Training Budget Part2
Illustration by Eric Jackson

In my previous post, I offered five tips to stretch your training dollars and do more with less. The following are five more ideas that can help you make a bigger impact with training, while helping to control costs.

1. Create additional buy-in by having an executive sponsor open each training session. One of my best clients opened their classroom training sessions by having their VP say a few words about the strategic importance of that course. His presence sent a clear message: This training is important! That got the agents’ attention. It also made the course have an even bigger impact. You can also take advantage of this for e-learning courses. Just videotape an executive team member explaining why this course is important and attach it to the e-learning module to create extra motivation.

2. Ensure that team managers are also trained. Team managers will not be able to reinforce key training points unless they go through the training themselves. In fact, team managers should be the first ones to attend training or take an online course. That is vital. After all, they need to understand the training material so they can coach their team.

Having team managers go through training also provides a morale boost for agents. During one of my sessions, an agent asked if the management team was also being trained. When I said, “Yes, the management team went through it earlier this week,” the entire class realized that their managers were invested in the course.

In comparison, another client opted (against my advice) to have only frontline agents attend training. As a result, agents said they would not bother using what they learned in class since management obviously did not care enough to support them. So include your team managers in training, if you want to maximize the impact of learning.

3. Have team managers provide continuous post-course coaching. Going to a training session is like going to the gym… once! Just attending a training session will do little to change an agent’s behavior. Training must be reinforced by coaching in order to change an agent’s performance level. That is why team managers and QA staff must attend training first. They need to see the training content, so they know what to coach. In addition, senior management should mandate that frontline coaches focus their efforts on reinforcing the material learned during training.

4. Provide managers and team managers with reinforcement tools. Think about the last time you attended training. After one week, how much of the material did you actually remember? Most people forget half the training material the NEXT DAY! It is vital for managers and team managers to reinforce key points from training. They should do this every time they meet with their agents. That not only includes coaching time, but also team meetings and huddles.

Better yet, the training department should give team managers tools they can use during those meetings. For instance, I created a 10-part series of sales skills reinforcement modules for one of my clients. Each mini-training session was the perfect length for team huddles. The package included a one-page handout that team managers could photocopy and give to their agents. It also had an exercise that team managers could conduct during their huddles so that agents could practice using their new sales skills. As a result, the agents had their skills reinforced every single day, for 10 straight days. That greatly increased the agents’ retention of the training material and their results on the job.

5. Reinforce training through your departmental communication channels. You can stretch your training dollars further by making use of your department’s existing communication methods. For instance, you can leverage your department’s intranet or wiki to broadcast new product and service information, as well as customer service and sales tips. That can supplement or possibly even replace your planned training sessions, which will save money.

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