Your organization’s training program could be broken. You might not even realize it. It continually fails to be on target and doesn’t yield results. There is a solution. By viewing the training issues through a wider lens, you can examine the problems, tackle them and get your training back on track.
What does it mean to look through the wider lens though? Picture you are standing in a hallway at your place of work. At the end of the hallway is a door and your attention is focused on arriving at that door. Moving forward you see only the door. You are unaware of the flooring, lighting, decor, that you pass as you move forward. Perhaps you will arrive at the door. Then again, you may trip on a piece of frayed carpeting and face-plant half way there. At this point you’ll probably realize that you would have avoided the fall had you been aware of the wider view.
A narrow focus can make a training program ineffective by inhibiting the view of far greater problems. Thankfully, there are lessons to be learned from other organizations.
A Closer Look
Let’s look at what happened recently when a large media corporation attempted to positively impact their bottom line by outsourcing their customer contact centre but took a ‘fall’ due to a case of corporate tunnel vision.
In this case, the executive noticed an opportunity to reduce operational costs by outsourcing their customer contact centre overseas.
The first decision made was, in fact, a non-decision. At the outset, the company needed to know their customer base and understand how to successfully do business and meet their customers’ needs. Here, the customer base included many senior citizens, primarily English-only speakers. The decision to outsource to a location that was linguistically and culturally distinct from that of the main customer base presented a huge challenge.
In the hurry to ‘go live’, key recommendations from senior managers on customer culture and product understanding were left out of the training program. Once live, the problems began. Many customers were frustrated dealing with representatives who struggled to communicate in English and appeared not to care about their concerns. The most unhappy customers terminated their business.
The second set of decisions were around training the new call centre staff and management. Interestingly, the company elected to have the customer contact staff who were being replaced, execute the training of the new staff. Needless to say, their hearts just weren’t in it and quality suffered. Team leaders who would manage the floor were recruited by selecting individuals from the training group who appeared to pick up the concepts quickly. Not surprisingly, these individuals struggled because they had no prior management training or experience and additionally did not have the respect of those they managed, partly due to cultural norms around gender in this environment.
Finally, and here’s where their lack of a wider lens led to the hardest fall, they did not have mechanisms in place that accurately measured the success of the employee training program and that of the overall project.
“Most of the markets chose to report what they believed the executive wanted to hear instead of that which they needed to hear.”
While the company attempted to gather data from its various markets on the results of the contact centre project, most of the markets chose to report what they believed the executive wanted to hear instead of that which they needed to hear. Instead of honestly reporting the problems that existed, all but two passed on glowing reports of a successful project.
Once the scope of the problems became apparent, a stronger training team was sent to the location to rectify the problems with better training, accompanied by a management team who would assess the situation. In spite of gains made due to better training of the frontline staff, the management team determined that it was a case of too little, too late. They recommended the project be cancelled and the outsourcing moved back onshore.
Under The Microscope
Let’s examine some of the costs incurred along the way.
Flying staff overseas to provide initial training on the project.
Recruiting staff and paid to have their customer care outsourced.
Paying for additional training.
Losing a percentage of their loyal customer base.
Customer goodwill suffered.
Paying to move the contact centre back onshore and returned to square one. By recruiting, training and so on, having to spend twice to complete the job once.
Throughout this project, a wider lens to look through would have revealed the limitations of the choices made and also a range of other possibilities. Here’s an example of how it might have gone instead.
The best fit training solution for this company was probably a blended learning scenario that included a combined use of instructor-led and online training.
The company could have developed a series of online training courses that walked new staff through understanding the customer and their relationship to the products. Building this bridge of understanding would have prevented loss of customer base.
Furthermore, the company could develop a multimedia series of exemplary sample customer calls that set the bar for contact centre staff and management. Here’s where the balance between quality customer care and reaching call centre metrics comes into clear focus. Online training software that is interactive can easily demonstrate a call, highlight key concepts being shown, and require a response from the trainee that reinforces understanding and learning.
The online training solutions above could be appropriately used as both pre-training and ongoing training and reused on subsequent projects, adding longevity to the training investment.
Online training would also allow the company to track the training process using a Learning Management System (LMS) thereby providing executives with up-to-date feedback on training progress.
Additionally, rather than a narrow focus on the bottom line when hiring and training team leaders, they could have hired this team early on and trained them using a combination of online training, face-to face training with committed trainers and interactive webinars. After all, when it comes to training managers you can pay for it in one of three ways:
Either you pay a little more to hire a manager who arrives well-trained, or
You invest in training existing managers up to the level required, or
You pay heavily for mistakes made due to a lack of the skills needed to be successful.
And again, taking a wider perspective (if only at the postmortem stage), there is a need to better train the managerial level within the corporation to understand what effective reporting is and how that helps the company succeed. This would fit nicely into the company’s overall custom eLearning development plan and provide a solid ROI as it would prevent many costly errors in future projects.
A Clearer Perspective
The widest lens of all allows us to examine whether our executive and managers are tracking processes and communicating about them in a way that moves our business forward. Though investing in effective communication may seem a luxury, it may be what best contributes to bottom line over time. The higher the level of employee, after all, the greater the impact their lack of skills will have. Corporations that choose the wider lens to examine all of their operations, viewing employee training as the highly integrated process it can be, are the most competitive and successful in today’s business environment.
For tips on how you can minimize the causes of failure for your training program, download our free ebook How To Avoid Elearning Failures.
Image Credit: Darwin Bell