How to Create an Effective Written Training Plan

Often, compliance professionals confuse their firm’s Written Training Plan (WTP) with the firm’s Needs Analysis or Firm Element implementation plan, however, these items are not synonymous. In fact, the Firm Element plan focuses on how and when training is going to be accomplished in the year ahead. Conversely, the primary intent of the Written Training Plan is to tie the objectives, values, products and services of the business into a workable, compliance-oriented training strategy. So, how does one create a highly-effective training plan for their firm? Here are seven tips to help you successfully create and document your Written Training Plan, leading to more educated representatives and the attainment of key compliance goals.

Perform a Training Needs Analysis

The first step to developing a thorough Written Training Plan is to analyze your firm’s training needs. Rather than assume that all representatives need the same training, compliance can make informed decisions about the best ways to address competency gaps among individual employees, specific job categories and/or groups/departments. In gathering and analyzing information, your firm should identify and consider: the various roles and responsibilities of each covered person, products and services the firm offers its customers, customer complaints, regulatory actions, changes to industry rules/regulations, Regulatory Element performance, and much more. For assistance delivering your firm’s annual Needs Analysis survey, or to learn more about our technology solution, click here.

Define Training Objectives

It’s difficult to be successful without knowing exactly what you’re trying to achieve. After completing the Needs Analysis Survey, your firm should identify the training objectives and goals of its plans based on the analysis of data gathered. Perhaps, for example, one of your training objectives is to have an average pass rate on exams of 90%. Firms can also connect objectives to certain groups or individuals (i.e. providing heightened training to supervisors/branch managers). Regardless of the details, knowing your goals will help dictate your future approach to program development.

Acquire Training Resources

Training should address regulatory reviews, investigations and disciplinary actions involving the firm and its agents. Your firm should also review changes to the regulatory landscape, as well as changes to policies and procedures, either as a result of regulation changes or for other reasons.  This includes resources such as FINRA and the SEC’s Examination Priorities Letters, the CE Council’s bi-annual Firm Element Advisory, Investor Alerts, Disciplinary Actions and other regulatory notices.

Know your Audience

The people you want to train are adults, and adults share certain characteristics that make training more effective for them (or less effective if you ignore the characteristics). For starters, they are self-directed. They want to be able to pursue their training at any time, in any place, through any means. That’s why our training here at Quest CE is as mobile as the people using it, making accessible from any desktop, tablet or smartphone. Adults also come to training with a lifetime of existing knowledge, so it’s equally important that they feel both challenged and engaged throughout the course with interactive learning opportunities.  

Explain Your Reasoning  

One of the biggest mistakes firms make in developing their Written Training Plan is not clearly identifying the process by which some training needs were selected over others. To remedy this problem, your firm should document the decision making process for determining the training topics in your annual training plan. This will allow you to more easily re-assess and amend plans as circumstances within the firm or industry change.

Identify Training Topics

Now’s the time to review the information presented in your Needs Analysis in order to identify specific training topics that need to be covered by the firm or specific individuals. Training should address any new products or services the firm has offered since its last training program, changes in sales or marketing strategy and new rules, regulations or other legal or regulatory developments. Training should also consider any complaints, arbitrations and/or investigations involving the firm or its agents. Don’t limit yourself to one or two courses. Remember: the more robust your program, the more successful your compliance efforts will be.

Implement Training

It may seem obvious, but one of the most overlooked items during implementation of your training program is not giving your representatives enough time to work training into their schedules and complete the necessary coursework.  One thing to keep in mind is that most vendors can play a big role in helping during this step. At Quest CE, our Account Executive team is readily available to assist in assigning, delivering, tracking and reporting on training.

Track Progress

It’s easy to provide training to your representatives, pat yourself on the back, and then be done.  But if you do, you’re missing out on a huge component of your training program. If your goal is to deliver effective training that improves your representatives’ behavior, then you need to confirm that the training was effective. Use reporting functionality to analyze your firm’s training completion rates or track how many times it took a representative to pass an exam. Not only that, but test to see if customer complaints decreased or if the roll-out of that new product was well understood.

Encourage Feedback

Firms are obligated to obtain feedback and evaluations from their personnel participating in their annual training program. This is the time when representatives can discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the program, what they learned, and their overall experience. From there, you can spot patterns and know if anything more needs to be addressed. This information should be used to improve your program in the future.

To learn more about our Written Training Plans, Needs Analysis or Firm Element Programs, click here.

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