FINCA Development Academy Offers a Model for Professional Growth
Successful organizations prize growth: in outreach, income and name recognition. But what fuels growth? Often, it’s the professional growth of individuals within the organization.
FINCA invests in professional growth via FINCA Development Academy (FDA), which enhances employees’ skills, cultivates leaders and reinforces the organization’s values. Learning Managers across 20 countries carry out FDA’s mission. They work with individuals at all levels—from new hires to veterans, from customer relationship officers, to branch managers, regional managers and functional department personnel—to improve individuals’ capacity to serve customers through warmth, trust and responsible banking.
Learning managers touch nearly all 10,000+ FINCA employees, so a critical piece of FINCA’s learning strategy is to ensure quality and consistency across its expansive network. Whether in Quito or Kabul, experiences should foster engagement, discovery and co-creation among learners. They should also encourage staff to participate using their preferred learning styles and intelligences. This approach ensures that learners learn, and supports an environment of talent engagement and innovation across the organization.
Ensuring that learning managers are well prepared is particularly vital to FINCA’s success. Like job trainers anywhere, learning managers need to acquire knowledge constantly to remain engaged, up-to-date and relevant. They are the standard-bearers of professionalism for their learners.
Partnering for Professional Development
Mastercard Foundation has partnered with FINCA to promote cutting-edge professional development programs in Malawi, Tanzania and Zambia. There, FINCA learning managers are helping their colleagues deliver a broad range of financial services, to focus closely on customer experience, and to bring measurable social benefits to customers and communities.
Like their colleagues, FINCA learning managers take a variety of classes through FDA. These classes equip them to be effective facilitators of learning, communicators and workplace coaches; to design accelerated learning modules for staff; to facilitate virtual, or remote, trainings—even to produce job training videos.
One Learning Manager’s Journey
FINCA Malawi Learning Manager Minella Kanthambi found particular value in a class entitled Instructional Design for Accelerated Learning. “That class has helped me to understand and support people’s different learning preferences and use of multiple intelligences,” she says. “Some trainees prefer auditory learning; others learn visually; and still others learn kinetically, through hands-on activities and play. The class helped me to engage people with different learning preferences, and to design my courses to appeal to everyone.”
After taking the class, Minella noticed that her trainees seemed more engaged. And surveys taken among her learners support her observations. Learners wrote that Minella “made sure that everyone was involved in the training,” and “gave us a chance to participate in all lessons.” “She allowed active participation and her delivery showed that she was prepared and fully equipped to lead.”
While Minella is undoubtedly a leader, she insists that learners are in charge of their own learning. “I am trained as a facilitator,” she says. “I challenge the trainees and make them think. They are then inspired to apply our discussion to their own experience. Accelerated learning allows trainees to discover what they already have and encourages them to apply it.”
An Unconventional Approach to Learning
Participants encounter very little lecturing in FDA classes. Rather, learning managers are more likely to assign activities that promote conversation and discussion. At one class of new hires, for example, Minella asked participants to begin by shaping the animal of their choice from some Play-Doh she had brought. ‘What does this possibly have to do with delivering financial services?’ they wondered. But once they were finished, she asked each new employee how the character of the animal applied to his or her job. The exercise not only “broke the ice,” allowing new employees to get to know one another, it encouraged them to spend time thinking about and articulating their roles within the organization.
While face-to-face classroom settings remain important (“We are social beings who love interaction,” says Minella), learning managers are also schooled in facilitating virtual, or e-classes. “eLearning is very convenient for participants, provided they have good connectivity,” says Minella. “They are inexpensive; attendees don’t have to travel; individuals can learn at their own desks at a time convenient for them. If there are connectivity issues, a learner can always go back and pick up what he or she may have missed.”
Through FDA’s “facilitator development” workshops, learning managers become skilled at different modes of delivery. “The ideal is to have a blended curriculum with both face-to-face and e-learning sessions,” says Minella. “It’s important that we always acknowledge colleagues’ different learning preferences.”
When asked about the best part of her job, Minella says she enjoys constantly learning. “My position is really key as far as staff job competencies are concerned. So I like learning more so that I remain competitive and relevant to people at all different levels of the organization.”
Going the Extra Mile
Mastercard Foundation’s support for FINCA Development Academy has allowed learning managers to experiment with new ways of providing learning opportunities and resources to staff. “The grant is helping us to develop new ideas for workplace learning and new courses,” says Minella. “Courses like Video Production for Job Training and Instructional Design for Accelerated Learning allow facilitators like me to go the extra mile.”
As learning leaders, we have to make sure that the organization’s most important values filter down.
Recently, the FINCA network underwent a customer-centric transformation of its culture, calling all 10,000+ employees to focus on the customer experience. According to FINCA Impact Finance Director of Operations, Joy Souligny, who helped lead the change, “Learning managers like Minella were key players in that cultural shift.” Those managers led FDA-designed courses for all staff that empowered them to become customer experience leaders. “Our cultural transformation could not have succeeded without them,” says Souligny.