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Three Key Strategies to Boost Your Contact Center Training Results

As the pace of business continues to increase and competition escalates, it’s more imperative than ever that contact center strategy and operations keep pace. A critical component of supporting essential business functions is preparing the company workforce to consistently perform at high levels. Employee training and development, of course, is critical to high performance.

There is evidence that many contact centers take their training mandate seriously and devote substantial resources to training employees. But, based on my experience, I also find many contact center training initiatives – including elearning, classroom training, and less structured training such as mentoring and shadowing – don’t quite hit the mark in terms of efficiency and effectiveness. Why not? I've identified the top three training pitfalls that erode efficiency and effectiveness and added some recommendations about how to address each to boost your training results.

1. Jumping straight to training design without adequate assessment. When managers identify a performance gap or implement a new process or technology, they usually request training to support the need. The training team comes in and designs an intervention of some sort, such as a class, to address the managers’ stated need. But training only addresses one kind of performance gap – lack of knowledge. Training doesn’t remove barriers to performance, address lack of motivation, or provide missing incentives. Before undertaking any type of training initiative, a training needs assessment (there are many books and websites that outline the TNA process) will ensure that the performance gap or need is adequately addressed.

A training needs assessment ensures that we are creating a performance intervention that is driven by data and a deep understanding of the need or problem, not the desire for a quick fix. Sometimes an analysis of the performance gap results in a revelation – it’s not training we need, but some other performance intervention. Sometimes we end up developing a blended solution such as 50% classroom training and 50% post-training support. And sometimes we end up with a class that is substantially different than the one we had initially envisioned.

2. Poor training evaluation. A training class ends and the instructor hands out course evaluations, which are used to determine if the training was "effective". But how reliable is this common evaluation method? Not very. Smile sheets are subject to the halo effect – where participants’ classes which were taught by a likeable instructor more highly - and a myriad of other reliability problems. Deeper and more meaningful training evaluation ensures that training initiatives are driving the results we want.

Good training objectives are the key to training evaluations. If you identify the desired results of a training initiative during the training needs assessment, then half the work is already done. Your goal at the end of the initiative is to determine if those measurable and clearly stated objectives were met. This might be accomplished using a post test, a survey of participants’ managers or peers, independent observation, your quality monitoring program, a key business metric, or even by surveying participants one week out, one month out, and three months out to determine if the course, class, or other training initiative really made a difference.

3. All the learning takes place during the "event". I prefer not to think about how many classroom classes I’ve taught where participants arrived at the start of class with only a vague sense of why they were there. Classroom training can be made more efficient by tasking participants with pre-work reading and activities, reflection questions and exercises. When participants arrive at training event already prepared, this reduces classroom time and ensures participants are ready to jump in and interact with the content quickly. I also prefer not to think about how many classroom classes I’ve taught where participants had a great time, rated the course highly, and left everything they learned in the classroom. Classroom training is more effective when participants are clear about how and when they are expected to apply what they are learning, how they will be supported to do so, and who will be following up to make sure they do so. Many forwarding-thinking experts in the training industry believe that 20 –30% of learning should happen before a training event, and 20 – 30% of learning should happen after a training event. There are few ways to make your training more efficient and effective than to extend the training outside the classroom and into the workplace.

Today's demanding and cost-conscious work environment requires that our training initiatives keep pace and respond flexibly to the demands of the workplace. The most effective strategies to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of our training initiatives involve examining the activities that take place before and after a training event to ensure we are hitting the mark.