Educating Employees in a Dynamic Industry by Safeguard Properties Director of Training John Gonos
In the October Issue of DS News, Safeguard’s director of training John Gonos discusses what mortgage field services companies must do to keep employees current with changing industry regulations and guidelines.
IN A DYNAMIC INDUSTRY
Field services companies must provide on-demand learning to
keep up with changes in regulations and guidelines.
No one will dispute the fact that mortgage servicing is an ever changing industry. From investor guidelines, new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) regulations, False Claims Act provisions, Protecting Tenants at Foreclosure Act rules (PTFA), and the Service Members Civil Relief Act guidelines (SCRA—just to name a few—the cost of compliance is increasing for servicers across the country. But they are not the only ones impacted; maintaining a high level of quality and compliance trickles down to the servicer’s vendors, including field services companies, which serve as partners in keeping properties, and the servicer’s assets maintained and secured in anticipation of foreclosure or sale to a potential homeowner.
From there, the onus is on the field services company to have processes and procedures in place to communicate and train employees on current guidelines and regulations. At face value, creating an ongoing training program can seem like a difficult and daunting task. But if you consider the benefits reaped, such as increased productivity, increased compliance with rules and regulations, effective use of new technologies, and increased job satisfaction, the time and costs involved are well-invested.
But to ensure compliance and quality of work both in the field and internally, field services companies must think outside of the box and invest in multiple methods of training for their employees. Traditional learning methods are no longer enough; field services companies must commit to eLearning and ongoing, innovative training techniques.
TRAINING AND DEVELOPMENT IS IMPORTANT
According to the 2013 State of the Industry report, released in December 2013 by the American Society for Training and Development (ASTD), companies in the U.S. spent $164.2 billion on employee training and development in 2012. That amount equals $1,195 per employee, up from $1,182 in 2011. According to the report, employees averaged 30.3 hours of training, and technology-based delivery of instruction rose to 39 percent of formal hours up from 37.2 percent in 2011.
The report found that the top three areas of training content in 2012 were: managerial and supervisory (13.5 percent); mandatory and compliance (10.8 percent); and processes, procedures, and business practices (9.9 percent).
Regulatory scrutiny, process changes, production demands, and client-specific customization of tasks are on the rise. These factors can increase the stress an employee feels as they work to meet their customers’ needs while keeping up with myriad changes. Traditional training techniques and eLearning are helpful in getting an employee up to speed, but ongoing and active learning methods are required for them to remain successful and up-to-date.
BLENDED LEARNING ENVIRONMENT
Traditional classroom, hands-on, and eLearning training methods still produce the needed results and remain widely-used in many industries across the country. However, research has found that these are the best ways to teach big picture concepts, meaning they are most effective for new hires but not workplace veterans. One size does not fit all, and a strict adherence to traditional classroom and eLearning models can oftentimes leave employees wanting and needing more as these methods become less effective as the depth of information increases. Employees need a better way to get the information needed to do their jobs effectively as the rules and regulations evolve. They also need this information quickly and presented in ways that will minimally disrupt their daily job activities.
In the training and development world, the paradigm that provides employees with an on-the-job learning platform is called “performance support.” This model is not a replacement for new hire or new position training, but a supplement to it. Material is made available online and on-demand to employees in concise and digestible amounts. Examples of performance support include online tutorial videos and step-by-step instruction lists to accomplish a particular task. Similarly, if an employee gets into a “knowledge bind,” they must have immediate access to the material needed to stay on-task and work through the problem quickly. It also eliminates the need to interrupt a coworker for assistance, thus maintaining the productivity of other employees. The material is highly specific to a single process—or is more likely part of a larger process—and is presented in a way that allows users to control the flow of information. They can stop, go back, and start at their own pace. And because the information is task-specific, the user is also able to get to the answer quickly and without having to wade through unnecessary material.
With the sheer volume and complexity of information being generated, field services companies can benefit from this training and development model. The loss of productivity from employees hunting for the right information to do their jobs has been well-documented. While it is necessary to have an extensive library of lecture-style training classes and eLearning courses to guide employees through large amounts of information related to their roles, it is just as important to provide to employees an on-demand library of recorded simulations whenever they need it.
KEYS TO CREATING A SUCCESSFUL PERFORMANCE SUPPORT PROGRAM
Easy access to these simulations is key to effective usage. Ideally, it should be electronic and accessible through just a few clicks of the mouse. Employees must be able to search the library for the needed content and watch some or all of the simulations as necessary.
A comprehensive and ongoing process for creating simulations needs to be put in place. The goal is to create simulations that cover every area of the business and all of its systems as quickly as possible. Additionally, a “practice mode” in which the software walks the employee through the necessary keyboard strokes or mouse clicks to finish the transaction is an essential tool in training. This way the employee gets a feel for doing the transaction in a safe environment.
Lastly, there must be a “test mode” in which the employee does the transaction from start to finish with prompts if they make a mistake. This tests their ability to perform the transaction, but the results are not tracked; it is strictly an opportunity to verify their learning.
The software must be simple to use, and it is helpful for the field services company’s business partners to create some of the simulations, as they are the experts on how their transactions should be processed.
One of the most challenging aspects of the servicing industry and the field services business is educating people on ever-changing processes, guidelines, and regulations. Servicers need field services vendors that can uphold the highest levels of quality and compliance. Those same companies must relay messages about new rules and regulations to their employees in an effective and efficient manner to properly protect properties and neighborhoods, and to keep their servicing clients in compliance with investors and governmental entities.
An on-demand learning library coupled with classroom initiatives and an extensive eLearning catalog create an effective blended learning environment for employees in a highly scrutinized and regulated industry like mortgage servicing. It helps to keep employees updated and provide them with a source of ever-present information; giving them answers when needed, reducing frustration, and keeping them productive while they continue to learn.
John Gonos is the director of training at Safeguard Properties. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Please click here for Educating Employees in a Dynamic Industry article in PDF.
Safeguard Properties is the largest mortgage field services company in the U.S. Founded in 1990 by Robert Klein and based in Valley View, Ohio, the company inspects and maintains defaulted and foreclosed properties for mortgage servicers, lenders, and other financial institutions. Safeguard employs approximately 1,700 people, in addition to a network of thousands of contractors nationally.