Over the past few months we have concentrated on the basics of training and competence: explaining why job specifications are so vital and what competence means.

Starting this week, I want to take a look at the ways that you can begin to develop learning materials for your own firm and why you should consider this as an option.Historically, a lot of money has been wasted on 'sheep-dip' style training - the sort where you pay an enormous amount for a course which will probably only be 10% relevant to your staff. Because there is a lack of post-course evaluation by the firms paying for the training, you will be unaware of whether or not the training given has met the specific needs of learners, or addressed the issues that needed to be addressed.In fact, 'sending Jim on a course' is an easy and painless way to get rid of the problem - but it looks impressive when presented to an outsider. I am frequently told by firms that they are serious about training and given lists of courses which staff are able to decide they want to go on. At no point is an assessment made of:

  • The actual training need
  • Whether or not the course is relevant
  • Whether the course is suited to the preferred learning style of the employee
  • Whether there are alternative (and more effective) methods of achieving the learning goal.
  • For these reasons, I want you to consider the following: Jim has just had his annual appraisal and has requested further training in a number of areas, including business interruption policies, public liability cover and telephone skills. You need to:
  • Identify the relevancy of these to Jim's current job role
  • Identify the gap between the required standard of performance and Jim's current performance
  • Identify the best learning method for Jim and how that fits with the subject matter
  • Identify other members of staff who would benefit from similar development.
  • Let's look at these individually. When we are considering the issue of regulatory competence, we need to be identifying the areas that are fundamental to the job itself. This means identifying what is necessary for Jim to be able to do or to know, against what would be a nice addition to his knowledge or skill set. Development of employees is important in all kinds of ways, but it is a waste of time and money to look at future development until we are satisfied that Jim can competently and consistently do the job for which he is employed.So, in this instance, let's look at his requests.Business Interruption: he has just started working with a team that sells this. His basic knowledge seems good, but he needs to develop some more advanced knowledge of the subject in order to become a fully independent member of the team We'll rank this as number one in terms of importance.Public liability: this is an area that Jim would like to develop into. Currently, you have enough experienced and competent people dealing in this area, so he is unlikely to need this knowledge any time soon. We'll rank this as number three on the list.Telephone skills: Jim's supervisor has noticed that he sometimes has trouble dealing with phone inquiries and is easily bullied by insistent callers. Given that using the telephone is a major element of his job role, we'll rank this as number two on the list.So, for the purposes of this exercise, we will put the public liability training on the back burner for now. It could usefully form part of Jim's longer term development plans, but there are more burning issues to be addressed for now.

    Identify the performance gapThis is where the job specification will be critical, along with the benchmarks you have decided are relevant to your firm. We need to ensure, from a regulatory perspective, that Jim has the underlying knowledge of insurance matters, together with specific knowledge of professional indemnity to enable him to perform his role without an unacceptable risk either to the customer or to the firm. Since this issue is about knowledge, the easiest way to identify what Jim doesn't know (much more important than identifying what he does know!) is by setting him a knowledge test. However, there are a number of methods of doing this. You could ask him questions face-to-face, or, probably the simplest solution, let him take a multiple choice test that is set at the level of knowledge that he needs to have.

    Preferred learning methodHaving identified the gap(s) in knowledge, you will need to decide the best method for Jim to learn. Ask him what he prefers. Online learning? Reading? Lunchtime lectures? Formal teaching? Bear in mind that you will be repeating this exercise for the telephone skills issue. With practical skills, there may be limits to the methods that can be adopted for Jim to learn: he might be able to get some theoretical knowledge from a book, but ultimately he will have to practice the skills.Let's suppose that Jim tells you that he quite likes reading as a way of acquiring knowledge, but also enjoys going online to test his knowledge. A simple plan of action might be to enroll him on the relevant CII module, for example P10, An Introduction to Commercial General Insurance, depending on the level at which he will be expected to function. You might be subscribing to an online system such as brokerASSESS, which will enable you to set both pre and post learning assessments. There are other systems available, or you may decide that, because of the number of potential learners for this subject in the firm, you are going to create your own training module and design assessment questions to go with it.

    Identify other learnersFirst, this may make the whole exercise more cost-effective and second, often people enjoy the challenge of learning together. This can be a useful opportunity to kill several birds with one stone.In the next CPD T&C article we will look at how to go about developing your own training and assessment materials.Kate Foreman is director of training and competence with the RWA Group

  • This page is edited by RW Associates, specialists in training, compliance and competence. Email: ruy.lopez@brokercompliance.co.uk
  • Using this CPD pageFor the vast majority of practitioners and indeed support and supervisory staff in our industry, CPD is about regular learning and study that is planned, recorded, timed and evaluated. If you are a member of a professional body with a CPD requirement then there will be certain rules regarding the quality and nature of study material, and the way in which it is recorded.For staff of GISC members this means recording on your individual training file what the learning was, who provided it and when.It might be structured, such as a course, a learning programme or exam study. But it can be unstructured. This form of study encompasses reading the trade press, technical material or taking part in activities to support your professional body. Some CPD requirements are points related (a little antiquated) and others require a time value to be allocated. For example, it might take one hour to read Insurance Times each week. Most of that could be put as a time value but, in reality, perhaps only an half hour was devoted to learning something. The rule is to be honest with yourself and record the time that is relevant. Always take time to make a note of what you felt you gained from the activity. This is useful information for anyone else considering the same activity.In response to the popularity of our CPD programme each week's CPD page can now be downloaded from our website.To download a PDF of this article as it appears in the magazine click here