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In This Issue
Gap Analysis: Identifying the Knowledge Gaps
Bridging the Knowledge Gaps
SCS e-xpress
Jan/Feb 2012

growthA Message from Sarah & Chris:

The theme of this issue is "professional growth."

Employees focused on professional growth are better equiped to reach their full potential.  Firms that support and encourage professional development enjoy higher levels of employee performance and job satisfaction, which typically translate into higher customer satisfaction ratings.  

Adopting a career development approach towards professional growth allows individuals and firms to focus on short-term and long-term goals.  Good professional development plans recognize and cater to the varied levels of technical skills and "soft skills" that employees possess and provide different methods of learning to appeal to the different learning styles.  


We hope you enjoy our free SCS e-newsletter.  Please send us your ideas and suggestions for future issues.  Have a great day!  


 Where We'll Be

DFA Advisor Advanced 401(k) Symposium
Austin, TX
02/16/12 - 02/17/12
New Orleans, LA
03/18/12 - 03/20/12

Savannah, GA
04/18/12 - 04/20/12

Las Vegas, NV
04/29/12 -0 5/02/12

Las Vegas, NV
05/03/12 - 05/04/12

DFA Advisor Advanced 401(k) Symposium
Chicago, IL
05/24/12 - 05/25/12

2012 Power of 3 Workshop: 

Early bird registration discount ends February 15th!

The 2012 Power of 3 Workshop will be held from April 18 - 20, 2012 in Savannah, GA.  Great venue, great content, and great speakers!  Don't miss this opportunity to earn CPE and hear Sal Tripodi, Sarah Simoneaux, and Chris Stroud on many industry-relevant topics.  For more information, to register, or to make your hotel reservations now (space is limited), click here.  

Today's Tip

 See Sarah Simoneaux in action at the 2012 NIPA Annual Forum and Expo (NAFE).  Attend her Monday afternoon session on "Takeover Plans:  The Importance of First Impressions."  

Today's Quote
Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood.
  - Ralph Waldo Emerson, author 


Today's Laughs


Things we can learn from our children:

1. A king size waterbed holds enough water to fill a 2000 square foot house, 4 inches deep. 
2. Play dough and microwave should not be used in the same sentence.

3. No matter how much Jell-O you put in a swimming pool, you still can't walk on water. 
4. Cats throw up twice their body weight when dizzy. 
5.  Super glue is forever.












                                           hanging from ladder 

Gap Analysis: 
Identifying the
Knowledge Gaps  


The retirement services industry is one in which it is virtually impossible to know everything there is to know - especially when things keep changing!  When authorities on learning refer to various knowledge levels, they often use the "Conscious Competence Ladder,"  as decribed below:


Step 1: Unconscious Incompetence - you don't know that you don't know. 

Step 2: Conscious Incompetence - you know that you don't know.

Step 3: Conscious Competence - you know that you know.

Step 4:  Unconscious Competence - you don't know that you know - it just seems easy!  


Employees working in our industry who are at Step 1 of the ladder can be dangerous if not properly supervised and guided, so it benefits both the employer and the employee to increase an employee's awareness of what they don't know.  The courses and materials associated with ASPPA's certificate and credentialing programs are a great way for employees  to learn basic information, rules and regulations - and the exams serve as great assessment tools.  Most of ASPPA's courses also have practice exams available that can be used as "pre-assessments," helping employees determine what specific areas of study need special attention. 


Firms can also create and administer their own customized electronic assessments (frequently using consultants like SCS to help), especially when the desired outcomes of the assessments are to measure a broader range of learning objectives, target specific areas in detail, and/or track individual and group progress over time.  With customized assessments, firms can include open-ended (ungraded) questions that solicit information from the employees - like "What compliance testing concepts are the most difficult for you to explain to plan sponsors?" or "List three or more topics in which you would like to receive additional training." A distinct advantage of customized assessments is that the firm can establish baseline data, identify areas for improvement, and track progress over time for individuals and departments as a whole.  Analysis of the responses from the assessments provides the basis for customized training that can be tailored to fill in the knowledge gaps.


    Bridging the

Knowledge Gaps 



Every person is different, and we each have our own preferred learning styles.  Some folks prefer a visual/verbal approach. Some need to understand the big picture before they can delve into the details.  Many technicians like a very structured approach to learning, while other individuals with short attention spans often require small informational nuggets or "hands-on" exercises to hold their attention.  Firms should offer a variety of learning opportunities in order to appeal to all learning styles.  At the same time, if employees make conscious efforts to break out of their learning style comfort zones, they will find themselves learning more and better able to make sense of it all.


There are many effective methods of bridging the knowledge gaps.  Some firms show ASPPA webcourses or topical webcasts in a classroom/group setting, allocating time immediately following the event for a discussion or "lunch and learn" session.  These settings are great opportunities to connect the concepts revealed during the event to practical applications as they relate to individuals' jobs or to products/services that thefirm provides.  Firms can also use outside experts for onsite presentations and live or recorded webcasts to expose larger groups at different knowledge levels to the same concepts to achieve a "base level" of understanding by all.  Two of SCS' most popular workshops of this type are "The Evolution of Retirement Plans" and "Unraveling the Mystery of Plan Compliance."  Half-day or full day "bootcamps" or intensive study sessions can also be very effective for getting employees up to speed quickly or for exam preparation.  For example, SCS has used the bootcamp method to get many advisors and administrators up to speed quickly in 401(k) or 403(b).


When assessments reveal that certain topics need to be covered in depth or that there is a lack of understanding about how to apply specific concepts, a case study approach works best.  Case study materials can be developed using a firm's actual client data, related plan document, and relevant facts and circumstances.  Using a problem-solving approach, the instructor establishes the scenario and then facilitates as members of the group participate and deliberate to  explore possible solutions and make recommendations.  SCS frequently conducts training sessions using a case study approach, because this type of learning environment gives individuals opportunities to apply concepts to real day-to-day situations, promotes team-building, and hones communication and interpersonal skills.  When a real-life past situation is used as the case study, the groups' conclusions and recommendations can be evaluated by comparing them to what actually took place.  The group can determine whether their recommendations would likely have yielded better or worse outcomes. 


For more ideas on training, check out this article on "What Pandora Can Teach Us About Learning."


In our next issue, we will explore additional learning opportunities and Continuing Professional Education (CPE).


What our Customers are Saying... 


"A really good high level look at the evolution of retirement plans and how legislation has shaped where we are today. The discussion of the current economy and where proposed legislation might be taking us in the future was both interesting and informative. The speaker has a wealth of knowledge and experience to share with the audience and made one feel almost as if it was just 'industry folks chatting' as opposed to someone getting up in front of you and reading to you from a PowerPoint presentation. Engaging. Loved it! Come back again!"

       - Evolution of Qualified Plans session attendee 


"The customer service training was especially good (compared to other training we've had) because the case studies and exercises related to 'our world.'"

       - Professional development workshop attendee 

Power of 3 Retirement Industry Update Workshop

ASPPA Member

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