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Training and Development (Food for thought)
Safe and Sound
"The big work behind business judgement is in finding and acknowledging the facts and circumstances concerning technology, the market, and the like in their continuously changing forms. The rapidity of modern technological change makes the search for facts a permanently necessary feature."
Intellectual capital is fast becoming the asset base of companies and their strategies for growth. In the current global economy when companies are faced with rapid changes, the ability to continuously seek, adapt and apply new skills would be the order of the day. In such a dynamic situation, where the skills and knowledge of people and organisations are becoming redundant and useless, success in business and its growth would require special emphasis on learning, education and training that is both flexible and relevant in the current scenario.
The demand for an effective training system for insurance intermediaries emerges not only from the insurer, or the regulator or the intermediaries but also from the consumer. These demands will go a long way to making insurance training and education establishments more accountable and strategic.
Intermediaries are seen as the key differentiator of an insurance business, and hence their selection, training, development and support mechanism must be continuously monitored and updated.
They are expected to identify customer needs for insurance, help them make the appropriate choice of product/s, enable the customer to meet the deadlines for renewal of payments, and resolve queries and facilitate settlement of benefits in the minimum time frame possible.
The insurance business is dynamic and changes are rapid, hence intermediaries, being knowledge workers, require a special learning discipline in order to continue with upgraded knowledge and skills.
Observations of the functioning of intermediaries in the present day insurance industry show that there is a major gap between what is expected of them and what they actually deliver.
These may be attributed to
several factors such as:
• Insurance products (life) are viewed more as investment and tax-saving products
• Insurance solutions are bought and sold on the basis of relationship and referrals
• Low productivity expectations from the intermediary
• Non-availability of any prescribed/recognised pre-recruitment or post-recruitment training for intermediaries
• Low awareness level of insurance requiring customer education
Therefore, for an effective training approach, knowledge of these together with global factors like changes in communication technologies, people’s expectations and apprehensions and the current scenario of the privatised insurance sector become a necessity.
The present education system for intermediaries should become more accountable to deliver competencies in a more personalised manner and within a short span of time.
It shouldn’t only demand traditional intellect and applications, but also stress creative and inventive thinking, knowledge of information & communication technologies and self-motivation — competencies that traditional classroom training fails to achieve.
There is, however, a dearth of professional institutions in India offering practical training for the insurance industry. The Insurance Regulatory & Development Authority has undertaken some training initiative by prescribing 100 hours of pre-recruitment practical training for every intermediary, to be followed up by a mandatory qualification test conducted by the Indian Institute of Insurance or by the National Stock Exchange.
For an example of effective vocational training, we can look at the UK’s use of National Vocational Qualifications. The central feature of NVQs is the National Occupational Standards on which they are based. NOS are statements of performance standards that describe what competent people in a particular occupation are expected to be able to perform.
They cover all the main aspects of an occupation, including current best practice, ability to adapt to future requirements and the knowledge and understanding that underpin competent performance. Standard-setting bodies, mainly employer-led National Training Organisations, develop the standards.
Since the insurance business is dynamic and changes are rapid, it is essential for insurance intermediaries as knowledge workers to be familiar with the special learning skills required to be successful.
Hence there is an absolute necessity for co-operation and collaboration between private and government agencies in India to supply the special learning preferred by the insurer and the government regulator.
In such a scenario, competencies, training and assessment methods are standardised. Lists of programmes with accredited institutes are published for public information. Institutes are identified through a selection and accreditation process, and then certified to provide different qualifications and certificates.
The main purpose of the vocational training system is to supply the insurance industry with the necessary manpower. It provides motivation to students to learn and also equips them with a practical and applied understanding of the industry.
It also pays more attention to the skills and knowledge students need for an effective transition from school to the working environment. The workplace of the future will require new and different skills from all workers — not just job-specific skills, but also transferable, generic skills that will help them to acquire further education and training throughout their careers.
In a world of rapidly changing business situation, the ability to respond positively to the challenges and opportunities are combined responsibilities of the stakeholders of that industry.
In this context of accelerated change and dynamic business in the insurance industry, training effectiveness for the intermediaries can be provided with excellence through the combined effort of the training outfits, which include both the insurer’s training department and the institutes, the insurer and the regulator.
It is to this end that educators are working to develop cost-effective and reliable methods to provide learning, motivate students and achieve results. In this way there would be further improvement in training effectiveness for intermediaries, thus adding value to their profession and achievements.
Source: (The author is the general manager & head of training at ING Vysya Life)