Closing a new ‘digital-world’ gap with learning and development

Closing a new ‘digital-world’ gap with learning and development

In 2021 we’ve seen that learning and development, and human resources are now challenged to identify the skillsets needed for businesses to move forward in almost an entire a virtual world. The digital platform has become the new norm to ensure business survival.

KPMG’s Global banking M&A outlook, COVID-19: Impact on the banking sector, stated that:

“banks, even the most territorial and branch-centric ones, are forced to encourage the use of channels that have never been their strategic priority.”

According to a global study by Boston Consulting Group, 80% of companies believe it necessary to include digital transformation as part of their strategy. However, a report by The 2020 State of Digital Transformation, by Altimeter has revealed that a shocking 68% of traditional financial services firms have admitted to only being in the early stages of digital transformation.

Whilst it has been recognised that digital transformation is a vital part of a firm’s sustainability and survival, it is clear there is a gap within the financial services and a new, rapidly growing digital world.

The impacts of the pandemic could therefore make banks “even more inclined to accelerate the digital transformation path through partnerships and collaborations within the fintech community,” said KMPG’s report.

Fintech is reshaping the banking and financial services industry through providing the innovation, features and functions that the banking sector hasn’t been able to provide by itself. These tech companies are now being looked on as valuable partners for companies who want to reach new goals and expand in different ways. Continued collaboration between banking and fintech is now, more than ever, a necessity for the new digital world” Hector Payne, Chief Learning Office, Alpha Development.  

We’ve been supporting businesses within the financial services in providing suitable training solutions to support employees with the right skills needed as part of their digital transition. We have delivered over 900,000 hours of training to over 150,000 students over the last 15 years and have successfully transitioned to online training during the pandemic ensuring businesses are able to meet their objectives and focus on building their strategies whilst leaving the training to us.

Some Ways To Empower Your Conversations

By Alex Wirtz, Head of Technology Curriculum at Alpha Development

In this article, I want to focus on how to progress the conversation around Data and Analytics in the organisation. This broadly divides into:

  • Making ourselves confident interlocutors;
  • Initiating or progressing the conversation about data skills training internally with stakeholders.

For the former, I recommend Alpha Development’s series of video shorts demystifying Data Literacy.

Here, let’s focus on the second.

What obstacles do Learning and Development professionals face in these internal conversations?

Well, the roadblock I’ve seen and heard about most frequently is where the stakeholder is assumed to be the Chief Data Officer, Head of Analytics or some such similar role. Roles such as these can represent a somewhat niche community. They’re surrounded in many cases by Data Engineers, Machine Learning specialists, Quant Finance and/or Machine Learning PhDs. An amazing place to be; but it’s not always representative of the organisation at large.

So, who to turn to? And how should we correctly characterise the broad range of data skills needs within an organisation? Let’s turn to our old friend from client-centred design: the user story.

“[…] a role-based, persona-driven learning journey is more effective at scaling data fluency training programs. Every persona has a different relationship with data and would need to acquire competencies in different tools, and grow different skills to thrive in the digital age.” Source: DataCamp

So what are these roles? The DataCamp article lists them as follows. What’s important to note is that the number of employees who fulfil these roles (and so potentially need training) increases exponentially as you iterate through the list:

  • Data Scientist
  • Data Engineer
  • Programmer/Statistician
  • Data Analyst
  • Business Analyst
  • Data Leader/Consumer

(for a fuller description of these roles, follow the link to the article, The L&D Guide to Data Fluency – Data tools and data personas)

So: when preparing to have those tricky internal conversations, one of the first things you should consider is a stakeholder matrix – traditionally, a classification of stakeholders based on power to influence, the legitimacy of each stakeholder’s relationship with the organization, and the urgency of the stakeholder’s claim on the organization.

One way to quantify urgency and legitimacy is to ask: how many employees can we reach?

Assuming our goal is to engender data awareness and fluency firm-wide, numbers like these matter. Even if the final decision rests with someone whose role most closely fits the top of the list above, given the relative scarcity of such roles you should aim to get representation from the more densely populated interested groups near the bottom of it.

