Peter Laurie of Power Partners Development reports on the secrets of building a performance-focused training department.
Avoiding “The Sheep Dip”
It is a fact that many call centre agents are still being subjected to the age-old training ritual of “sheep dipping”. This is a process by which employees are “refreshed”, “cleansed” and “re-invigorated” by ensuring they attend set training courses or, perhaps, are placed on the ubiquitous “refresher” course. This refresher course is, of course, necessary, because most call centre agents forget what they have learned on similar previous courses, don’t they?
Companies just love “the sheep dip”. Easy to create, easy to administer and can cut costs. Simply, get your training department to devise a list of courses that link to the company’s priority areas; decide who needs what training; tell which employees to go on what course, and then give everyone a “big pat on the back” for achieving the Training and Development Plan. Easy!
Simple, Yes! Effective, well what do you think?
Consider the following:
- Does your list of training courses remain static from one year to the next?
- Has your business/industry moved on?
- Are the courses that you provided two to three years ago still valid?
- Are there new skills emerging from one year to the next?
- Do you perform a yearly audit of the skills and capabilities that are needed to deliver the company business plan?
- Do you chop and change the programme to suit the requirements of the business?
- Does your competition take a more effective approach to training than you?
- Can you afford the time, money and disruption to deliver training that the business no longer needs?
Assuming the recruitment policy is up to scratch, quality line managers, being close to the operational end of the business, should be actively involved in deciding that the team’s training has an appropriate content and structure. The line manager’s attendance is a must to ensure that the delivery is of an appropriate quality and that the trainer is satisfying the needs of the company and the individuals’ different learning styles.
It is also a manager’s job to spend time with their team members to work out learning objectives before the course. How many managers operate a development programme that is aimed to achieve a specific purpose? This is an essential element of a serious business, and it should be an integral part of any business plan that requires people power to achieve its objectives.
Effective measurement is crucial to success. How can you measure the effectiveness of any training intervention if it isn’t connected to an action plan? How can you expect any new skills to be implemented properly if you don’t follow it closely with an effective action plan? People rarely come out of their comfort zone – if they have done something a certain way for the last three years don’t expect them to implement consistent change following a training course, even if they do agree it’s better than the old way and fill in the happy sheet accordingly.
Not surprisingly, for companies that operate the Sheep Dip approach, training often represents a cost. This is because the training is often not appropriate to the business needs and not followed up effectively via a regular review that consists of a detailed analysis of after-effects.
If the correct approaches to training are exercised and the effects are measured and managed correctly another statistic then becomes thankfully evident. The bottom line.
Sure, you don’t get any training free, not even sheep dip, but training that achieves the objectives and improves the bottom line with a return over investment has got to be worthwhile, hasn’t it?
If you have struggled with motivation remember this: the “sheep dip” can be very de-motivating for some call centre agents. No change from one year to the next (assuming they stay that long) and no innovation or creativity being exhibited by the company can lead the employee to think that the future success of the company could be in doubt. Would they want to stay with such a company? Also, if the line manager takes little responsibility for the true development of their employees and abdicates all training and development responsibility to the training department, then the employee will quickly become disillusioned with the lack of support and encouragement. Their skills will not improve as quickly as they should, either.
Six Steps to Avoid a “Sheep Dip” Mentality
1. Ensure training and development and regular coaching is high on the corporate agenda. The training and development plan is as important as the overall business plan. Without the T&D plan the capabilities needed to deliver the full potential of the business plan probably will not be realised.
2. Do a full audit of the training and development interventions that the company presently provides (and also those of external providers) and ensure that these interventions are exactly what’s needed. Continue to develop the capabilities of trainers and consider that external consultants may be able to offer fresh ideas that you may not have been able to tap into otherwise. Take the time to adapt, chop and change old course materials and methods to suit today’s and future business needs.
3. Make sure that all line managers are made responsible and accountable for developing their staff. In addition to making sure that they source training interventions for their staff, managers must also be aware that they should have an input into the training process by challenging course content and the capability of the trainers and by taking time with their employees before training to help clarify training objectives.
4. Line managers critically must follow up training intervention with regular effective coaching. This will ensure that the business moves forward as intended and that objectives are met.
5. Put measurements in place which will enable you to calculate a return on your training investment. Measure improvements in competency and, where possible, bottom line results, such as sales, etc.
6. Review your Training and Development Plan on a regular basis. Not yearly – at least every quarter.
A special report has been written which contains useful tips and models that you can use to help you develop your team into consistent high performers.
To claim your free copy of this special report please contact Peter through the Power Partners website.
Peter Laurie, Power Partners Development