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March 22, 2023

People power driving learning in finance

SA financial services consultancy Elenjical Solutions is at the vanguard of employee self-help when it comes to cascading best practice.

The finance industry isn’t short of talent. In fact, it’s a hotspot for graduate training programmes and junior mentorships. These pick out the most promising talents among university students and follow formal, structured curriculums that deliver students to a known, fixed point.  But what about once they’ve joined their companies and doing the job – what support can they expect then?

Lindsey Louw, Murex software consultant with long experience at leading SA financial firms, is at the forefront of a new approach to employee training – one driven by sharing and self-help.  Implementing the new initiative at Elenjical Solutions, SA’s fastest growing Fintech seeking to expand to Europe, the programme was prompted by her first-hand experience of the inner workings of finance companies – and how there is often a learning gap once the school books have been put to one side.

Flipping the formal nature of employee training on its head

“Intercompany training opportunities exist, but they tend to be forced upon staff as formal requirements that often don’t capture individual needs,” explains Louw. “The more a company grows, the harder it is to set time aside to uphold training standards, and the more diverse individual needs become.” This realisation has spawned a new approach to in-company learning.  Rather than dictated by management or the training department, staff generate much of the learning among themselves, via sharing of experience and best practice, with employees dipping into and contributing to learning forums when they can.

Still in its early phases, the scheme is more than simply information sharing – it’s a comprehensive effort to heighten interpersonal relationships, skills and cross-company collaboration in an industry where the pressures of workload can often take their toll on people. With remote working added to the mix, stakes are higher than ever, and Louw’s initiative intends to target the complex issues faced in the modern-day workplace.

“A diverse cohort of people from within the company meet up when and where it suits them, to bounce ideas off each other and learn from a surprisingly deep pool of experience and knowledge. Younger employees can learn more about the different lines of work and which roles they might want to work towards,” Louw explains. “Not only do these informal chats, meetings and mentoring deepen their knowledge base, they also build important personal networks within the business.”

From this, more formal components can emerge – outlining specific training paths, tangible professional goals and monitoring progress through reviews by management. “It’s all about keeping it flexible and tailored to what would best challenge and suit the individual,” reiterates Louw.

Company-wide benefits

The outcomes this approach promises aren’t limited to employees. When they feel supported, build relationships with others and have a clearer path to achieving their goals, the company itself also benefits. “In finance, it’s common for the human element to slip through the cracks in growth strategies, but it’s a restrictive mindset,” explains Louw. “Staff-driven training opportunities break down the barriers separating people within the structure, and create a culture of collaboration that fosters results.”

A strong sense of community increases staff retention and satisfaction, especially when they simultaneously feel supported to take the steps to progress in their careers. The fluctuating nature of the industry requires companies to have a flexible workforce that can showcase a range of skills. “It’s in the company’s interest for employees not to be too niche – the ability to transition into another job and accumulate a wider set of skills is essential for competitive edge,” believes Louw.

This grass roots initiative has just been launched at Elenjical, and the number of participants has already exceeded expectations. Building on an already well-established people-centric culture, Louw is steering the company in its natural progression towards a heightened collaborative environment. It’s time for finance companies to embrace the potential of more organic and informal training practices, which perpetuate a work culture that predetermines sustainable growth and results.