SME loan officers at a training session in Afghanistan in December 2010, working to prepare a loan request for a complex case study so that they can improve their understanding of the SME methodology and the loan appraisal process.Delivering Core Skills Training to Improve Service
2010’s central goal for AKAM’s Training Academy was to complete the delivery of a core skills training programme for all field staff, and bring skills up to a standard level of competency across AKAM’s entities worldwide. This programme includes the course on Development Ethics, which is the introduction to AKAM’s mission and values, the Loan Officer course, which teaches core lending skills for all staff working in client services, and the Branch Manager course for all branch managers and deputies, designed to improve management and planning skills.
At the end of 2010, 11 of 13 countries had completed 2,500 instances of core skills training covering over 90 percent of their staff. These instances cover 2,000 staff inducted in Development Ethics, 350 loan officers and branch managers trained in Loan Officer Core Lending Skills, and 150 line employees who have become trainers certified with facilitation skills to allow them to deliver courses to staff in local languages and in local regions to reduce cost per learner to the institution.
Afghanistan and Pakistan, the largest entities, experienced severe challenges battling natural disasters and political instability resulting in a lag of training activity in both countries. By the end of 2010, Afghanistan was able to train a significant number of their staff and they will complete core skills training by end of 2011. Pakistan will begin core skills training in 2011.
Developing SME departments in every entity is a critical global strategy in AKAM’s goal to support local economic development and job creation. To this end, the course for SME loan officers was developed and piloted in Afghanistan, where FMFB-A has been giving out SME loans since 2005. In 2011 four more countries will deploy SME lending, starting with loan officers armed with advanced credit skills and rigorous policy and process training to ensure systematic risk reduction and performance of this new product.
AKAM continues to develop, in-house, its core skills curriculum. At the introductory levels, having customised training for specific job positions tailored to the institution’s operating models has been critical to filling the gap in capacity created by rapid growth and change and achieving job competency for new staff.
Impact of Evaluation on the Learning Approach
In 2010 the evaluation process was formalised and, in addition to the measurement of training, key indicators were identified and impact assessment programmes to evaluate the effectiveness of the programme were implemented. A series of focus groups, conducted to assess the post training impact and workplace transfer of skills, confirmed that customer service had improved significantly. Staff are more engaged with the mission and values of the institution and are more sensitive to clients’ challenges and needs. Productivity and team work have reduced conflicts and time wasted in the lending process. Loan officers are able to explain the benefits of deposit mobilisation to clients.
Branch managers have seen an increased level of skill in business and risk analysis and a more diligent attitude in the workplace. Surveys show that 75 percent of learners can identify specific learned skills they have applied in the workplace and overall satisfaction with the quality of training materials and trainers is over 95 percent; confirming that the learner-centric approach is working and has sparked a desire for self-improvement and positive contribution to the performance of the institution. In addition to improvements in performance, training has impacted the quality of life of staff through promotions due to enhanced skills and leadership ability gained in the training of trainers programme.
Strategically, the Training Academy seeks to impact the quality of human capital, which is AKAM’s most critical resource. In 2010, several initiatives were advanced to begin the process of building stronger human resources for the future. The first was to enhance the quality of new staff being recruited into operations. A course on recruitment was developed and delivered to every human resources manager in the field. This innovative course improves the recruitment process and will be delivered to line managers in 2011 to improve the quality of new candidates. The second initiative was to build the capacity of local training departments. Capacity building workshops were conducted on training needs analysis, local training plans and coaching. Local training departments need to be strengthened so that they can assist in the execution of the institutions’ business plans.
Loan officers in West Africa play the cash flow game to understand and track cash in the client’s business. It is critical for the loan officers to have on the job training as well as to understand the mission and ethical precepts of the institution.A Curriculum that Targets Increased Productivity
Core skills’ training only addresses the current gap in skills. Going forward, the Training Academy is moving to lay a more rigorous foundation for curriculum development and trainer education. A process of consultation has begun with AKDN financial services institutions and educational institutions that have expertise in developing professional education programmes. AKDN institutions will be leveraged to provide management and banking education through access to their training programmes at the senior level and through shared curriculum content, which can be customised for field based microfinance staff so that greater access can be provided at a reasonable cost.
To engage in this process the Training Academy has begun to identify career path training for each key position. A global needs analysis, slated for mid-2011, will determine the training needs of each institution based on the business plan. This will be followed by the development of competency matrices which define skills, knowledge, attitudes and behaviour for each position and level of performance.
This competency framework will then be used to define the training plan for 2011-2013 and the resources required to help staff perform to the level that is needed to deliver on the business plan. In addition, each institution has set ambitious goals for enhancing productivity. The competency-based curriculum deliberately forms required job competency in the staff and then improves competency over several years to contribute to greater performance and enhanced productivity. This process will be completed by end of 2011 and will map out the long term strategy of AKAM’s training programme.
AKAM’s Training Academy is critical to the ability of the institution to achieve its goals. It contributes to the integrity and performance of the institution today and into the future as it develops the “Right People for the Job”: inspired, skilled and motivated to improve the lives of the people AKAM and its entities serve.
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