Today’s work landscape is incredibly competitive when it comes to attracting and retaining top talent, and this is especially true for the financial services industry. While the peak of the Great Resignation seems to have passed, employee turnover is still a significant issue in the finance industry. According to data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in May 2022, 220,000 people left their jobs in the sector. And with fintech companies continuing to rise in prominence, traditional finance companies are having to do everything they can to stay competitive. One of the key strategies for achieving this is investing in learning and development (L&D).
Below, we’ll take a closer look at why learning and development is so important for financial services companies, what the benefits are, and which L&D topics financial firms need to be covering to drive results.
Why Learning and Development Is So Important for Financial Services Firms
Investing in your employees’ professional growth is important for any business. But it’s particularly important for companies in the financial services sector — an industry that needs to foster and grow talent, while also abiding by strict rules and regulations.
“The financial services industry is in a unique position right now, requiring employees that are both knowledgeable and capable of executing processes in compliance with regulations, while also innovating in service of developing new products and attracting new customer bases,” said Rachel Cooke, founder of Lead Above Noise, a consultancy that specializes in retaining, engaging, and developing talent. “Leaders and their teams need to understand regulations, but also have capability around decision-making, risk-assessing, experimenting, learning from failure, communicating with customers and regulators, and much more — all within a world that is constantly evolving.”
The key to attaining this balance is learning and development. “L&D is the ideal engine for delivering knowledge, information, and tools, but also a space for practice, problem-solving, peer coaching and support, best-practice sharing, confidence-building, and accountability,” Cooke said.
A comprehensive learning and development strategy can ensure that financial services workers not only have the knowledge and skills they need to effectively do their jobs (and abide by any regulatory restrictions and requirements while they do it), but are also growing and evolving in a way that helps the company stay competitive.
“L&D is no longer [simply] ‘training,’ but truly an engine for action and behavior change,” said Cooke.
The Benefits of L&D for Financial Services
“Targeted L&D builds skills and capabilities…arming employees and leaders with knowledge and tools that enhance performance,” noted Cooke. Research backs this up: According to a 2020 report from PwC, 30% of CEOs of companies with defined upskilling programs said the program increased employee productivity.
Learning and development can also help drive employee engagement. “Providing opportunities for employees to explore new things expands their knowledge, encourages peer collaborations, and empowers employees…[which] boosts workplace engagement,” said Erika Duncan, cofounder of HR consultancy People On Point.
L&D also improves employee engagement by making employees feel valued. “Employees want to feel invested in by their employers,” said Cooke. “They want to believe their employer cares about their growth and success.”
That increased engagement offers additional benefits to the organization. “Engaged employees exert more discretionary effort,” Cooke said. “[They] are more likely to go above and beyond…they are more innovative, more collaborative, and more invested in customer outcomes. All of this benefits the company.”
Lastly, learning and development can help reduce employee turnover. According to a 2019 report from recruitment and staffing firm Tandym Group, a whopping 86% of workers said that they would change jobs if a new company offered them more opportunities for professional development. This shows that if you want to keep top talent with your company, investing in their professional growth is critical.
“With the market as competitive as it is in 2022, organizations need to show tangible investment [in] and commitment to employees to reduce turnover and keep engaged employees motivated,” Duncan said.
5 L&D Topics Every Financial Services Company Needs to Cover
One of the most important parts of building a learning and development strategy that has a positive impact on your team — and your financial services organization as a whole — is focusing on the right topics. There are a number of key L&D topics that are important to focus on in the financial service industry, including:
1. Ethics and Regulatory Issues
As mentioned, the financial industry is bound by certain regulatory and ethical practices, and it’s crucial for every employee to understand what those rules, regulations, and ethical standards are. Investing in a comprehensive learning and development program around ethics and regulatory issues within the financial industry (as well as rules, regulations, and ethical standards for specific job roles, like financial advisors), can help to ensure “all finance staff are equipped with the tools to be successful and keep the company and themselves out of legal trouble,” said Duncan.
2. Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) needs to be at the top of learning and development priority lists in every industry, including finance. DE&I training can help to create a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive culture. And when that training extends to all employees, it will create more diverse, equitable, and inclusive practices across your entire organization, from hiring processes and benchmarks to how managers communicate with their employees.
3. Digital Accessibility
Digital accessibility is the practice of designing technology-based products and services that allow people with disabilities to access and use them without any barriers or issues. The right learning and development initiatives — for example, training around the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines — can teach employees how to make digital financial products and services more accessible for people with disabilities. This is essential for any employee who’s involved in the tech side of your business, like web developers and IT personnel.
Employees in the financial services industry deal with a lot of sensitive financial information, and it’s imperative that they know how to keep that information safe. Learning and development programs around cybersecurity can empower employees with the knowledge, information, and tools they need to better navigate the digital space, and keep company information safe while they do so.
5. Delivering Feedback
Being able to deliver effective feedback is a must for all managers, supervisors, and leaders. But just because someone is in a leadership role doesn’t mean they know how to effectively deliver feedback to their teams.
“Many strong financial leaders don't have formal management training,” said Duncan. “How to give feedback effectively is an important skill set.”
That’s why building learning and development programs around how to give — and receive — feedback is critical for financial services organizations; it gives leaders the skills they need to deliver the insights their teams need to grow professionally, while creating a feedback culture that supports a higher level of performance across the board.
3 Tips for Implementing a Learning and Development Program
Choosing the right learning and development topics and investing in the right programs and tools is crucial for the financial services industry. But you also need to take it a step further and ensure that your L&D programs connect with your employees and drive the results you’re looking for. Here are three tips for successfully rolling out a learning and development program at your financial services company.
1. Position L&D as a perk.
When it comes to successful learning and development program implementation, positioning is key. “Mandatory attendance feels like one more thing on the to-do list,” noted Cooke. So instead of framing L&D programs as mandatory classes, frame them as exciting opportunities for employees to build their skill sets and grow professionally within the company. The more you can highlight the benefits, the more buy-in you’ll be able to generate — and the more successful your learning and development programs will be as a result.
2. Make it interactive.
No one wants to sit through hours of lectures on an L&D topic; it can get boring — even for your most engaged employees. To keep engagement up, look for ways to make the material more interactive. For example, “there can be some lecture, but there also must be group discussion, breakouts, polls, [and] pre- and post-work,” Cooke advised. “[Aim for] lots of ways to get people really practicing and engaging in the conversation,” she said.
3. Get leaders involved.
Often, learning and development initiatives are led by someone other than employees’ direct supervisors, like HR leaders, for example. But employees may need oversight and support to successfully implement what they learn through L&D, which is why it’s so important to get leaders, managers, and supervisors involved.
“Give leaders an overview of what participants learned and how their behavior should change,” Cooke recommended. “This allows participants’ leaders to better support them,” which in turn can lead to a higher success rate for your L&D programs.
Investing in learning and development can drive significant benefits for your financial services organization, from increased engagement and performance to higher employee retention and more innovation, all of which help your company stay competitive in today’s work landscape. The L&D topics we’ve outlined here can be particularly beneficial for financial services firms; start implementing them at your organization to invest in the growth of your employees — and the success of your company.