Professional development has many benefits for an organisation, which extend beyond the career progression of individual staff. This applies to the financial services sector as much as to other industries.
So where’s development needed?
Financial leasing companies and the life insurance sector continue to remain buoyant in Chinaand there is a big shortage of accountancy and finance professionals with a track record in financial reporting. There is also a need for candidates with strong product knowledge, solid accounting skills, and compliance and treasury accounting expertise.
By providing ongoing professional development, a financial services organisation ensures it has the skills and capabilities needed and that all employees are making the best contribution possible. Development programmes in financial sectors can take several forms: job rotation within different functions; mentorship by senior colleagues; on-the-job training; corporate, college or external training opportunities (e.g. GAAP, tax policy, time management); sponsorship for further degrees or certification (e.g. ACCA, CIMA and CFA, CIA); and last but not least, having a process to track and review development.
If you consider the increasing trend of candidates keeping their eye on the job market in response to a lack of career development over recent years, then it’s also a proven strategy to aid in staff retention and motivation.
Here are my five tips for any firm looking to implement a professional development programme:
Identify and track development needs
Sit down with employees individually to discuss and agree on their career development and career goals. Use performance appraisals, formal and informal discussions, and feedback from colleagues and customers to track and review development needs. Find out what motivates individual employees. For example, one person may be motivated by a fast-tracked development programme to senior management, but a less-ambitious employee could be encouraged to take on additional or different responsibilities.
Set clear expectations
Professional development does not only involve training. It is as much about an employee’s ability to see a clear path of progress and to know exactly what he or she needs to do to achieve it. So set clear expectations for each individual’s professional development pathway.
Having a process to track and review development is critical; it is far better to invest in development that is actually required rather than perceived to be so.
Training that works
Identify the most suitable training. Set clear objectives so that everyone can be involved in measuring its effectiveness. Remember, training doesn’t always have to be in the classroom. Coaching can be directed to many different scenarios, from correcting poor performance (one to one is usually more effective) to improving motivation and encouraging employees to find their own answers.
Another common development strategy is the use of mentorships. Less experienced employees can gain from the knowledge of more experienced colleagues through such programmes. The informal nature of information exchange and the relationship basis of mentoring, allows a firm to retain knowledge, such as why reports are written in a particular way, or who to contact for particular information. Mentorships also allow your business to retain technical knowledge. In terms of overall productivity, this in itself has obvious benefits.
Simon Lance, regional director of Hays in China.