Why Training Matters
WHY TRAINING MATTERS
By Eric Berg
Pipeline Special Series Part 3/5
Recently, I was working with a contact center client that was experiencing low customer satisfaction ratings. They thought changing the profile of their new-hires could fix the issue. Because I had worked with this company for some time, I knew the quality of their hires was in the top 10% of the labor pool, so I suspected other factors.
This particular contact center conducted post-call surveys to measure customer satisfaction. I asked the managers what they considered to be their top priority, and their answer was customer satisfaction.
I asked if they had used the results of the surveys to measure the success of training and modify the training to meet the goals. Their answer was, “Our training is six weeks long, so it’s very good.”.
Needless to say, the length of a training program is not an indicator of its effectiveness. Training is more than providing learners with the basic job skills for the position, it is an opportunity to align and realign the workforce with the goals of the organization. Measurement starts by understanding how training furthers these overall goals. There are several components to a successful training program:
· Learners are enabled to carry out the activities required by their position.
· Training is clearly and measurably aligned to business goals.
· Goals are reached in part through measurable training activities.
· Training is easily modified to accommodate new goals and new tools.
· Training, measurement, modification and retraining are incorporated into a continuous improvement process.
Prioritize and Measure
Every contact center has metrics that indicate success or failure, but some contact centers fail to promote those metrics throughout their organization, or to prioritize them for their staff. If agents are told that average handle time is most critical and then, in the next sentence, told that customer satisfaction or first-call resolution is the most important, how can you expect your agents to know what they need to do to be successful? Whether it’s important to have a short list of your top priorities—in order—that everyone can understand. This short list will help you to determine the real focus of training, which might be surprisingly different from your current program. So, first identify and share your priorities.
In the case of my client, I met with the senior leadership to identify what they considered to be their top priority—not a list of priorities, but the ONE priority that was above all else. They agreed on their one priority, and we were able to create a training program customized to meet this overall goal.
To review, effective training is your first and best tool for driving your business toward its stated goals. A good program meets the following criteria:
1. Goals and expectations must be clear from the top.
2. Training must contribute to increased organizational performance.
3. Success only occurs if there are positive outcomes.
4. Non-contributing initiatives must be stopped.
5. Advance planning and measurement is required to ensure that all agents understand the value to clients.
6. Training modules must match up to an organizational goal.
Analyze and Develop
Now that you understand the overall goals of training, the next step is to develop training modules specifically designed to prepare agents to meet those goals. This where action on metrics comes in; it’s time to analyze the results of measured activities and develop training curriculum focused on improving performance. In some contact centers, the curriculum may be simple script review and training on systems. For other contact centers, it’s about evaluating k knowledge tools and ensuring that the right information is available, updated and easily searchable.
In the development stage, contact center managers need to understand the learning of their employees. Are your typical agents Gen X, millennial's or baby boomers? Each demographic learns differently. Baby boomers are comfortable with classroom-style learning, with note-taking and tests. Millennial's prefer collaborative activities that allow them to work together to understand the topics and come up with creative and different ways to produce the desired results.
Combining classroom learning, group exercises, self-learning, videos and assessments will ensure that every agent absorbs and processes the learning materials.
Find the Gaps
My client and I looked for gaps between performance and curriculum. We did that be creating and administering pretest that measured an agent’s ability to meet the priority goal. We identified several gaps and went on to create and modify training modules as needed. Learners were then retrained, and a post-test confirmed that the gaps were closed.
By measuring the knowledge and abilities of agents first, then conducting new training and measuring the results of the training toward the overall goal, this contact center was able to see immediate results that affected their No. 1 priority.
How Training Affects Retention and Profits
According to a study by HR analytics expert Laurie Bassi (Delahoussaye et al. 2002), an increase in the investment in training and development of employees resulted in lower employee turnover, increased customer satisfaction and higher profitability. After concluding this study, Laurie invested in S&P companies that had higher investment in training and development than average and saw an increase in overall corporate stock performance of 4%.
Bassi’s research revealed that employees feel valued when they’re offered additional training opportunities, and that those same employees report higher job satisfaction. Satisfied employees perform better and stay longer.
To measure the difference training makes on employee attitudes, make sure to survey them on satisfaction levels before and after. If you don’t see improvement, continue to survey on the training itself and identify problem areas.
Training is Core and Continual: Six Takeaways
Once a training module is completed, it is critical to measure the results of training performance, identify the gaps in training and provide additional training to close the gaps. Training must be a continual process that is ever-changing and evolving as the contact types and goals of the organization change.
Periodic reviews of training gaps should be scheduled, and training should be set up to quickly develop new training to push out to agents as needs change.
For results from your investment in training—including improved retention agent performance, customer satisfaction and progress toward your business goals—follow these six takeaways:
1. Continually review and reaffirm the goals of your center and incorporate them into your training.
2. Identify the gaps between performance and goals.
3. Test and retest, measure and remeasure, survey and resurvey.
4. Provide agents with the knowledge, training and tools needed to meet those goals.
5. Support all training styles.
6. Modify, as needed.
Good luck with your new continuously improving training program and prepare to be blown away by the results.