Most of us in the corporate world have been through the rigmarole of securing paper qualifications. Just when we think it is all done and dusted, we are off again in pursuit of yet another sheet of parchment paper which is supposed to open doors and promises to be the passport to greater opportunities.

Some would say that qualifications do not matter while there are those who would defend them to the hilt. Josh Bersin, principal and founder of Bersin, Deloitte sees a disconnect between education and employment where many have spent a fortune on education but are still looking for jobs. Why? Perhaps as Richard Arun, a New York University professor of sociology, says, 36% of students do not show any progress in critical thinking despite having spent four years in college.

At the same time, we can reel off names of those who have succeeded in spite of being ‘underachievers’ in college; Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Michael Dell and Mark Zuckerberg … a few amongst the many luminaries in the hall of fame.

Bersin recognises the value of the ‘self-learner’; those who are motivated to learn and who excel while those with paper qualifications may not. He refers to these people are those with ‘learning agility’ and suggests that employers may well benefit from recognising their worth.

It stands to reason that employers who do not give due recognition to employees run the risk of losing them. As Robert McNamara, former American Secretary of Defence puts it, “Brains, like hearts, go where they are appreciated.”

What is alarming is the fact that only a dismal percentage of employees appear to receive due recognition for their efforts. Victor Lipman, author of Mind of the Manager, refers to the alarming lack of employee recognition as a ‘management epidemic’.

A recent extensive survey by TINYpulse involving some 3,000 employees and 60 organisations worldwide show that finance and insurance workers ‘ranked very low on the happiness scale, coming in the bottom half of all industries analysed’1.

The survey which included sectors from wealth management and commercial banking to investment banking and personal insurance, reveals that one of the main grouses is low employee appreciation and recognition. That alone should set off the alarm bells. Employers should take heed as there could be a hefty price to play. How can organisations cope with the stiff competition in the industry when the morale is low and when effort is lacklustre at best?

The TINYpulse survey shows that a mere 21% of the employees surveyed felt that they were truly recognised in the workplace while some 38% thought otherwise.

A massive 80% of the employees thought they were poorly to moderately valued. The substantial percentage of disenchanted employees indicates that any rumblings of discontent would have considerable impact on the performance of the organisation.

Any employer with a finger on the pulse would rally to turn things around. It stands to reason that employees who feel recognised would be more motivated to perform and in so doing achieve better KPIs. And employees who are recognised and motivated are also more committed and seldom leave for other jobs. Ultimately, all this will impact the company’s operating margins and bottomline.

Just what is this recognition that employees seek?

Recognition can be measured against obvious tangibles, such as job promotions, salary, allowances, insurance and medical coverage and vacation time. At the same time, employee satisfaction is also affected by intangibles such as appreciation of a job well done as well as recognition and validation of one’s knowledge and skills. The latter needs to become part of an organisation’s routine and culture.

But certain administrative or bureaucratic requirements of an organisation may dictate the necessity of a particular qualification before an employee can advance further in his career. Everyone knows that paper qualifications do open door. Typically, standard job advertisements state the minimum academic and/or professional qualifications required for various positions. In the best case scenario, this ceases to matter once one gets through the doors and the reward system hinges solely on attitude, performance and productivity.

But delve a little deeper and you will find an experienced person who has been passed over for a promotion, not because he has underperformed but because he lacks the requisite paper qualifications. A person without paper qualifications has to try harder to prove his worth, so the path is often an uphill one. Yet someone with years of hands-on-experience may be better equipped to handle a crisis or situation than a freshly minted Ivy League graduate.

Recognising and certifying informal and non-formal learning would empower those who may otherwise be hampered. In today’s dynamic and competitive world, individuals acquire and enhance their competencies through all forms of learning. While learning through formal learning systems is
widely accepted and recognised, the acquisition of knowledge and skills in non-formal and informal contexts, is not. A formal validation of learning acquired in all three contexts is necessary to allow employees to gain recognition for knowledge and skills they already have. This formal endorsement gives employees a greater sense of worth, and increases their mobility in the marketplace.

The FAA Recognition of Learning (FRL) mechanism developed by FAA recognises knowledge and skills possess or gained by individuals in all three contexts; formal, non-formal and informal. It is based on contemporary adult learning principles and sound assessment practices. The FRL enables, flexible and inclusive assessment of an individual’s competencies, allowing individuals to gain recognition for knowledge and skills they already possess, and be certificated.

Whilst acknowledging and paying due recognition to an employee’s efforts and contribution, this formal validation is perhaps the most significant measure that the Financial Services Industry can adopt to ensure that its talent is appreciated and is duly rewarded.


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