“While data and analytics leaders, such as chief data officers, recognize that there is an inherent need for data-driven decision making, linking this demand to measurable business objectives and outcomes is an existing challenge,” says Alan D. Duncan, Distinguished VP Analyst, Gartner.

Poor data literacy is regarded as one of the big roadblocks to the success of the CDO’s office. It’s something that is becoming increasingly advantageous for organisations for better decision-making and the uncovering of new insight and opportunities.

Whilst there is a high degree of awareness for the need for data skills, organisations also need to understand how to work with with data to the appropriate degree – and this is often where the disconnect lies.

The benefits that can be achieved by data-driven companies are compelling, however, as neatly told within our infographic below.


What is data literacy, and why it is key to your organisation achieving its data analytics and digital transformation strategies?

How can you best advise your business stakeholders on how to increase the level of data literacy in your organisation?


Join our free, interactive webinar. We’ll not only answer these questions for you, but we’ll give you the confidence to engage with, and advise your business stakeholders on how to develop a widespread, job-role appropriate level of data literacy.

KEY TAKEAWAYS – at the end of this webinar, you’ll be able to:

To join the webinar at 8am on Wednesday 3rd November, register here.

To join the webinar at 1pm on Wednesday 3rd November, register here.

By Hector Payne, Chief Learning Officer, Alpha Development

The whole “Homogeneity of Early Careers Programme Design” discussion is trending again.

It’s not a secret that getting in front of the right talent with the right experience is a top priority for today’s early career development teams (ECDTs henceforth.) The problem is that most graduate programme design is “homogeneous.” ECDTs typically offer a one size fits all experience treatment to their defined audiences – and though it may aim to appeal to lots of different talent from different backgrounds, it is homogenized into one single output for everyone, regardless of their individual preferences or needs.

Sticking to a homogenous approach to early career development experience design, whether it’s design for the entire firm or specific desks, is a problem (or opportunity, depends on how you view the challenge) and can put your campus brand in jeopardy. By presenting the best average experience instead of a truly personalized output, ECDTs expose their firms to extinction risk. Extinction risk is when a business, like animal species, becomes vulnerable to change to such a degree that it might not be able to survive large environmental fluctuations. The Covid year alone has been a source of rich case studies and data points that has put the spotlight on extinction risk for firms.

Extinction risk is often masked by things that could be indicators of a healthy business, e.g. great revenue. Because of this, it’s vital for organisations to recognize the signs early on and make sure their strategies are setting them up for long-term growth. The key to this is diversity in programme design, audience and business.

Graduate programmesDiversity in programme design- Due to the nature of individual preference, a programme offering to a group, will inevitably garner different reactions. A “good” programme design will appeal to a certain audience, though even an incredibly successful campaign will miss the mark for some. By keeping your programme design homogeneous, you will not have the ability to learn from that distribution of responses. When the performance of your programme is assessed using conversion rates or attrition rates, the nuanced range of reactions is flattened, hidden behind a single metric. That lost information could have been a great resource – informing your teams more about their talent and how to better reach them. By giving people only one creative option and measuring whether it did well or poorly, you are using blunt tools that can only produce blunt insights that don’t do a good job of informing future campaigns or even identifying future talent potential- dare I say even identifying future leaders for functions. Producing and using multiple creative approaches to programme design can provide a number of benefits, including better serving an audience in real-time as well as gaining insights that will help teams make better decisions in the future.

Diversity in your talent pool- Homogeneous design treats the inherent diversity of a group of talent as a problem to be solved: by serving singular creative options to an audience, early career development teams will endear those that resemble the average while alienating those outside it. By targeting and understanding relative outliers, ECDTs can grow their talent base by attracting new people. This process activates a positive feedback loop between homogeneous programme design and homogeneous audience, in which designs tailored toward the average encourage talent to conform more to the average of the group. If ECDTs continue to iterate on that, eventually all talent will start to look alike. And if something happens to said group, it could mean disaster. This is not unlike extinction as we know it in the biological world. If a core audience shares many of the same characteristics, any major change in the environment, such as a pandemic, global warming or major economic changes is likely to affect all of them at once. It goes without saying that change is inevitable – so why would ECDTs risk it all on one group?

