How to Make Training Effective in 2022
Beverly Flaxington is a practice management consultant. She answers questions from advisors facing human resource issues. To submit yours, email us here.
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We spent a small fortune in 2020 and 2021 on training for our advisors. We need them to get better at business building and finding new sales opportunities. Only a couple took the material and ran with it. The others reject everything we offer, saying their job description is not as a salesperson. I’ve read much of what you have written about the changing competitive landscape and how financial and advisory firms are asking more of their advisors – and most are asking for new business. It’s not like these advisors can go somewhere else and just service clients; they are going to be asked to sell wherever they go.
I know you can’t force people, and there are carrot and stick options. But I resent having invested so much money giving advisors the tools they need, and yet they reject what we’ve done.
I’ve seen firms spend tens of thousands of dollars on training and get no results. It is very frustrating for the leaders who are trying to support their team members and give them the tools they need. When it comes to behavior change, there are two main factors to consider – one is whether someone has the skills necessary to do the job. This is where training comes into play. I’ll mention more on this a bit later.
The other factor is whether the individual has the motivation or the desire to make the change. This is the harder issue to address and cannot be trained. If team members have not embraced the need to learn, grow and change and they are not motivated to do so, they will present obstacles to success. Many of these obstacles will be true and relevant, so don’t ignore them. But many of them will be owing to the fact your team members don’t care to make the changes you are requesting. In any behavior-change program, if you don’t have an individual who admits they need to learn something new and implement it, you won’t see much progress. It’s hard to tell another individual to become motivated. Better to create an environment within which they are self-motivated.
On the skill aspect, learning new things and being able to do them are two different issues. You can listen and learn but not ever know how you can implement what you’ve learned so it fits your situation. This is the problem with most packaged training. It doesn’t acknowledge the individual learning environment for your participants. Take our profession as an example. If you are an advisor for a bank versus an RIA, the jargon and the experience will be very different. The term “advisor” might fit both, but the process of implementing new ideas will be dramatically different. Customizing training so it fits your team, your firm and their experiences is key. To illustrate how powerful this is, I was once asked to deliver time management training to a property management company. It isn’t my industry or area of focus, but I do know how to give good time tips and tricks. I spoke to a handful of people who were in that industry to learn their jargon and their needs. When I delivered the training, I incorporated most of my core material but customized it to address what I had heard from conversations. At the end of the session, a number of team members came up to tell me how excited they were to have a property management expert speak to them! This showed me firsthand the importance of caring about your audience and taking the time to modify and meld material to their needs.
Make sure what you have trained advisors on is relevant to them.
Don’t ask them to sit through training with professional trainers, but rather with experts in the material and the industry. In training, advisors want to know exactly how to apply new ideas with what they are doing now, or what to trade out for the new approach. Have someone deliver the training who takes the time to understand the advisors day-to-day and who cares enough about their specific experiences not just to “train” new information but to ensure it is understood.
Make sure the training you provided was delivered by someone who took the time to understand your team.
Training does not equal behavior change. If I were to sit through an online session to learn to speak Spanish this week and I diligently went through all of the training and did the exercises and practiced out loud, if I didn’t have a chance to incorporate into my daily life or practice more frequently, I would not remember anything I had learned. Training must be supplemented with sustainability in the form of reminders, updates, or practice sessions. It isn’t enough to tell people what they need to do. Advisors know what they need to do; they just don’t know how to do it and don’t have a mechanism to weave it into their daily life. If your training experience did not include either coaching, or practice sessions, or updates or follow-up then likely you are investing a lot of money for good information without a place to put this new information in the existing workload.
Support training by other activities to help advisors to implement and make the material come alive and be real in their day-to-day work.
Training isn’t a thing. Learning is the thing. We don’t train people like we train dogs or other animals. A person has to want to learn. They have to be open to learning. You have to provide them with information and an approach that makes them ask for more. This requires knowledge of human behavior. Adult learning principles tell us that once we get past college-age we don’t take in new information unless it is relevant and meaningful to us. If we can discard it, we will. To turn training into a learning experience, make sure the material you are presenting is understandable to the audience. We talk about chunking wherein you take a larger idea and make it much smaller, so it is bite-sized pieces. If a person is trying to learn new material and you start somewhere they don’t understand from the outset, you’ve lost your audience. Having a clear path for learning with an outline, clear steps and chunked material to ingest and utilize is key.
Lastly, train your advisors on what is useful, relevant, interesting and chunked enough so they can take small steps and master small things to ultimately learn large scale behavior change.
Discard the idea you have trained your advisors despite the money you have spent. Find out why they are not embracing the new approach and what steps you might want to take to pique their interest and grab their attention. Your advisors should leave each learning experience wanting to try something new because they see how it will benefit them and their clients directly. Make sure it is about them, and not just about you and the firm’s needs for additional revenue. As with anything in life, the more you can make it about the audience, the more the audience will care about what you have to offer.
Beverly Flaxington co-founded The Collaborative, a consulting firm devoted to business building for the financial services industry in 1995. The firm also founded and manages the Advisors Sales Academy. She is currently an adjunct professor at Suffolk University teaching undergraduate and graduate students Entrepreneurship and Leading Teams. Beverly is a Certified Professional Behavioral Analyst (CPBA) and Certified Professional Values Analyst (CPVA).
She has spent over 25 years in the investment industry and has been featured in Selling Power Magazine and quoted in hundreds of media outlets, including The Wall Street Journal, MSNBC.com, Investment News and Solutions Magazine for the FPA. She speaks frequently at investment industry conferences and is a speaker for the CFA Institute.