Do we learn the same way we did 50 years ago? Biologically maybe. But the way we learn has drastically changed in the last half-century. Technology being the main catalyst for this generational learning curve.
Training call center employees is expensive, especially if the center has turnover issues (which most do). Managers spend countless hours onboarding employees, only for them to quit a month in.
'The one size fits all approach didn't work for No Child Left Behind, and it doesn't work for adults in the workplace either. Creating an engaging learning environment where employees want to stay starts by examining staff's generational differences and needs.
To help you choose the best method for training contact center employees, consider the pros and cons of each training method and how it aligns with your generation demographic.
The traditional classroom
Best with: Traditionalists
Pros: The classroom setting is familiar to traditionalists who like direct instruction by experts. A classroom setting gives the opportunity to deliver key information all at once to a large group of employees. It’s ideal for introducing new members to the company, share general company updates explain changes in procedures, or even give a refresher on existing knowledge.
The classroom setting can also be used for incorporating storytelling teaching, using real situations to make a point, or have employees break into small groups to analyze call scenarios together.
Cons: Traditional classroom teaching can be one of the most boring and ineffective training methods if used incorrectly, especially for Baby Boomers who are typically more social and hands-on learners. A monotone voice, endless lecturing and lack of interaction will put most Gens to sleep. Attention spans are shorter than ever and you may have to adapt your model if you have a mid age to younger crew.
Best with: Baby Boomers
Pros: These generations didn't grow up in a tech-centered world and still understand and how to connect with people face-to-face (and they enjoy it). Training through roleplaying is an excellent way to give new contact center employees the feeling of real hands-on experience without throwing them into the lion’s den. We learn much faster by doing and experiencing things ourselves, and roleplaying gives employees a chance to practice performing the duties of their job without the side effects.
TIP: Pair experienced employees, who can roleplay as customers, with new employees, who can practice handling different types of calls. This will not only train but create a coaching and feedback session for newcomers.
Cons: While role-playing can give employees an experience very similar to being on the job, scenarios tend to be more simplistic than real calls, and the pressure of the job is absent. Try using audio or scripts from real calls to give employees a more accurate experience and provide feedback. Gen X is typically more comfortable with self-directed learning and may need help to be drawn out to participate.
Best with: Gen X
Pros: Gen X prefers to jump right in and make mistakes as they go. They love to learn independently and thrive on self-directed tools. Providing on-the-job training is certainly an efficient way to give employees real-life experience. It’s low cost and quick. There's no substitute for the authenticity of on-the-job training, and employees will learn quickly when given the opportunity to take real customer calls.
Job shadowing also gives veteran employees (currently your Traditionalists or Baby Boomers) a chance to play the expert and teach the newbies. This will make them feel valued while serving the needs of your "now" gens.
Cons: Just because on-the-job training has little to no downtime and gives new employees experience, don't assume it's the answer to all your training needs. Throwing new hires into the job too soon can be risky. They can easily become overwhelmed, and without proper support and guidance, they may develop bad habits.
Be sure that employees have some basic training before throwing them out on the field. If possible, pair new employees with a mentor during the initial stages of their on-the-job training so they can get immediate feedback and have someone to come to their rescue if necessary.
Online learning management system
Best with: Gen X and Millennials
Pros: Millennials are self driven like Gen X and extremely tech-savy. It's innate to them to access on-demand learning. They have little patience for long, drawn out processes. Using an online learning management system (LMS) for your contact center training enables new employees to train at their own pace and availability.
Millennials are focused on self-learning inside and outside their own roles. By using an LMS, you encourage an on-demand learning approach that will keep them engaged and and motivated to absorb the information at their own pace.
Additionally you will save time and resources compared to a classroom or job shadowing because there's no need to recreate materials.
Cons: Traditionalists and baby boomers may struggle with (and resent) the technology. They will likely need more guidance and some training on how to access materials. If you have older employees who are good with tech, use them as role models for other people their age to drive motivation. And don't completely replace role playing and face to face training with an LMS.
Keep online learning interesting by using instructional videos or gamification elements to reward and engage staff.
Which method you choose highly depends on the demographic of your call center employees. Try doing a survey to discover how they like to learn. In most cases, you will find people like a combination of several strategies.