The transition from a sweltering summer day in Las Vegas to a cool dip in the pool brings with it a wince, a shiver, a hint of reticence and in some cases an audible expression of the conflict. Likewise, transitioning a new hire from the protective amiable classroom environment and pace to the live call center environment is stressful and for many shocking. While there are a rare few that would cannonball into the deep end to test their aquatic prowess, the majority are content to take the steps and graduate to the depths in their own way and time. Every newly hired employee anticipates full immersion at some point, but what that looks like remains unknown until it happens. Consider that the quintessential characteristic of adult learning is that they are self-motivated and determine their need to know based on the rewards of the same. That said, think about the following strategies for preparing new hires for the eventual transition to the production environment (both in the call center and back office functions):
- Communicate the expectations of the curricula including realistic norms for learning.
For many new hires, the anxiety of transitioning from the classroom to the live environment is amplified when realistic expectations are not clearly communicated so let’s begin there. Establishing a timeline for introducing material and setting a reasonable expectation of the effort required to retain and gain proficiency is an important technique in preparing new hires for the live environment. If training resources permit, plans for developing proficiency have the potential to modulate exposure based on the strengths demonstrated in the classroom.
Seed the training program with self-assessing exercises. Operationally-driven training experiences often present information and then support the information with hands-on exercises and may even provide role-play and/or some production processing to give the new hires a realistic representation of their new role. If your training program does not cover these basics, consider incorporating them. But this recommendation takes the basics a step further in offering support for the transition to independence through self-directed exercises that the new hire can work on and evaluate independent of the instructor. Provide a window of time that is reasonable to complete the processes for the “average” new hire with their level of exposure and then provide the solution either in demonstration or materials. Be sure the individuals have ample time to contemplate their performance, perhaps saving this to the end of the day or scheduling time for reflection within the course calendar. This would allow time for the introspection adult learners often use to establish internal goals and work through personal challenges in preparation for performing newly acquired skills.
- The training expectations reinforce the role of the trainer to present information and pertinent materials, and the role of the learning, specific to adult learning scenarios, is to make whatever personal preparations are needed to comprehend and retain what is being conveyed.
- Training establishes the expectation that employees own their success, early in the career development life cycle.
- Communicating the expectations for learning and ongoing personal development early and often paves the way for consistent messaging along the quality and supervisory relationship that will develop throughout the new hire’s career.
Nest in the classroom. Ride-along, side-by-side, on-the-job-training (OJT), or nesting is a common post-classroom practice wherein the newly hired individual is paired with a more seasoned employee as they take those first few calls or process the first few transactions in the production environment. The challenge is that the encounter is subject to the ebbs and flows of production volume and often subject to competing service-driven priorities. Consider providing a tempered representation of the “real world” by nesting in the classroom. In the classroom environment, seasoned SMEs can guide new hires to the resources, connect the dots between process and intent, and help new hires with navigational pointers while managing the customer experience to ensure the organizational standards are maintained throughout. Nesting provides more individualized insight into knowledge retention, technical proficiency, and foundational understanding of the business. Which brings to mind a very important aspect of nesting that should be incorporated in a robust training program — debriefing with SMEs. Asking SMEs about their observations on individual performance, key areas of struggle, and/or proficiency provides trainers with insight into the areas of the coursework that require more time or individuals who might require more support once released to the floor.
- Preparing self-directed exercises can often provide subject matter experts (SMEs) with an opportunity to collaborate and align with quality on best process practices that should be emulated.
- Materials prepared to facilitate the exercise reinforce the value and familiarity with the knowledge resource that new hires will come to rely on in the live environment.
- When self-directed exercises are a part of the training, supervisors are afforded a qualitative point of discussion upon which to build their evaluative relationship with the new team member.
Provide self-evaluation sessions. Providing new hires with an opportunity to hear their own calls or recheck their work with the same tools by which their work will be evaluated by the quality team, is an excellent point of development and transition to the live environment. Not only does this level of transparency breed trust, but it also reinforces the supportive intent of the quality program. An additional purpose for these sessions is to punctuate the knowledge amassed throughout the course of the classroom experience. That said, it is a good idea to simplify complex or detailed assessment forms, for the purpose of this exercise, so that new hires evaluate the key customer touchpoints and/or processing points of the interaction. Ideally, the individuals will have the time to listen or review a few interactions and evaluate them independently first. The evaluations would then be reviewed with Quality in one-on-one sessions for a better understanding of the process intent, opportunities to improve, and/or relevant resources to revisit. When new hires are introduced to Quality in a supportive setting, it significantly improves their experience in the live environment as Quality interacts with them going forward.
- New hires come into the live environment with an established, positive, seasoned, and supportive community.
- Positive SMEs bring their overall behaviors to the training environment; adding their sense of professionalism, practice of punctuality, and overall conscientiousness to the training curriculum.
- Supervisors have insights from the debrief with trainers to guide employee development toward proficiency.
- Seasoned employees who have a positive influence on the work environment receive the added recognition of shaping the next peer group to join the organization.
Recap training with a resume briefing. I know this one seems counterintuitive but I have led teams for decades using an “other-focused” leadership philosophy and I promise you will not regret the energy expended to help others recognize their accomplishments. Punctuate the training course with an activity that asks new hires to update their resume real-time, adding the job they have just successfully trained to perform. Walk them through the systems they have been introduced to, sharing insights into how these systems support the goals of the business and or interact with other applications. Additionally, estimate for new hires at what point they can expect to become intermediately and expertly proficient in each system. Repeat the same as you bring to their attention the business knowledge they have acquired at the conclusion of the training. Finally, have the new hires mark their calendars to revisit their resumes at the next reasonable milestone in their development and establish personal goals for their career development with the organization. Reminding the class of the investment the organization has made in them reinforces their value from selection to training and establishes your commitment to their success in the hearts and minds of each new hire.
- New hires that are introduced to Quality as a component of their training, tend to understand the supportive role of Quality and respond much better to Quality feedback throughout the course of their career.
- Quality advocates have the power to change culture from the frontline as they champion a customer-centric understanding of business processes.
- Communicated through reputation and paid out in culture, value recognition is an essential component of the most desired compensation packages and promotes personal drive for exceptionalism.
- People who know they are appreciated often respond in kind.
- The best corporate cultures are marked by the mutual appreciation of its employees.
QATC board member Penny Tootle holds a Bachelors in Business Administration, a Masters degree in Human Services Counseling and another in Leadership. She is also a Certified Change Practitioner through Prosci. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.