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  • Tom Brooksher

The Training You Think You Need May Not Be the Training You Really Need

Several years ago we were approached by a large outsourced call center company. They had tens of thousands of agents in call centers on five continents, and they didn’t have a unified company culture. Leadership had determined that is was due in part to the fact that they didn’t have a companywide onboarding program for new agents. Each region and, in some cases, individual large call centers, had developed their own new hire orientation and training program, and there was no consistency in the message that the programs presented about the company or its culture.

Leadership believed that if every new employee was presented with the same message about the company and its values, it would be an important component in building a company culture. And they saw online training as the solution. They could create one program and require all new hires to complete it their first day on the job. That way, the message would be consistent and delivered when the company was making an important first impression on the employee.

In general, their supposition was correct. New hire onboarding and orientation is an important time to affect employees’ understanding and expectations of a company. And a clear, consistent and authentic message about the company’s values and intended culture can play an important role in building culture. So we did what we always do before taking on a project: We asked a lot of questions. The answer to one question changed their direction immediately.

  • Our question: Do all of your new employees have access to your Learning Management System their first day on the job?

  • The client’s answer: No. In fact some don’t have access for several weeks, and in about 15% of the cases, they don’t have access to our online learning at all.

  • Our response: Then we don’t advise that you create an online training program for new hires. It won’t accomplish your goal of presenting the same message to all new employees worldwide.

Of course, the problem was, without access to the company’s LMS, students couldn’t access the online training. So instead, we suggested that we put their message into a series of video presentations with learning activities to drive comprehension, application and retention. Then we could create an online version (for students who could access the LMS on day one) and a classroom version (for trainers in centers that didn’t have access to the LMS). Both versions would use the same video presentations about the company’s culture. That way, all new employees would receive the exact same message, word for word, presented identically, whether they had access to online training or not.

The client agreed. We developed the program, made sure the words and images we used were neutral and understandable in all areas of the world, translated the programs into the multiple languages, conducted beta training on two continents, and successfully rolled out the worldwide new hire orientation and onboarding program. The company credits the program with making a major contribution to their emerging company culture.

Sometimes being asked the right question at the right time helps you see that the training you think you need isn’t the training you really need.

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