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The Secret to Effective Learning and Development

As is often pointed out, the best contact centers have a robust approach to learning and development (L&D). You’ll hear of this or that organization investing X hours in onboarding, or Y hours in ongoing training, innovative approaches, etc. All good! But here’s the real secret...

The most effective organizations approach L&D holistically. They view and address all of the components that fall under the (very large) L&D umbrella (see definition). And they know that hiring, training and coaching are joined at the hip, that these processes depend on and benefit each other.

Learning and Development: An overall strategy and approach that identifies the skills, knowledge and competencies needed by employees to meet the organization’s objectives, and establishes plans and an ongoing approach for developing these requirements.


Let’s start with hiring. An effective recruiting and hiring process ensures that your contact center will have the right people for the job. Without it, you'll be placing a huge burden on training and coaching—and those processes will, most likely, be focused on the bare essentials. With it, you'll be assembling a team that, with the right training and support, can work together effectively, support and further the organization's culture, and adapt and change as the customer contact environment evolves.

Next, consider the topic that has rightfully received so much attention in this month’s Insider: training. Training has always been a key enabler to contact center success, but today’s underlying trends are pushing it into a realm of über-importance. (Don’t miss Elaine Carr’s excellent series, on the 12 effective training strategies, and Clayton Lee’s discussion on best channels to use.)

One is that as customers, we tend to use search, apps, social sites, self-serve—anything that might help quickly resolve the issue or enable us to accomplish what we’re after—before we reach out for agent assistance. By the time many contacts reach the center, they are already filtered and escalated. So, the environment is becoming more complex; it’s probably no surprise that a strong majority, 73% of respondents to a recent ICMI study, cite a noticeable increase in the complexity of interactions. This requires robust training that provides a strong and effective base of knowhow for employees.

A second and more subtle trend is that many managers are placing greater emphasis on finding agents who support and further the culture of the organization and then training them on appropriate skills, rather than finding those with the right skills but who may not fit as well into the culture and environment (“hire the passion and train the skills,” as a successful manager put it to me year ago).

(Before we move from training, be sure to check out the articles from earlier this month, by Nate Brown and Gal Rimon on gamification).

Effective coaching is in-the-trenches, hands-on activity and is directly focused on specific problems, solutions and opportunities. There's no hiding from the details, no glossing over the issues at this level. Coaching provides valuable insight into the hiring process by helping to identify the traits and makeup of employees who perform best. As Anna Byrne points out in her recent article coaching and Q&A in general must be a primary feeder of training—identifying improvement opportunities, gaps that must be addressed, practical lessons learned, and other issues that are leveraged when they are addressed at the group (not just individual) level. All of these efforts add up to a powerful impact on your culture, a theme reinforced this month by Jeff Toister.

In short, hiring, training and coaching are interrelated aspects of an overall effort. They work best when they are viewed and managed as such.

By all means, learn about effective practices in L&D, and blaze your own innovative trail. But remember, it’s how you approach L&D in its entirety—from before you hire an agent through the ongoing coaching they get—that will provide the results you’re after.