The Hidden Benefits of High-Quality Training

Many contact center managers (and other business leaders as well) allow training to fall to the bottom of the priority list because they consider it expensive, time-consuming and unnecessary. So sometimes it falls by the wayside with the hope that, with some quick on-the-job training, employees will somehow “make it work.” We might even point to employee turnover as the reason for our neglect, wondering why we should make the effort to formally train employees who have such perpetually short tenures.

Formal, high-quality training programs are, in fact, worth every penny—and every minute—spent on them. Throughout the years, studies have consistently shown a link between training and people’s attitudes about their job proficiency. Employees who felt they received effective, meaningful coaching also felt they improved their job performance. Training has also been shown to have a significant impact on mental attitudes related to the job, including increased motivation and commitment, more trust in the organization, and a willingness to go above and beyond to meet job requirements.

Training is typically thought of as something that’s done only once, for new hires. It is a great way to introduce new employees to the company, its culture and its products, and gets the relationship started on the right foot. Here at InfoCision, while we agree on the importance of making every new Communicator feel welcomed—and that training is the perfect opportunity to do so—we disagree that a good training program can be consist of a “one and done” event.

As a matter of fact, the more training you offer employees throughout their tenure, the better off you’ll be. With ongoing training, you’ll have employees who excel at meeting expectations, and your employees will have a greater sense of fulfillment at work.

Here are some suggestions for making your training program the best it can be:

  • Focus your training program on core skills. Too many companies offer training that isn’t 100 percent relevant to the job, devaluing the program. The training you provide should be essential to the job your Communicators are actually performing when they leave the room—not preparation for something else down the line. Identify three to five skills that are absolutely necessary for excellent job performance, and focus the training around those. Here, we work one-on-one with new hires to ensure they have all the knowledge and tools they’ll need when they begin their work. We also frequently review our training procedures to ensure they are up to date and efficient.
  • Make the training interesting. Training should be energizing, not boring. Memorable training is highly practical and usually offered in short bites. Our training, for example, incorporates a variety of methods to engage trainees, including discussions, Q&A sessions, videos and shadowing. Weave small doses of learning with bursts of implementation, giving employees lots of chances to use what they’ve just learned.
  • Make training essential to your ongoing mission. Beyond identifying the core skills for new hires as individuals, what are the characteristics your company needs to develop to be the best in the industry? We know our industry changes seemingly by the day, so what new knowledge can you impart that will keep everyone on the same page, focused on the same mission? How can you, as a group, continue learning to exceed expectations? By embedding training into your business operations it becomes a way of life, giving employees something to work toward together.

If you need proof to convince others of the merits of a formal, ongoing training program, consider calculating the program’s return on investment (ROI). There’s a terrific resource at Management-Issues.com that discusses this subject in greater detail. Having a dollar figure that reflects the value of your training not only justifies its existence, but also opens the door to improving it in the future.

Five Roadblocks to Successful Contact Center Training

A successful contact center training program must arm customer care Communicators with the knowledge and tools they need to deliver a stellar customer experience. It doesn’t happen by magic. Manager-trainers/coaches must strategically design the training program so that it optimizes the commitment of funding, time and effort necessary to create and implement it.

To help you maximize the opportunity, avoid the following five roadblocks when developing your training program:

  1. Vague objectives: Specific goals and objectives should be established—documented in writing—at the outset, as they are the very foundation of the training program. Make sure they encompass the knowledge and skills that participants ought to take away at the end, and be sure to present them to participants at the start of the session. These goals will guide a logical sequence of activities for the program, as well as provide the basis for assessment of the training’s effectiveness.
  2. Unsupportive learning environment: Be sure the training space is welcoming and ready. Warmly greet participants as they enter. The room should be of an appropriate size to accommodate the number of trainees—neither too large nor too small (remember how Goldilocks suffered in this regard). Make sure everyone is comfortable: Consider room temperature, accessibility, lighting, travel arrangements and facilities (e.g., restrooms, Wi-Fi and parking). Choose an area free from distractions and where everyone has a good view of trainers and training materials. Check acoustics to be sure that everyone can hear the presenters.
  3. Limited resources: Training materials should be abundant and up to date and, especially, mimic what will actually be used in the work environment. All equipment, hardware and software should be current and fully functional. Ensure that the training materials match expected outcomes. For example, training on a software tool may require hands-on access to the software or at least clear screen shots delineating the software elements. Participants should also be given training materials to take back to the office for reference.
  4. Overreliance on lectures: Change up training methods to keep participants engaged and learning. Encourage discussions around the training materials, and use exercises that allow trainees to practice skills, like role playing, Q&A and quizzes. People learn in different ways, so be sure to employ visual (e.g., black or white boards, videos, PowerPoint presentations and overhead projectors), oral (e.g., storytelling, jokes and lectures) and written materials (e.g., manuals and worksheets). Keep in mind the age and experience levels of participants and match them with methods and tools used for training.
  5. Little assessment or follow-up: Once employees return to the workplace, are they able to apply what you’ve taught them? Training program success is measured by how well it has affected employee performance toward the stated goals. A training program is a work in progress, and evaluation is critical to improving it over time. For assessment, consider pre- and post-knowledge and/or skills testing. Also measure employee reaction to the program, since approval indicates engagement and absorption of the information being conveyed, and disapproval guides improvements. Employee feedback should be collected immediately following the training. Use a standardized form, perhaps one that uses a numbered rating system but also includes open-ended questions and space for comments.

Training is an important part of overall contact center performance. Make sure to optimize it by avoiding these five roadblocks.