The pace of change within the risk and compliance sector means that investing in training and developing your risk staff has never been more important.
There are a number of risks in any organisation. All organisations employ people, one of many business assets, and people in themselves can present risk to an organisation. If you read any employment market update you will read about a shortage in skilled employees and the ‘war on talent’. Many organisations have talent management or employee development programmes in place, but how many get it right?
If you really want your employees to be their best selves, you need to treat them as your most important assets. That means investing in them and their development. Most employers will allocate resources to maintain facilities, plant, equipment and software, but the percentage of spend allocated to talent is usually, in my experience, much less. When times get tough and budgets are under pressure, that type of discretionary spend is often the first to go.
To make it more challenging for employers, top talent that feel their needs aren’t being met are more likely to look elsewhere, leaving a bigger talent gap behind.
I am seeing more and more advertised vacancies talk about, and in some cases focus on, the organisations approach to talent and development, often included explicitly along with the list of benefits. This can be a key differentiator in recruiting and retaining talent.
I was once told by an employer that the responsibility for developing an individual rests with the individual. While I agree an individual needs to take responsibility for their development, if their organisation is not investing in their people, and the leadership are not visible in their support of development, that individual responsibility may be the driver for them to look elsewhere for an organisation that will support their growth.
If employees feel that their employer is investing in their development, they tend to be much more engaged. More engaged employees do their best work and are more likely to be working at full capacity. Disengaged employees have lower productivity and higher rates of absenteeism.
But it isn’t just a lack of leadership belief in development or a lack of investment in the right programmes.
The pace of change means that more investment in training is required just to remain functional and competitive, let alone investment in development to create a differentiator through your people.
The workforce is changing too. The days of staying with one employer for 40 years and receiving your golden clock are long gone. The new generation expect a greater balance of freedom and a better work-life balance, as well as the opportunity to progress. How do you manage development with a remote workforce or one who works from home?
Sometimes technical roles are viewed as purely that. There are many disciplines within the broad area of risk and risk management. Some of those disciplines are highly technical and require quite prescriptive education and training. I think it is fair to say that since the financial crisis a decade ago, risk management has received more exposure at the Board level, with Shareholders, and with Regulators. In order for risk professionals to be fully effective, they not only need to have the appropriate technical skills, they also need to have the right soft skills. No matter how strong an employee is on their area of subject matter expertise, if they can’t engage the Board or their fellow employees they are unlikely to be able to be their best or realise their full value to their employer.
Some relevant soft skills will develop with experience, but they can also be taught and enhanced through practice and coaching. Some risk practitioners, and indeed some governance frameworks, can make the assessment if not management of risk a rather dry, spreadsheet driven exercise. To engage a workforce, particularly senior leadership, you really have to bring it to life. I think one of the soft skills that every risk practitioner should have in their toolbox is facilitation. I have worked with countless organisations where any number of employees may facilitate a workshop or a meeting, but relatively few have actually had any facilitation training. As with many skills, if it has been learned by observation and example, or just through being thrown straight in at the deep end, it is unlikely to be anywhere near as effective as if it has been taught, practiced and honed through feedback. If you empower your risk practitioners to be better facilitators then they will be able to get more out of the workshops they hold, leading to a better understanding of your risks and the identification of stronger, practical controls.
If your people make you successful then you have to invest in the success of your people. Like all risk, there is an upside and a downside. The threat to business objectives from not nurturing your people and losing your talent, versus the opportunity of attracting, developing and retaining talent and helping your people, and through them your organisation, be the best they can be.