For those that take a heterogeneous approach, the inevitable changes that come along will have much less potential to drastically upend a market in a short period of time. And this approach will likely help ECDTs more effectively reach a larger talent pool and grow a business in the long run.

Diversity in your business- As the feedback loop of homogeneous design and talent pools becomes more acute, it’s inevitable that a business will adapt and follow suit – becoming prone to extinction risk. In the animal kingdom, the Ili Pika only discovered in 1983 (thank you National Geographic) have developed a high level of specialization: they live on sloping bare rock faces and feed on grass at very high elevations. Yet despite these specialized skills, they are vulnerable to extinction. Rising temperatures and air pollution have contributed to their decline. This risk often affects those who over-specialize and become dependent on the conditions that enabled them to thrive in the first place.

If another species finds that they can easily rely on one food source, they might sharpen their hunting abilities for that type of prey instead of diversifying their skills. While it might seem like an appealing option, as it provides the most immediate rewards, it poses a great risk. If something comes along that wipes out that food source, the unique animal goes along with it. The same is true in early careers development – when you focus only on improving programme design to cater to that top quartile of talent, you run the risk of losing that base when the – often unavoidable – change occurs.

Homogeneous design forces a constant narrowing of your talent pool, in both size and diversity, iteration by iteration. ECDTs should rethink what constitutes successful targeting and good design, and instead choose a heterogeneous programme design approach to expand their reach and appeal in order to attract and build loyalty with your future talent.

Early career programme design is not abstract visual expression. It is a conversation framework between humans. The components and interactions we create as programme designers are like parts of a global language. Just like you wouldn’t want to have a conversation that’s fragmented into multiple languages, you wouldn’t want unique fragmentation in the way you communicate with your talent or business.

Contact your Alpha relationship manager if you are thinking about reviewing your current approach and would like to have a conversation.

Later this month we will be hosting a webinar with Dr Jane Clark, Global Head of Service Development, AMS, who has recently undertaken some game-changing research as part of her PhD. In the hour-long session, Jane will reveal the real value and impact that graduate programmes can have for organisations and the graduates themselves whom often get overlooked in the process. The event is taking place on Tuesday 19th October and Thursday 21st October. Click on your preferred date to register your interest in attending – we look forward to seeing you there.

WEBINAR: Quid Pro Quo – Repurposing The Purpose Of Graduate Programmes


Development of early talent is paramount to developing a sustainable workforce for the future.

But sometimes it seems stuck in the past.

We are thrilled to be hosting an event with Dr Jane Clark, Global Head of Service Development, AMS, who has recently undertaken some game-changing research as part of her PhD.

In the hour-long webinar, Jane will reveal the real value and impact that graduate programmes can have for organisations as well as the graduates themselves whom often get overlooked in the process.

During the interactive event, Jane will share three thought-provoking themes that came out of her research

  1. What’s the difference between the purpose and value of Graduate Development Programmes?
  2. How do Graduate Programmes impact the ‘EI’ in DEI?
  3. How do you measure the success of Graduate Programmes? And should you measure their success?

You’ll also be able to ask Jane questions within the live Q&A session.

Isn’t it time that the value of graduate recruitment is viewed from a different and fairer lens?

We are running 2 sessions on the 19th and 21st October. Please choose the session that works best with your time zone. We look forward to seeing you there!

Tuesday, 19th October 1pm GMT+1  JOIN THIS SESSION

Thursday, 21st October 8am GMT+1  JOIN THIS SESSION


Evolving leadership skills in financial services

In a volatile and complex world, financial organisations are working to strategically align with challenges such as digital transformation, inclusion, and responsible governance, while wrestling with the perennial operational test of time.

Addressing this can mean re-learning old skills, adopting new ones, or both.

