Training Design Checklist: 12 Effective Strategies Supported by Research (Part Two)
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Training Design Checklist: 12 Effective Strategies Supported by Research (Part Two)

In 2013, Dr. Will Thalheimer wrote a research abstract on the Decisive Dozen. He presented 12 training strategies that, if implemented, would significantly improve learning. In his paper, Dr. Thalheimer presented the research that proved that the strategies had a positive impact on learning. I have since used this list of 12 training strategies as a checklist when reviewing and designing training, putting my own call center spin on the strategies.

Last week I shared the first six strategies. Today I'll share the remaining six.

7. Is the training environment as near the workplace environment as possible?

When we integrate workplace cues in the learning, we are more likely to trigger future memory retrieval. This principle is one of the reasons why we like role playing during training, but often we do not structure the role playing to be enough like the workplace. Are the trainees playing the customer and the agent facing each other? That doesn’t happen in real life. Instead, have them sit so their backs are to each other and the customer does not see what the agent sees on the. Better yet, have the customer call the agent on a telephone with the agent using a headset. As often as we can incorporate real work environmental, emotional, and physiological cues in training, the more effective the training will be when the trainees start doing the real work.

8. Does the training incorporate many opportunities for feedback?

Feedback corrects learners’ misconceptions and supports correct memory retrieval, and it is something that most people crave. Giving lots of feedback in training—feedback on role playing, on answers given in class, on game choices, on tests, on simulation choices, and so many other areas—all lead to good learning.

I often tell people that the best way to learn is by making mistakes. In training, mistakes should be encouraged and learned from. When a learner makes a bad choice in a simulation or chooses the wrong answer on a test, the feedback should be a real life reaction and not just that it is a wrong choice. Many times a trainer will cut off a role play when things go bad, but it is a better idea to let it continue and allow the trainee to experience the consequences. It’s better to experience that in training than in real life.

9. Are the training activities varied enough to engage learners and help them practice memory retrieval in a variety of situations?

Variety is said to be the spice of life, and it helps learners by better engaging them in the learning and helping them practice memory retrieval in different situations. Research has shown that the more senses involved in learning, the better we remember the learning. That means we don’t just expect learners to sit and listen, and maybe take some notes. Learners need to get up and move around, they need to manipulate objects, even invoking their senses of smell and taste, all to help their memories.

We can also change up the speaker from time to time—invite the quality supervisor to speak about quality, invite the team supervisor to speak about the importance of using the correct telephone codes, or invite a subject matter expert to share their experience. In addition, we can do a variety of activities – not just role playing! Have participants construct a call flow on a classroom wall, create a job aid to use on the floor, create an infographic for principles that are important to know, do small group discussions, design and play games to reinforce critical information, and so many other creative activities that do more than just expose learners to the right content.

10. Does the training provide for spaced repetition of critical information?

Learning research has long shown the effectiveness of spacing out repetition over time in order to improve memory retrieval, but it is something training rarely does. The closest training usually comes to spaced repetition is a morning review of yesterday’s content in a multi-day training. Sending out emails with questions for answer during the week after training, and doing different activities (small group, presentation, role playing, quizzes and tests) over several days provide a way to do spaced repetition. The activity does not have to take very long—5-10 minutes once a day for three days can be sufficient.

11. Does the training persuade learners about the importance of what they are learning?

Persuasion takes more than facts and evidence; persuasion must be made personal. It requires trainers to use personalized language rather than stuffy, formal language. It includes testimonials from people with the same job. It helps the trainee to identify with other people, such as the customers. Creating realistic scenarios with a sense of urgency (A big new customer will be here in 15 minutes for a presentation on our new product—Quick! What can we put together?) also helps persuade learners. People are better able to recall information that they are persuaded is important and to which they have attached some kind of emotion—not just unemotional facts and figures.

12. Does the training help the learner persevere over time with energetic, goal-directed learning efforts?

As learning research has shown, most meaningful learning requires that learners persevere over time with energetic, goal-directed learning effort—whether on-the-job or in a classroom. Classroom training needs to help support the transition from learning to performing. Learners need the support of supervisors and co-workers once out on the floor rather than just being on their own as so often happens in busy call centers. The instructor can do side-by-side learning audits during the first week, providing instant feedback and reference to important content the new performer should be using. Trainees need their contacts audited from the very first contact so that they can get helpful feedback and improve quickly. Finally, the classroom needs to be aligned with real world experience and environments to make the learning easily transferable to the job.

These twelve items, the Decisive Dozen as Dr. Thalheimer calls them, are important for every call center training, whether it is a short refresher or a multi-day or week new hire training. You can probably remember training that seemed to put your mind to sleep and that required enormous amounts of your energy to get even the smallest benefit from the training. With these twelve research-supported training strategies, training efforts can yield better results on the job—which is the whole point of training.

If you are interested in reading Dr. Will Thalheimer’s research presentation, the complete paper can be downloaded here

Topics: Learning & Development


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Jeff Toister — 4:04PM on Apr 17, 2015

This is a good list. If studied carefully, contact center professionals will see that a lack of these items inhibits the success of training in many contact centers.


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