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A good coach makes all the difference

A workplace supervisor is really a coach by another name. On the sporting field success or failure is often put down to the ability of the coach to impart knowledge of the game, technical skills and establish rapport with the athlete and inspire them to achieve. This applies, irrespective of whether their team is a junior soccer side or a squad of elite players. The same observation is valid for brokers or insurers who take on the role of supervising and training representatives, particularly new industry entrants.

In the workplace training arena, coaches similarly need to take an interest in their trainee’s development at an early stage. It is no good delegating the coaching role to a supervisor who is not obviously willing to pass on what they know to the trainee. The supervisor must spend time organising practice sessions and explaining job tasks. Therefore, they need to be a good time manager of their own work in order to provide regular guidance and assistance to others. Licensees need to consider who may be the right person in their business to take on the supervisory/coaching role. The most obvious attribute for successful coaching is that the person can to do the job competently themselves and have a clear understanding of why the job is done in a certain way. This includes knowledge of policies and procedures operating in the brokerage or insurance office. This knowledge is essential if the supervisor is going to identify suitable training opportunities for your trainee and the people they need to access to in order to gain appropriate insurance or broking knowledge.

NIBA College courses are designed to offer “on-the-job” training, the most relevant format for most intermediary businesses. Under this format, instruction and assessment take place in the office environment. While there is structured coursework delivered via distance education, there is no classroom based training.

If you take on the supervisor role, there are a number of attributes you need to bring to the fore in order to be an effective workplace coach. It is likely that in your working career you have acquired many of these already. It is a matter of applying these skills in an organised way to help your trainee reach the desired outcome. And, just as a sporting coach shares the glory with a winning athlete, workplace coaches experience personal and business benefits from working with a trainee to help them attain a nationally recognised insurance or broking qualification.

NIBA brokers who have taken on several students over the years, highlight the satisfaction they experience from passing on their skills and knowledge to a newcomer. They have found that investing time in organised training can quickly develop the person into a skilled member of staff. Trainees can then complete delegated tasks and free up the time of other staff to do more complex activities. These brokers also comment that the traineeship program simplifies the induction process because it introduces the trainee to the range of work being undertaken in the office, how the company operates and how to work in an office team environment. Other supervisors note that as a result of explaining work tasks and answering technical questions for trainees, they improved their own communication skills.

The key to being a good coach is to be clear about your role. Essentially this comes down to five main activities:

  1. Discuss the Training Plan Studying can seem very daunting at first, it is a good idea to sit down with the student and discuss how they will work their way through the course. NIBA College courses provide suggested timeframes for completion. In setting up the training plan, agree on dates for completion of assignments - remember to consider things like Christmas holidays or the busy June renewal period when you are planning the study timetable. Decide how and how often you will meet with the student to review thier progress and and provide feedback. Make sure you both keep a copy of the training plan so that you can track your students progress and ensure things are running to plan.
  2. Explain your role as supervisor Once the Training Plan are in place, the supervisor needs to explain the tasks to be completed and help the student develop their competencies. As supervisor you may need to sort out day to day problems if they arise and work with others to resolve any significant issues. NIBA College is able to assist you by answering questions via tutorials and providing additional support. Make sure you know who to contact.
  3. Give clear instructions Good communication with your student is all about explaining the work in easy to follow terms, answering questions and giving clear and constructive feedback. It is useful to give trainees an idea of the “big picture” behind the tasks that you want them to learn. Explain the purpose to the task and why it is done. Give simple instructions, explaining all the steps involved in completing the task. Don’t overcomplicate tasks. Even if you are asked questions about technical areas in which you have limited knowledge, the important thing is that you can identify a senior person or specialist who can help provide good instruction.
  4. Coach the student to complete the tasks Make sure that you plan to give students opportunities to practice thier skills in the workplace. Students have different learning strengths, weaknesses and preferences. You may find that for some it is better to provide written instructions whereas others perform better if they have the task demonstrated and then repeat it several times. You may need to provide examples of the work expected and explain what will be assessed. Encourage some initiative by giving the student opportunities to contribute and by listening to their ideas. Don’t keep communication one way only.
  5. Monitor the program You need to monitor the performance of your student throughout their course. Make sure that your expectations are realistic. As you work through the program you will be asked to complete Supervisor sign off activities, you must review your students workplace activites, and sign off when your are happy with their progress. You may also need to ask others in your office to assist with supervising the trainee when they complete specific aspects of the program. For example, specialists in administration, accounting, claims, underwriting or risk management.
    • You should be thinking about whether your trainee:
    • Knows how to do the job
    • Understands why the jobs should be done in a particular manner
    • Undertakes different tasks at the same time
    • Works well with others in the office
    • Understands the policies or procedures in place in your office
    • Deals with everyday problems that come up in the workplace
    • Transfers their skills to new situations
    • Applies their skills consistently.

NIBA College has seen enthusiastic new entrants suffer unfairly if their licensee or supervisor does not fulfil their part of the training arrangement effectively. When students fail their assignments or fall behind in their coursework, licensees often make the excuse that the pressures of business mean they cannot allocate training time to their student let alone release the person for study time. However, a hectic business period is no more an acceptable excuse for not following through on your training responsibilities as it is for not placing your client’s insurances.

Licencees need to provide and support a supervisor who will act as a role model and coach. The general insurance or broking coach who is well organised and committed substantially contributes to the ability of the student to achieve their goal of gaining a nationally recognised qualification. However, the benefits are not one way. Coaches also gain a number of personal & business benefits from involvement in their student's success.