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Three Ways Training Can Help Build Culture

Training is an important part of building a positive contact center culture.

Since culture is ultimately defined by our actions, agents need training to help them clearly understand what’s expected. Training helps agents distinguish between workplace behaviors that are valued and those that are not.

A good way to build culture through training is to leverage the 70-20-10 rule. This is a rough guideline that says employees learn workplace behaviors in three distinct ways:

  • 70% comes from informal learning
  • 20% comes from the direct supervisor
  • 10% comes from formal training

Most of what employees learn to do in the workplace is through informal learning. A strategic approach aligns informal learning with careful crafted leadership messages and formal training.

Here are three short stories that reveal how you can use the 70-20-10 rule to build the culture you want.

Formal Training (10%)

This includes structured training events like classes, webinars, and e-learning modules.

Here’s an example of how a lack of formal training impacted culture:

The contact center was in the midst of a major culture push.

There were mugs, posters, and signs throughout the contact center promoting the organization’s core values. Their values were shared in team meetings and added to email signature lines. Employee awareness was high.

Somehow, there was still a disconnect.

Employees struggled to describe what the values meant. The values were all vague, nebulous words like “integrity.” Agents weren’t sure how the values were supposed to guide their behavior.

Formal training is a necessary part of building culture. It can help clarify cultural definitions for employees.

The goal of the training should be to help each agent answer two fundamental questions:

  1. What is our culture?
  2. How do I personally contribute?

Direct Supervisor (20%)

A contact center agent’s supervisor assigns work, gives direction, and provides feedback on the agent’s performance. All of these shape an agent’s workplace behavior.

Here’s an example of how direct supervisors undermined a contact center’s culture:

The contact center’s Vice President hung up a large banner that read “One Call Resolution.” He stood under the banner one day and announced that improving first contact resolution would be a top priority for the contact center.

The call center supervisors sent a very different message. They continued to harp on efficiency stats like average handle time.

The result was a failed initiative. First contact resolution didn’t improve and the banner was eventually taken down.

Employees tend to understand something’s importance by how often their supervisor talks about it. Supervisors must constantly reinforce the most important behaviors taught in formal training. They must send a consistent message in team meetings, one-on-ones, and while just walking the floor.

Culture-building initiatives will fail unless supervisors make them a priority.

Informal Learning (70%)

Most employee learning is informal. This includes looking up information in a knowledge base, asking a co-worker a question, or just learning from experience.

Here’s an example of a contact center where informal learning undermined the culture:

The ship was clearly sinking.

Employees spent time between calls complaining. They complained about management, about product quality, shipping delays, and even each other. There were even rumors about layoffs.

Suddenly, it became very uncool to actually care about customers.

Peer pressure is an immensely powerful force. It can easily override messages from formal training and the direct supervisor.

It’s here that contact centers can carefully align their cultural messages by putting agents in a position to influence culture in a positive way.

  • Asking agents to contribute their views on culture in team meetings
  • Empowering employees to help with special projects like training new hires.
  • Recognizing agents for actions that embody the contact center’s culture so those behaviors are reinforced.

Contact centers must also quickly address any bad apples. Left unchecked, the influence of a few prominent and negative employees can spread quickly.

Connecting the Pieces

Training can have an enormous influence on culture when formal training, leadership messages, and peer experiences are all aligned.

Top performing contact centers recognize this. They strategically ensure all three types of training are communicating the same message so agents’ behavior is ultimately shepherded in the right direction.