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Transformative Training: How to Foster Learning for Contact Center Teams

As an '80s kid, I remember watching the Transformers Generation 1 cartoons and thinking how cool it would be to be able to transform into a vehicle or weapon and save the world. This concept of transformation has not only permeated pop-culture cartoons, it has impacted our business world—even more specifically, learning—with the goal not of saving the world but of changing it.

Transformative, or transformational, training is a concept that's been developed by many different individuals, viewed through many different lenses. Jack Mezirow developed a transformative training theory that focuses on transformations in our attitudes or beliefs. Mezirow defines learning as “the process of using prior interpretation to construe a new or a revised interpretation of the meaning of one’s experience to guide future actions.” This interpretation—"to guide future actions"—is so valuable to our learning process in contact centers and customer service. Transformative training contains four key components that are critical to the learning process. How is each component being implemented in your current learning development process?

Graphic illustrating the components of transformative training.

  1. Experience: This is where the process begins, the learner experiences a shift in perspective. More practically for our world, there is an issue/incident/request that can’t be resolved, or the learner has an experience they just can’t wrap knowledge around. Think about how we allow learners to track these experiences and then move through the process.
  2. Critical Reflection: Reflection is similar to problem solving and Mezirow talks about how we “reflect on the content of the problem, the process of problem-solving, or the premise of the problem. Through this reflection we are able to understand ourselves more and then understand our learning better." This is where the learner reflects on what they need to learn and why. Think about how to provide tools for learners to self-reflect and baseline knowledge.
  3. Reflective Discourse: “Discourse is dialogue devoted to searching for common understanding and assessment of the justification of an interpretation,” according to Mezirow. Discourse is where the learner discusses the experience with peers, mentors, and subject matter experts to develop clearer understanding and even a knowledge solution. This can happen through coaching, mentoring, or even engagement with a knowledge process. Think about how we enable real-time, positive engagement of a reflective discourse process to enable deeper understanding and solutions.
  4. Action: This is the final stage, where the learner implements what they have learned through discourse, reflection to a final learning stage. Action could be the creation of a knowledge article, standard operating procedure, or the engagement of learning through various channels. Think about how to enable action in the learning process and also how to measure the effectiveness of your learning, so that the process can be continuously improved.

The transformative learning process can be slow or immediate, and it doesn’t have to be huge learning experiences. Any learning that moves a learner from one state (i.e., didn’t know how to resolve an incident) to another state (i.e., now knows how to resolve the incident) is transformative. We have moved, we have resolved, we have performed an action. Don’t underestimate the power of these transformative experiences that happen daily in our roles as contact center and customer service leaders. It’s our job to enable and foster the environment, create the process, and engage our teams throughout the learning experience.

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