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Seb Anthony

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Support and answers please


We are a manufacturing/distribution company with over 2000 products (some of which are very different) so I try to find a balance between introducing the product range to them (without bombarding them with too much technical information too soon) and training them in the order entry system and the various processes surrounding it. I usually talk to them about the products initially and then we do a system familiarity - using the various enquiries etc and then we start entering orders in the system - first in test and then into live. I also sit them beside other team members during this time as well, listening in on calls etc. We re-visit products again after some time entering orders and bring in a bit more detail about the product. After about 4 weeks, we start taking calls and give them plenty of time to enter each order between calls etc. Our training plan lasts 6 weeks. I have the processes beside me for each step and refer to them as we go but sometimes I can tell the trainee isn't interested or confused because they have no context yet to apply the processes.

I created this training plan after I was appointed to this position towards then end of last year. It was applied to one new person and seemed to work quite well but then I had two new people start on the same day. That same week the team leader was away and I was required for a Project which meant I was out of the office for 3 days in their first week (I spent Monday and a 1/2 day each on Wednesday and Thursday with them). I was out of the office for the whole of their second week (project) and third week (I got married). When I returned from my honeymoon I was pulled into two meetings on my first morning back. My manager's manager said they had said I hadn't adjusted the training for their specific background and that I needed to work on making my training specific to the two of them. My manager then took me into another meeting and said they had felt like they couldn't ask me questions and that I was too brisk. And I probably was given the stress I was under. When I came back to them, the plan went out the window as they had clear ideas of what they wanted to do next and how so I just followed their lead and gave them the training they requested, as they requested it and tried to squish in the extra bits around that and the ongoing project work that I was still being pulled out for. And then it was Christmas.

My questions:

Which is best - showing them what we sell (products) before I show them how we sell (system) or the other way around??

How can I engage their interest and make it fun for them?

Our business has a number of processes but there are always exceptions/variables to the rules - should they be introduced as we go or at the end of their training so that they don't get too confused?

How do I cater for learning styles when I'm teaching a computer system?

What are some ways I can teach processes in such a way that they understand the steps they need to take in each circumstance?

what could I have done differently?

How can I teach processes with a context which they can relate to??

How do I ensure the training continues to a level my manager expects when I am pulled out for project work? I am involved in a company wide project which started last year and will continue until November and it will demand more and more of my time. My manager has indicated that she doesn't have the resource to backfill my role from the CS team if someone was to leave and I was in the midst of the project. I would have to find a means of managing both.

Thanks and apologies for the length of my post,
Melanie Baanders

One Response

  1. Relevance is Key
    Hi Mel,

    I’ve been here and bought the t-shirt somewhat. I think you need to start with some product knowledge. How can anybody relate to a system when they don’t understand the reasons for using it properly or the context in which it is used.

    We always started with product familiarisation when I trained sales people and customer services – before looking at processes etc. – this meant they understood what it was we sold, why we sold it and something about our customers. We also took them for a look at competitors in our field to see what they did before starting our own processes etc. this was done by calling other call centre based operations and visiting retail equivalents to our operation.

    Then, and only then, did they have some idea of what we did. Then we introduced the processes by which we did things – but importantly we did not begin to address systems at this point, we just focused on the actual processes and how these were of benefit to our customers and to us as a company.

    Finally, when the processes were understood we began systems training.

    The whole process took about 2 weeks from start to finish and we made sure that delegates left with enough of a manual (made by us) to refer to after they went “live” in the environment.

    It was very successful.

    Previously we’d gone back to front we’d taught them systems first, processes second and they picked up product knowledge on the job. It took 6 weeks rather than 2 and it was a disaster as many people left within the first few weeks as they had no understanding of the job they faced or why they did it.

    As for making it fun/engaging a mixture of games, exercises etc. will help but showing the relevance to their job will help more.

    Introduce exceptions after they have learnt the core process – give them memory aids (manuals, handouts, cards to mount on their desks etc.) to help them remember and refer to after the training is over.

    Systems training should be run like this – explain what you will be doing and why it is relevant, demonstrate the technique, get them to practice the technique, observe them carrying out the technique, get them to explain the process back to you. Use visual aides as appropriate (I like to flowchart systems processes for people), get them to draw/write their own memory aids, encourage questions and reward questions (if it’s not natural for you – give out sweets with questions asked)and so on.

    Role-play processes with real life examples so they understand each step.

    As for the time-balance question that’s really up to you – if there really is too much work to do, then tell your manager so but have a good look at how you use your time and see if it could be more productive.

    Hope that helps, feel free to mail me if you have any other questions.


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