 Look out for the training provider that might not be quite so independent in identifying the training you need
  • 3 Face-to-face training away from the desk should be carefully selected - are there more appropriate solutions to fill knowledge and skills gaps?
  • 4 Consider that a learning style needs analysis is just as critical - the FSA make specific reference to the subject when it says "at intervals appropriate to the circumstances, determine the training needs of those employers and organise appropriate training to address those needs……a firm should use methods of meeting training needs that are appropriate to the activity and to the employees circumstances and role".
  • What the experts said

  • "Everyone seems to forget on-the-job training that goes on all the time in the general insurance industry. It costs nothing, we just have to write down what we do" - A lead underwriter from Lloyd's
  • "I don't do computers, but these online knowledge assessments have picked holes in my lack of knowledge of how basic principles of insurance have been changed over 30 years and I now have a copy of the text book by my bed" - an elderly practitioner.
  • So, does this mean that face-to-face training has no place? Absolutely not. It will be required if someone is new to a job, if there is a new subject, a change of job, or a major up dating of knowledge or skills.Just make sure you buy sensibly. If you want to see how the quality outfits go about their business, go to the CII website (www.cii.co.uk) and look at its new training directory. The CII is not the only provider of face-to-face training, there are some very professional firms out there, large and small. I do not agree with the concept that one cannot have a training needs analysis by the company providing the training. That is a little extreme. But persuasive salespeople are in our midst, which in my view is fine as long as the need is honestly and competently identified and met.Which leads finally to the Faculty of Insurance Brokers which was exclusively reported here two weeks ago. This is a very exciting venture. It has a high quality board, representative of the industry. Andrew Paddick has given his backing and FSA high street firms head Sarah Wilson gave similar support. Bear in mind that this will not be a trade association, but a standards and education and learning body. It
  • Waltham Pitglow is an independent training and compliance consultant
  • "Persuasive salespeople are in our midst, which is fine as long as the need is honestly and competently identified and met"