Our philosophy focuses on the paradigm shift in leadership among financial services due to the impact of new ways of working, coupled with technology innovations.

“Leadership is not about titles, positions or flowcharts. It is about one life influencing another.” – John C Maxwell, leadership author and speaker.


Building a positive business impact through leadership

Imagine employees at all levels within your business thriving within tomorrow’s changing business world. Imagine they had the skills to recognise the complexity of this new world and to drive the organisation forward despite any ambiguity.

By adopting our customised learning solutions, you can encourage your employees to lead by:


Stages of the leadership journey

The leadership style within your organisation is likely to be completely different to other organisations within your industry. Your culture is even more personal than that. Layered on top of that is a fact that you don’t have to be a leader to lead.

When it comes to shaping differing leadership styles within diverse cultures, it’s clear that one size does not fit all. Our approach to leadership inspires employees to use and develop their inner leadership skills despite what stage they’re at within their career.

Positive Leadership

Wherever they are within their careers, our tailored programmes are custom built to:


The learner experience for business impact

We support people at every stage of their leadership journey through a highly constructive learner experience.

Our customisable training content enables you to build a learning programme that can meet the challenges financial institutions face within a VUCA environment.

“We really appreciate that Alpha team members are true partners in every sense of the word. They clearly value the participant experience over convenience and financial gain.” -SVP. Top 5 US Bank


Align a culture of learning through leadership and unlock the leader in your employees

Whether you’re developing the next generation of leaders, encouraging employees to drive change, building resilience or managing people and resources, we can help.


For more information about building a positive business impact through leadership, please contact us today.

By Monica Mascy, MBSR practitioner and mindfulness coach  

Monica Mascy shares her 5 top tips to using mindfulness to combat stress


1. Become mindful about mindfulness: Many businesses are struggling to continue ‘as usual’ in these unusual times. 

By encouraging open and honest communication about mental health and wellbeing, companies can introduce effective solutions to increase a supportive work environment.  

On an online program I conducted last year where the organisation insisted that participants have their cameras on, I noticed a participant cradling her infant from time to time, appearing visibly uncomfortable. Acknowledging that, I appreciated her involvement despite her challenging situation, and helped her relax as I noticed her discomfort dissolve. She seemed more confident and contributed more actively to the discussion. 


2. Mindfulness breaks and training: The basis of increasing empathy, better working relationships, improved productivity, work-life balance and increased creativity and innovation are just some of the benefits of mindfulness.

Formal online or offline coaching, counselling, wellbeing, and self-awareness programs throughout the organisation, shifting the focus of learning at work from professional skill-building to personal wellbeing, should be the focus.


3. Developing emotionally intelligent leaders: Actions, tasks, and results might be the focus of leaders, but they can only be achieved through their people.

As with most other strategies, mindfulness needs to begin at the top. Only through awareness and mindfulness can leaders become aware of their thoughts, emotions, and behaviours to lead authentically and communicate with empathy, decreasing their employees’ stress and anxiety levels to achieve results. 

As leaders pay attention to employees as ‘human beings’, not mere ‘resources’, the quality of the organisation’s products, services, and image dramatically improves – leading to an increased bottom line. 

Isn’t that the goal of all leaders, after all?  

Daniel Goleman often says that poor listening skills are the common cold of leadership today. While listening attentively, without judgement or bias to the person in front of you, relationships thrive, and eco-centric rather than egocentric decisions are made. 


4. Encourage a proactive growth mindset: Encouraging employees to strengthen their mindfulness proactively, thereby becoming more resilient and effective by redefining their routines, centring their lives around mindfulness and connecting with co-workers beyond work and virtual meetings to reduce anxiety and foster a culture of motivation, wellbeing and engagement.   

Being mindful of things, people and circumstances that we are grateful for and focusing on wellbeing (our own and that of others) will help strengthen our bodies and souls and the organisation’s support culture.  
Focusing on fostering a sense of wellbeing in the workplace leads to better relationships, work-life balance, a sense of aliveness and joy for employees and employers. This will help to redefine and sustain an organisation’s productivity, resilience and increase innovation. 


