Research by Harvard Business School (HBS) estimates that people lose 10 to 15 per cent of their professional value and relevance each year, implying that human beings must be continuously learning and improving their skills just to stand still.

In the same way physical assets like cars and equipment gradually depreciate, a person’s professional value – measured in terms of their knowledge, experience and connections – also deteriorates over time without ongoing investment in education, training and networking.

This deterioration is compounded by the fact that people also acquire bad habits over time. They both embed bad habits and get stuck in patterns or beliefs that may no longer be relevant. Therefore, part of learning is unlearning and discarding views and behaviours that hinder progress.

In the context of the government’s recently passed Experienced Adviser Pathway, HBS’s research is a timely reminder of the importance of ongoing professional and personal development, whether mandated or not.

While the government’s experience pathway media release said that “the new legislation will recognise the experience of financial advisers who have passed the financial advisers’ exam and have 10 years’ experience and a clean record, without requiring further qualifications [emphasis added],” there is an onus on all professionals to keep learning and growing for their own benefit and satisfaction, and that of stakeholders including clients, employers and the people they work with.

The risk of falling behind

This is particularly important for those working in dynamic, fast-paced businesses, where change is constant.

The faster a business or industry is moving, the greater the risk of falling behind and becoming obsolete.

And it’s not just about technical know-how. Staying on top of the latest superannuation, tax and Centrelink changes and meeting continuing professional development (CPD) requirements are a given. It is part of an adviser’s job.

To get ahead and stay ahead, people must also develop their human skills like communication, active listening, resilience, leadership, people management and relationship building. Everyone has their blind spots so they must continue investing in new ideas and ways of working to continue offering more.

Advisers can develop their personal brand by contributing to trade press articles, speaking at conferences, and serving on the boards and committees of industry associations.

As the structure and composition of the industry changes, and pressure mounts on businesses to scale up and become more efficient to remain profitable and secure their future, advisers must become better leaders, managers and business people.

Everyone has a role to play

Employers, licensees and industry associations have an important role to play in ensuring that their people and members are not only suitably qualified, competent and experienced to give advice but also have opportunities to learn and master skills in other relevant areas.

Employers, in particular, are in a unique positon to upskill people and create a clear path for them to advance their career. They can help their people set goals and, importantly, provide the tools and strategies needed to achieve their targets.

Businesses should assess if they have the right structure, processes and culture to encourage and facilitate learning and development. A big part of the learning journey is the freedom and assurance that if new things are tried, there will be support on the other side. Employees need to know that it’s okay to make mistakes. There should be an understanding that the focus is on improvement through practice, not on immediate comprehensive independent mastery.

Be creative and energetic

Rather than treat CPD requirements as a burdensome compliance obligation, businesses should be creative and energetic about delivering learning and development programs, after all it is their best interest to have people who are engaged, motivated and fulfilling their potential.

Ultimately, every individual is responsible for their own growth. It is up to them to invest the time and effort needed to increase their value.

It is also up to every person to manage their workload, which means effective prioritisation. This point may seem obvious, yet prioritisation is commonly overlooked when making decisions about how to allocate work hours.

HBS challenges us to think about our knowledge, skills and experience as a personal balance sheet. Each year, assets tend to depreciate and liabilities (bad habits) increase. Over time, without action, a person’s assets are no longer valuable.

To avoid becoming irrelevant, advisers must treat every day as a learning opportunity and take deliberate action to become better.

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