How continuous learning builds an agile talent in financial services

Posted on Oct 24, 2018

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A skills shortage is threatening future growth and prosperity for companies in the financial services sector. Leaders in financial services highlight finding people with the right skills as one of their biggest challenges. According to PwC, almost three quarters of CEOs in the financial services sector fear the shortage will hold back growth at their firms.

But the worry goes beyond simply finding skilled candidates. Long-term, the challenge is to continually upskill colleagues in new capabilities, so the business can move forward during constant change. As the PwC report points out, the fast pace of change brought about by the digital era is causing the skills gap to widen further. And it’s not just about technical know-how, far from it. Emotional intelligence, creativity & innovation are also prized skills that many financial services CEOs say are “very difficult” to recruit.

We know that having the right people in the right place has always been an increasing challenge, technological transformation is making the task even more exacting.

The ‘A’ Team comes to the rescue

One of the answers is to create and maintain an agile, adaptable workforce (your very own ‘A’ team) across the organisation, through a programme of continuous learning. Upskilling-that-never-stops is the only way to plug the skills gap for good. It will ensure everyone is supported as they develop evolving tasks and roles.

According to Bersin’s continuous learning model, there are three phases that employees typically go through on a loop throughout their careers. These are immediate (what support do I need right here and now?); intermediate (what do I need to help me grow in my current role?) and transitional (what do I need to grow in my longer-term career).  There are four ‘E’ words at play in this holistic approach: education, experience, environment and exposure. In this way, informal continuous learning and self-development is happening all the time.

Continuous learning in action

The goal is to have a workforce that helps to keep your business at the top. A culture of continuous learning is essential for any financial services organisation looking to improve productivity and performance.

Continuous learning starts at the recruitment stage – and never stops. With a scarcity of skilled candidates, your onboarding offering must be top class.  In the 2018 EY Global Banking Outlook survey, almost half of respondents acknowledged that investing in technologies was needed to “heighten employee engagement and productivity”. This applies equally to their learning and development.

To recruit the best talent, you’ll need an attractive and easily accessible Learning and Development offering.  Digital pre-boarding and onboarding gets your new people off to the best possible start. Look outside the industry for inspiration like the Global Online Induction programme at Specsavers, the international optician business. We helped Specsavers create an inspiring introduction to their company and culture while enabling the company to offer pre-boarding for the first time so new recruits could choose to complete the induction module before they started. As a result, 71% of new employees who responded to a survey said they’d voluntarily completed the onboarding programme before their first day.      

And now you’ve recruited the right people, you’ll want to develop and retain them. Tech is helping to create updatable continuous learning that’s tailor-made for the individual’s learning needs and   also aligned to business needs. There are further tools and technologies that minimise the impact on daily workload too. For example, Microlearning can offer people small daily bites of learning content to build their knowledge and skills over time.


An agile and adaptable workforce is not possible without continuous, career-long learning. With the speed of change today, any gap will grow rapidly and make your employees’ skills out of date before you know it. Financial Services leaders are rethinking talent strategies to meet evolving skills demands, with digital learning playing a significant role. In the PwC report, 63% of CEOs said they had already added digital training to their learning programme to mitigate talent challenges. For those who haven’t, there’s mounting pressure to modern learning to empower and equip people for the accelerating pace of workforce transformation.

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