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Seb Anthony

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How to prove that training in isolation is not the best solution


I manage a training department for a busy call centre. New starter training is about 4 weeks in duration &, until recently, used to have a couple of senior agents from the department that the trainees will be going into assist the trainers in handling live calls in the training room. As each intake consists of about 10 delegates, it is impossible for one trainer to be able to provide the attention required so we had assistance in the ratio of about 1 helper to 3 trainees.
Due to the constant pressure to meet service levels in the call centre, this support has been withdrawn as the depertments cannot spare the staff to help training. This results in our trainers feeling as if they are not providing enough guidance & attention as only one call can be brought in at a time. This means that a large proportion of the group at a time are sitting around with nothing to do.
Upon approaching management to ask for this support to be reinstated, we have been met with a flat refusal as it's training's job to bring these people up to standard & they haven't got the resources to spare. They seem to feel as if we aren't doing our jobs properly & what's the point in having a training dept if they have to do some of the work themselves! They do not see any part of their role as development & want perfect people delivered to them.
I have tried pointing out the benefits to new starters of having people with them from the very environment they will be going into & how it develops the buddies themselves. It helps in the transition from a safe environment into the cold hard world of the job. I have also pointed out that, in the long term, it will increase their capability to meet their service levels as the new staff will be better prepared. To no avail - I have been told that I must increase my training resources instead!

I am looking for help, ideas or, better still, evidence, that I can utilise to prove that training is most effective when Training & the business work together without looking as if I'm trying to abdicate some of the responsibility!
Jo Milton

5 Responses

  1. How successful is the training??
    This is a kind of chicken and egg situation. From what you’ve described the line between where training finishes and where the business takes over isnt very defined.
    Where I come from trainers dont hand new intake to the business until they have reached a certain level of competency in both skills and knowledge and an evaluation occurs to ensure staff do meet this. Once achieved you can then prove staff have the skills and knowledge once they left you – this is a useful tool in demonstrating effectiveness of training to the business.
    If you have an agreement in place that coaching needs to occur then perhaps you need to renegotiate the competence levels downwards for when they leave training and the business takes over.
    I train teams of 10-12 and have never found the need for 3 ‘trainers’, neither do I have them sitting around.
    Increasing the training resource is certainly a consideration if staff are leaving training and arent capable of performing to an acceptable level in the field.
    I agree training and the business need to work together but this is a case where operations are dictating that operational and budgetary constraints take prescedence. Clearly they have upped their game, training now needs to up its by costing better, running more effectively and ensuring competency standards are defined and met.

  2. Look at it as you would a marketing campaign
    If you look at training as a marketing exercise it may help you to prove your isolation point.

    In marketing the only way to evaluate the success of the campaign is to measure each of the constituent parts in the results. For example, if I’m running a campaign for my tyre outlet and I find that my marketing has not increased sales yet enquiries are up 120%, I need to look at sales process. In the same way training participation may be up but desired output has not changed. I would at this stage re-evaluate all of the stages between training input and physical output.

    Peter Howe

  3. Better Balance

    does seem to me as if 4 weeks is a lot of training, and I can see why field staff are not going to be so engaged as it takes them away from their core role of generating revenue. However a secondary role has to be mentoring.

    I assume that your 4 weeks is spent on skill uplift and knowledge implanting (just getting them to know the products, and how to use the various systems).

    When I worked in a similar very high pressured environment and we had 100 sales and two trainers the trick was to be a training buddy/mentor with the sale people, spend time listening on one or two calls, and then have very specific coaching about skill enhancements and knowledge improvement.

    What we observed was that the new groups tended to buddy up, and so me as a mentor may only have to work with 2 or 3 out of the groups of 10 to 15, and they would become a self-mentoring buddy group, and I would just keep a watching brief on them, and work with their maanger if there were specific gaps in anyones capability that was likely to impact their sales deliverables.

    So really I took training the the business most of the time, and then just ran focused half day or 2 hour workshops to top up the capability/product knowledge.

    This was in an outbound call centre, but having worked earlier as a manager for an in-bound call centre, I had no access to training, so it was a case of cross team mentoring backed up with one person flying off to USA now and again to get the knowledge base up.

    Hope it helps, and also the business will neverever get perfect people delivered to them, so if that is their objective then they are on a hiding to nothing, and if it is not, then find out what the business objective is, and the sales management objective is, and look for strategies where you are pro-active, because training will always be a secondary consideration in the drive to have people on the phone 24/7

    Pete King

  4. Contact Centre Training
    Hi Jo, many call centre trainers will read this and have complete sympathy with you. I’ve experienced it in some of the largest and apparently most forward thinking contact centre businesses. There are some general ideas such as having the advisors take the calls on the floor among live teams, analysing data such as quality scores before and after the withdrawal of support, or buddying the trainees up together whenever they are handling live calls to combine knowledge and give extra ‘security’.

    I’d suggest you also start to tackle the bigger picture too and look at how the training function can be seen more as a business partner and consultant than a ‘service department’. I’ve developed this in a number of businesses (as an external and internal support) and these discussions are mouch easier to have and resolve.

    Get hold of ‘Transfer of Training’ by Broad and Newstrom to support your arguement until this is achieved and feel free to give me a call for any advice in the meantime.

    Best wishes,



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