Trying to persuade senior management that you need more training resources can be difficult; in a new series looking at What happened next, TrainingZONE member Jo Milton reveals how to solve the issue. By Sarah Fletcher
Isolation can be lonely
“I manage a training department for a busy call centre. New starter training takes about four weeks and until recently it had a couple of senior agents from the trainees’ target department, assisting the trainers in handling live calls in the training room. As each intake consists of about ten delegates, it is impossible for one trainer to be able to provide the attention required, so we had assistance in the ratio of about one helper to three trainees.
“Due to the constant pressure to meet service levels in the call centre, this support has been withdrawn as the departments cannot spare the staff to help training. This results in our trainers feeling as if they are not providing enough guidance and attention, as only one call can be brought in at a time. This means that a large proportion of the group at any one time are sitting around with nothing to do.
“Management have flatly refused to reinstate this support saying that it is the job of the trainers to bring these people up to standard and they don’t have the resources to spare.
“They seem to feel that we aren’t doing our jobs properly and say there is little point in having a training department if they have to do any of the work themselves! They do not see any part of their role as being that of development and want perfect people delivered to them.
“I have tried pointing out the benefits of having departmental buddies with the new starters during the induction period. 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 service levels as the new staff will be better prepared. But it has been 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 and the business work together without looking as if I’m trying to abdicate some of the responsibility!”
What happened next?
I had a very open and honest meeting with the Call Centre Director and was able to back up my case with the help of evidence from an area of the Call Centre whose team leaders support our training. I pointed out that training results were much improved since forming a closer partnership with that area, and I would like the opportunity to have the same impact in other departments.
I explained that I wasn’t abdicating responsibility for the training but that learning occurs more effectively when managers not only support the training verbally but are also involved in the process.
We have since had a meeting with the manager of that particular area (who reports into the director) with some of my trainers which was both positive and productive. Both sides agreed on the outcome required and both took responsibility for some associated actions.
The area has agreed to release some team leaders to help support live calls and we have redesigned aspects of the programme to ensure that there is less hanging around and more activity for the participants.
Which sources of information did you find the most useful?
Information from the team leaders who gave us our most recent and positive feedback about training results (that is the area that provides us with team leader time), proved to be of the most use.
Was the outcome satisfactory for all parties?
Everyone feels a lot more positive, it’s as if we are working towards the same goals. There is still some way to go and it will depend on how everyone carries out their agreed actions. The trainers are a lot more positive about it which makes my life as their manager more comfortable too!
Are there any other learning points?
I think the main learning points are that open and honest communication with key stakeholders to establish agreed outcomes works far better that tossing a ‘blame baton’ back and forth.
How to deal with this grievance – advice offered by members:
- Juliet LeFevre advises that 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.
- Peter Howe suggests you re-evaluate all of the stages between training input and physical output.
- Pete King was in a similar situation and ran focused half day or two hour workshops to top up the capability and product knowledge.
- Offering a series of solutions, Richard Nuggent recommends a “buddy” system to combine knowledge and confidence within the team.
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- Top 10 books on training: Please contribute to our list of the top 10 or 20 books on training.
- Material for training managers’ courses: I’m delivering a course on Managing a Training Department. Can anyone point me to relevant material?
Have you suffered a similar experience? Please post your comments about this member’s problem using the form below.