Digital Fluency: The Finance Challenge

In order to build data fluency and utilize emerging technology tools and experiences, this is the type of training being explored and offered.

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First, the Basics

Digital fluency is the ability to leverage technology to create new knowledge, new challenges, and new problems and to complement these with critical thinking, complex problem solving, and social intelligence to solve the new challenges. Digital fluency also requires excellent communication skills, new media literacy, and cognitive load management to address the issues, and concerns we face today and in the future.

The Challenge

Based on some key executive insights, current training is not as effective as desired in engagement or outcomes.  Second, where it already exists, there is too much overlap in the subject matter.  To overcome this challenge, American Express is currently undergoing a journey toward deeper digital fluency within their entire Finance department and the Learning and Development Team have been instrumental in working on an overall strategy to accomplish this. The L&D team will need to determine appropriate training levels, delivery channels, and targeted content to reach a broad and varied set of business responsibilities with the company. 

In early 2019, American Express’ Finance department had a plan to roll out internally curated content utilizing top vendor platforms within the industry.  After discussing with leadership, it was decided that there is not just one experience that would solve the problem of training in the digital landscape.  Offering blended learning seemed to be the answer. In order to build data fluency and utilize emerging technology tools and experiences, the following types of training are being explored and offered.

  • Learning platform on your laptop or phone, for example, Safari or Pluralsight
  • External vendors brought in, for example, to provide an update on cryptocurrency
  • External teams provide training, for example, the risk team to talk about how they use machine learning on fraud detection and mitigation at the enterprise level 
  • Utilize hackathons, for example, a team developed training around SQL, Python and Tableau in a 3-day seminar and then worked on specific use cases

Gauging Impact

When offering any type training such as this, some vital questions must be answered. Will employees benefit from the training?  How frequently will they use it? Does it require leadership approval (cost, licensing)? To that end, the Learning and Development Team worked closely with finance leadership to create a careful and deliberate strategy on how this training would be rolled out.  This buy-in and guidance was imperative to the program’s success. As champions of the process, finance leaders were educated on the training resources available and how their teams could use these tools to complement content and learning already available to colleagues.  

As an initial part of the roll-out, American Express launched a 50-person pilot utilizing two training platforms, Safari and Pluralsight.  The apps were browser neutral and could be accessed anytime, anywhere and on any device.  All participants were sent a prepared playlist.  Then, metrics were collected on the usage such as frequency of access, type of access, time spent using, any bookmarking, and content downloading. 

Key Findings from the Digital Training Pilot

  • Both platforms were equally split regarding preference.
  • The majority of employees used the app during working hours, however, 26% accessed during their commute or at home.
  • 75% of employees utilized the app to enhance an existing skill, gain knowledge for their role or enhance their skillset for future career development.  
  • Videos were the most accessed modality followed by Channels and Playlists. 
  • Over 85% of employees would recommend the two apps to a fellow colleague. 

The positive results of this pilot allowed the further development of training on both apps. 

Next Steps at American Express

Delivering brief and engaging video snippets that feature content such as a leader’s message, overall synopsis of a process, or a demonstration are in the works.   This Micro Learning represents the next stage in helping onboard employees to new processes and platforms, enhance learning outcomes and improve engagement.  It can also include Check Your Knowledge questions to reiterate the learning.  Micro Learning was recently used to showcase Business Units within Finance to create cross functional process awareness.  It was also used in India during a digital career fair - bit sized learning options were presented on different television monitors for employees to walk through and learn a little bit about a business or specific process.  

With learning as a key component of transformation, American Express will continue to invest in this strategy of onboarding, upskilling, and engaging its colleagues well into the future.