How Do You Train Someone?

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Planners used to consider training as something that could be done on the job. You would hire a new employee and hope that he or she picked up the responsibilities over time. If you were lucky, the departing employee would be around long enough to train his or her replacement.

Times have changed. Today, we can’t get by with such an informal approach. Roles and functions in your firm are more specific, varied and sophisticated than they used to be. You need to hire client service employees, marketers, receptionists, paraplanners and new planners. Training in such functions can’t be left to chance—for new planners in particular. These men and women will be looking for professional growth, and you may hope to develop one of them to serve as your successor.

Still, for most planners, the need for more formalized training is problematic. Most would agree that training doesn’t contribute to short-term revenue growth. In some cases, because planners have long delegated certain administrative tasks, they may not even remember how to do them (e.g., completing paperwork to follow up on a client meeting). And training new planners has become increasingly difficult. These days, you can’t rely on bringing on a new employee who was schooled by a wirehouse. Those training programs have disappeared.

So, How Do You Train Someone?

To be effective, training requires three key criteria:

  1. Determining the outcome to be accomplished. This means defining specific objectives for the learner.
  2. Developing the curriculum, so the participant can understand and experience the content that needs to be learned.
  3. Measuring the individual’s performance to confirm that learning has actually occurred.

It is important to do all three of these well. Sometimes, we rush into training without considering what is most important to learn. Teaching how to resolve a once-a-year problem gets as much attention as the everyday situations. Sometimes, it’s hard to create the learning experience we’re looking for. And we complicate things by following several different processes for completing the same task because we lack standardized procedures within the firm. Finally, few firms test or evaluate learning.

As organizations continue to grow—particularly as we see more mergers and acquisitions—the need for formal training will increase. We will especially see it in organizations that hire inexperienced planners whom they intend to develop. In fact, that’s just one more reason why the large firms will get larger.

If you are a solo planner, you can hire someone and have him or her follow you for a year to learn the ropes. In the future, a large firm will likely hire a group of new planners to develop at the same time. Learning and curricula will need to be established and monitored. Being a planner who understands training will be a good start, but it won’t guarantee that the planner will be a good trainer.

The bottom line? Prepare to invest in training.

Joni Youngwirth_2014 for web

Joni Youngwirth is managing principal of practice management at Commonwealth Financial Network in Waltham, Mass.

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