Royal & Sunalliance believes that learning is not just about ongoing training, but the application of knowledge in real-life situations. So, reports Amanda Swinburn, its new Insurance College is structured to teach staff skills they really can use in the workplace….

Royal & Sunalliance (RSA) has always tried to stay ahead of its rivals in the area of staff training. Last month, RSA's Underwiting

College became the broader-based Insurance College, with new faculties in claims, business development and risk control.

To contain costs and allow as many staff as possible to undertake the courses, the college's “Recognising Brilliance” programme will be delivered in the workplace, through outside training events and over an intranet.

The virtual college has been created by technical staff, as opposed to human resources staff, to help employees improve their skills in the workplace.

The Underwriting College is now one of the Insurance College's four faculties. According to the managing director of the UK Commercial sector, Duncan Boyle, the strategy is to take lessons learned there and apply these in the three new faculties.

Each faculty has a steering group responsible for developing and implementing the technical training.

Members of the group will come from across the UK Commercial business. They will also consult with other areas of business across the UK and worldwide, to keep students up to date on core skills and professional issues.

“RSA is a global company, so colleagues in Australia and the US can exchange information with us,” says technical training and development manager Fiona Andrews.

“When we develop a module, there is no end to whom can use it.”

Technical training
The technical training will be divided into three segments. The first, core skills, teaches the fundamentals of the four disciplines. These skills are transferable between a wide range of roles within RSA.

Developing expertise is the next stage, and it builds on core skills. It also introduces account management, business management and strategic claims management.

Finally, business management focuses on the knowledge and skills required for managers in any of the four areas.

The first two stages will be delivered locally by training experts. The final, business management phase will be taught via training and residential events, enhanced by e-learning solutions transferred to individuals' desktops.

Courses are written for a wide range of students, from technical underwriters and claims handlers to account managers.

“The new faculties provide us with a greater opportunity to put Royal & Sunalliance in an stronger trading position and will contribute to a sustained competitive advantage through the superior knowledge of our people,” says Andrews.

There is no restriction on anyone participating in any type of training, as long as it is appropriate to both their needs and the needs of the business.

Continual development
RSA puts much emphasis on transferable skills in the workplace. For this reason, all teaching materials will incorporate assessment methods that will be directly related to team and business objectives.

The insurer believes that learning is not just about attending training events, but also the practical implementation of knowledge in the everyday working environment.

Therefore, teaching and development is linked to a continual professional development programme, in which employees are supervised by a manager and assessed on their

competence and performance.

All learning materials incorporate assessment methods that are directly related to team and business objectives.

Materials to be used include CD-Roms, reading materials, videos, websites, workshops, residential courses, interactive work books and intranet discussion forums.

Half- and one-day seminars will also be held by the Insurance College around the country.

This enables online learning to be done in conjunction with classroom learning, where necessary.

“We believe there will always be a need for people to get together, network and exchange information,” explains Andrews.

Individual modules
Students can choose from a range of modules to update their skills, including business negotiation units, technical induction and various seminars.

The new business development faculty will include modules on sales, account planning, finance, marketing and relationship management.

The claims faculty will cover the Road Traffic Act, core claims handling for motor and property and new claims innovation.

Risk control will include specialist modules on crime, risk management for IT and motor fleets and material damage.

Can-do attitude
Boyle says the Insurance College fits in well with RSA's overall game plan. “It is yet further evidence of our can-do attitude and is a practical manifestation of the fact that the whole UK environment is being turned around,” he says. “If you look at UK Commercial as a whole, there is no other organisation in the UK that can deliver the sort of capabilities we can.”

It is clear that RSA sets much store by investing in its people to allow them to maximise their capabilities and improve their careers through a wide range of training channels.

The Insurance College and its new curriculum help to build on existing knowledge, and make the learning process accessible from the desktop.

Yet is has not forgotten the importance of face-to-face learning and seminars, which allow the exchange of ideas and information.

The ethos of the college – that training is an ongoing process and needs to be updated and subject to innovation – sets a standard for the rest of the industry to follow.