From the April 2016 issue of Investment Advisor • Subscribe!

Are You Getting the Best ROI From Your Technology?

State-of-the-art technology only goes so far if you and your staff don’t know how to use it

Training is one of the least expensive ways to get more out of your technology. Training is one of the least expensive ways to get more out of your technology.

My guess is that your firm’s technology ecosystem is fairly complex: email, account administration, reporting, trading, imaging, social media. Does your firm provide adequate training and education for staff on these systems? Whether you’re a sole practitioner or a multi-office firm, your focus on training and education can’t be overlooked.

The most common reason advisors don’t follow through on technology training is the time commitment. Everyone is too busy, but if training isn’t a requirement, it often falls to the end of the priority list. Set aside an hour or two for regular training for employees. In addition, when you introduce new technology at your firm, such as reporting, trading, CRM, custodial platforms, etc., mandatory training is critical.

Furthermore, technology training never ends. Whether you’re training a brand new employee or your most tenured staff member, everyone needs to have regularly scheduled training to keep up with advances in the technology you use. Don’t fall into complacency, believing you have enough experience with your systems. This is when you keep using the same technology processes and tools over and over for years and years. That’s not the way it works with any advancement, especially with all the new technology being introduced these days.

Advisors who are serious about their firms’ technology training programs include them in their employees’ goals and objectives. This could include how an employee uses the firm’s current technology or how fast they’re expected to learn and leverage new tools and features.

To further reinforce this message, training and education can also be part of an employee’s compensation and incentives. Think about it: How much are your employees encouraged (via incentives or other methods) to improve their skills? As an example, if the goal is to better utilize your firm’s CRM system, consider measuring various tasks recorded by employees using the system. Then, reward employees who develop and implement new workflows that improve the overall efficiency of the firm.

In order to improve your chances of having a successful technology training program, you need to be creative. Sometimes, training is not the most exciting exercise, especially if the format is the classic presentation followed by 10 to 20 multiple choice questions. Try introducing a “game show” format to make it more engaging for your employees. There are many ways to incorporate technology questions into the style of familiar game shows like Family Feud or Jeopardy. An example could be, “Name the performance reports used by our firm. Top seven answers on the board.” Or another example: “I’ll take ‘Online Access Available to Clients’ for $500.” With the right prizes and incentives for the players, you might foster a fairly competitive environment during the game, which demonstrates engagement on the part of your staff.

If a game show format doesn’t fit the style of your firm, then running a “Did You Know?” contest might be a better choice. This could entail sending a technology “Question of the Day” email to your employees or posting the question in a prominent place in the office. Anything that gets your employees thinking and talking about technology in a learning environment on a regular basis is the goal.

The overall objective of your training is to ensure you are not overlooking efficiency opportunities for your firm. Too often, we are simply unaware of everything our current technology offers; we become creatures of habit. Technology is often a significant cost for your firm, but training is generally a minimal part of the expense. It should be fairly easy to achieve a nice ROI on your technology training and education program.

Hit the Road

Sometimes the best technology training and education opportunities are available outside the office. This includes conferences, workshops, user groups and other venues. It’s helpful to remove yourself from the day-to-day demands of the business so you can focus on learning with minimal distractions.

The biggest challenge to off-site learning opportunities might be deciding who is the best person to send from your firm. There is not one right person for every training opportunity. Whoever you decide to send, make sure that when they come back, they’re able to share their new learnings and ideas with the rest of the team.

--- Read "Tax Anxiety Is High for Tech CFOs" on ThinkAdvisor. 

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