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Making it Real
An Extract from Improving Front-line Training 2010 a new research report published by the Ascent Group, Inc.
Training and training delivery systems are changing, evolving to take advantage of the power of the Internet, mobile communications, and handheld technologies—the technologies that are changing society itself. Technological advancement has made it possible and practical to shift from classroom training to individualized learning. In turn, corporations are expecting trainers to become performance consultants, with the goal of developing custom learning content to help individual employees achieve their desired outcome. Social networking tool are helping employees collaborate and easily share ideas and best practices, a way to formalize informal training.
As a result, companies are spending more per employee on training and the average number of hours of formal learning per employee is increasing. The use of technology to deliver learning content has increased and companies are also spending more on external services like content design, development and delivery or technology infrastructure.
More and more subject matter experts are assuming the training role. More live instruction is being delivered remotely or online and more and more self-paced or computer-based training is being offered to busy employees, making it even more convenient to brush up on skills or learn a new procedure. Training that is portable, self-directed, and available on-demand is becoming popular, through pod casts, PDAs, or even mobile phones. Simulation technology is also being widely implemented, allowing learners to realistically “try the job” before actually on the job.
Companies are expecting more from their training organizations—to maximize results while minimizing resources; to prove that the investment in training is paying off in employee performance; to develop content more quickly; and to deliver learning in such a manner that it is more accessible, even seamless with work duties. More so than ever before, an organization’s training function is being run like any other business function with increased attention on operational efficiency, accountability, and connection to organizational strategy.
These challenges are reflected in the top concerns identified by training and development professionals in recent industry research:
• Managing training costs and funding
• Getting the most out of e-learning, learning development systems
• Linking learning to performance
• Increasing training comprehension
• Aligning learning with business needs and individual employee competency needs.
It's no longer acceptable to hope an employee learns something at a training session. The best performing companies are thoughtfully developing and engaging their most important resource: the people they employ. Engaged employees are the key to excellent customer service.
Engaged employees are employees that feel as though they are truly valued at work; that their efforts directly contribute towards the mission and success of the company. Engaged employees are more productive and less likely to look outside of the company for employment. Engaged employees are key to excellent customer service.
While employee engagement has risen slightly over the last year, mostly likely because many employees feel relieved to have a job in this difficult economy, management should not back off on efforts enhance engagement. A lift in economic conditions can quickly erode engagement, as the job market opens up and employees consider other opportunities.
Learning plays a key role in helping employees to get and stay engaged. Many organizations have begun to rely heavily on the learning function for engagement support. While new-hire training can initiate an employee’s engagement with the company, refresher training and other personal development opportunities can help keep employees engaged. However, training and development alone does not guarantee employee engagement.
Additionally a good relationship between employees and immediate supervisors is recognized as a top driver of employee engagement. Yet this is a weak link for many customer service organizations—frontline supervisors and managers lack the skills to effectively engage employees. As our study found, many customer service organizations do not offer basic supervisory training to frontline supervisors, much less tactics to improve employee engagement.
Benchmark Study of Front-line Training Practices
With all this in mind, the Ascent Group conducted research in late-2009 to better understand training and development programs for front-line customer service employees.
The main objective of the study was to identify “best practices” for front-line customer service training. In particular, focus was given to understanding how best-in-class customer service organizations train and prepare their front-line, customer-facing employees to deliver superior customer service, including:
• Specialized training to deal with difficult customers or escalated situations
• Development opportunities available to front-line employees
• Use of training assessment instruments
• Reinforcing the right attitudes and skills in your training program
• Selecting supervisory or coaching candidates
We asked companies to describe and define the training provided to new hires and existing front-line customer service employees. Companies were asked to indicate the number of days of new hire training, both in the classroom and on-the-job. Other items surveyed included:
• Average Class Size, training budget, number of trainers
• Days to Standard
• Use of training simulation software, training videos, and computer-based training
• Use of assessments and certification during training process (testing)
• Number of days refresher training – OJT and Classroom
Participants were also asked to share management tactics and strategies, as well as identify any improvement in performance. The study also asked companies to include considerations, successes, and plans moving forward. The result of this effort is captured in our report, Improving Frontline Training 2010.
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