We see many firms seeking to find or develop training programs for newer staff focused on soft skills that will position them for success. Some of these skills include written communication, leadership development and project management, all of which are essential to firm growth and people development. In this featured spotlight, we interviewed WithumSmith+Brown’s Joan Kampo, Director of Human Resources, and Rhonda Maraziti, CMO, to learn more about their firm’s innovative approach to adding niche development to their training curriculum.
What prompted your firm to innovate your training programs?
Our firm has experienced high growth over the past 4 years, growing to over 750 staff members. Managing Partner, Bill Hagaman and the other partners quickly recognized the need to develop a training curriculum that went beyond CPE credits. Starting around 2 years ago, Bill and his firm created additional task groups within their existing CPE committee to drive innovation in training. These groups were created out of a collaboration between leadership, Human Resources and Marketing.
How did you develop your niche training?
We started by looking at performance reviews and highlighting trends to help us identify ideas for new training. That’s when we recognized the importance of developing skills within niches to create paths for staff to grow their careers and to strengthen the firm in those niches. While training committees initiated the idea of niche training, it was the niche leaders who were tasked with developing this training. They knew the importance of including topics beyond technical skills, including industry trends and ways to grow your career through specialization in a niche.
What types of niche training programs do you deliver?
This is the first year that we have included niche-specific training in our curriculum. Our niche training programs plan to include everything from webinars to special guest speakers from the industry. Coaching by both internal and external resources is also a key component to this training. In some cases, we will add technical training specific to serving clients within a specific niche.
What challenges did you face or are you still facing in developing and delivering these programs?
One of the biggest challenges is finding the right instructors. We offer a train-the-trainer program as part of our other soft-skills training to help identify and develop better in-house instructors. We also created incentives for partners and managers to become trainers, incorporating a calculated ratio to equate training time with billable time. In addition to developing our internal instructors, we also recognize the need to enlist outside instructors and speakers who are dynamic and can engage our less-experienced staff.
Why do you think your niche training programs are successful?
Training is part of the vision and strategic plan for the firm. Firm leadership supports and drives the innovation in our training as well as our niche marketing efforts. The readers that recognize our firm from our videos know that Bill and the other partners are very dynamic and always looking at ways to bring new ideas to firm management and growth.
- Training needs to evolve beyond CPE to develop well-rounded staff and to help grow the future leaders of the firm.
- Recognize the need to develop your in-house instructors and bring in outside help to mix it up and ensure engagement by newer and less-experienced staff.
- Get partners and managers to collaborate with HR and Marketing to develop new training programs and content.