5. Create Mindful Groups/ pods at work:  Organisations must encourage employees to join a support group or pod that is cross-functional across regions, levels and departments with guidelines for regular meetings to discuss experiences of being mindful and consequences of not being present. 

Last year, I completed a six-month course with coaches across the globe on ‘positive intelligence’. The course required us to join a ‘pod’ consisting of 3 – 5 coaches. The pod aimed to hold its members accountable to complete the homework, discuss it and share learnings. But most importantly, what it achieved was to remind us to be present. We easily get caught up in our busy lives and have ‘no time’ to be mindful. Over the weeks, I realised that though it was hard to practice initially, it soon became a habit. I didn’t have to try to be mindful anymore.  
I soon began to yearn to be in that state, as I realised that the feelings of wellbeing and peace that it induces is the constant pursuit that we, as human beings, are always in – the pursuit of happiness. 
About Monica Mascy 
Monica is an MBSR practitioner and mindfulness coach supporting people to use the benefits of mindfulness to reduce stress, increase creativity, empathy and the quality of their relationships. She has led teams in diverse industries across America, Australia, Europe, Middle East and South-East Asia and brings cultural awareness and sensitivity into her coaching. Monica has coached various leaders and senior executives at Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Credit Suisse, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, 3M, Swiss Re, GE, Novo Nordisk, Parexcel, Cisco Systems, Siemens, EMC2, SAP, E&Y, and Volvo. 


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In this panel discussion, Anesh Jagtiani, Commercial Director, Middle East, at Alpha Development speaks with leadership professionals, Evren Altiok, COO, Commercial Bank International, Sascha Pietrek, CEO, EFG Middle East, and Neil Chan Some, AVP – Retail Process Development, UAE based banking institution, about workplace transformation.

By Raghda ElDeeb, Programme Manager, Alpha Development

The Emiratisation governmental initiative, launched by the UAE Government, mandates the inclusion of UAE citizens in the job sector to preserve national identity.

Whether it’s Emiratisation, Saudisation, or Qatarisation, Nationalisation has proven to provide economic and social stability as the UAE Government empowers its citizens by guaranteeing career opportunities in the public and private sector.

His Highness, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founding father of the UAE once said, “no matter how many buildings, foundations, schools and hospitals we build, or how many bridges we raise, all these are material entities. The real spirit behind progress is the human spirit, the able man with his intellect and capabilities.”

With this statement, it is palpable that the UAE government enacts these values by investing 25% of its total federal government spending on:

  • robust educational systems,
  • graduate programmes in public and private sectors,
  • training programmes for employees’ professional development,
  • and versatile educational initiatives to support upscaling the Emirati national’s skills and capabilities.

The Ministry of Finance’s Development and Training Programme is an example of the latter, where their integral element of its strategic plan aims to support UAE nationals by offering an engaging, performance-driven environment through their annual training workshops.


A holistic approach to learning by investing in people

Investing in people means investing in the future of the nation. With these initiatives, UAE citizens will be equipped with the skills, knowledge, and attitude to thrive in their professional roles and responsibilities.

Following the steps of His Highness Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, maximising the human spirit involves a strategy, a mapped journey that focuses on holistic 360-degree programmes that include all elements of professional and technical training, and on-the-job support.

This approach, especially at an early stage of a professionals career, provides UAE citizens with the education and skills needed to:

  • excel in their roles,
  • boost their confidence to take on responsibilities,
  • and increase employee retention.


A well-mapped learning journey doesn’t only prepare entry level employees to thrive, but it also aids existing employees in developing new skills required by financial services firms to be future-ready, whilst increasing overall employee agility and resilience to the everchanging market demands.

Get in touch

Alpha Development specialise in early career development exclusively for financial service organisations. Our tailored solutions include intern and graduate programmes, technical training, professional development, and on-boarding through robust curated curriculum designed by experienced faculty in the financial and banking industry, and delivered through innovative and engaging methods.

Get in touch to discuss your learning and development requirements with us.

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