My client was surprised by how much training her company was doing.
She had to document the number of training hours employees participated in to receive funds from a state program. At first, she kept track of attendance at classes the company held, such as the customer service program I was hired to facilitate.
My client soon realized there was so much more.
That weekly team meeting was training because it kept employees up to date on critical information. On-the-job training was definitely training, even if much of it was informal. A product briefing from one of the company's scientists was training, too.
Tracking all this training helped my client boost her training hours. It also highlighted another issue. Was all of that training sending the same message?
Think about the training that happens in your own organization. Take a closer look and there's probably much more than you think:
Training is any activity that helps employees develop knowledge, skills, and abilities to improve their job performance.
According to the Association for Talent Development (ATD), training is much broader than just delivering classes. There are ten major focus areas in the ATD Competency Model for trainers:
Integrated Talent Management
Managing Learning Programs
Evaluating Learning Impact
Coaching is a fabulous example. Here's how the ATD Competency Model defines it:
"Uses an interactive process to help individuals develop rapidly and produce results; improves others' ability to set goals, take action, make better decisions, and make full use of their natural strengths."
Good managers do this every day. While they might not think of coaching as training, that's exactly what they are doing.
Knowledge Management is a hot topic in the world of customer service. We want to give employees access to product, policy, and procedure information in real-time so they can quickly serve their customers.
It's also training. Here's the definition from the ATD Competency Model:
"Captures, distributes, and archives intellectual capital in a way that encourages knowledge sharing and collaboration in the organization."
The Need for Consistency
Imagine all of those training components in your organization. You have formal training, coaching from the manager, a knowledge base, and perhaps much more.
There's something in training called the 70-20-10 rule that explains how they all work together. This is a rough guide for how employees learn new knowledge, skills, and abilities they use on the job:
70 percent comes from experience
20 percent comes from a boss or mentor
10 percent comes from formal training
These percentages aren't fixed, but they're roughly accurate (like the 80/20 rule). A challenge occurs when these pieces are misaligned.
Let's say you manage a nursery that sells plants, tools, and other gardening supplies. Your customer service reps use product knowledge to help customers select the right plants, fertilizers, and other items for their home garden projects.
How will you ensure your reps are as helpful as possible?
The old way of thinking would be to hold a training class and hope for the best. But the 70-20-10 rule tells us that's just a small piece of the puzzle.
What if employees struggle to remember critical information?
Who will train employees who missed the class?
What if employees have a hard time undoing old habits?
A better approach would be to align multiple training components.
A formal class could introduce specific skills, such as asking customers probing questions about their projects and using the knowledge base to quickly find answers.
As the manager, you would regularly coach your employees to reinforce the training. This would help people retain what was taught and build their skills even more.
Your nursery sells too many products for employees to memorize the answers to every question, so you'll also need a robust knowledge base. This will allow employees to quickly access authoritative, accurate answers to customer questions.
You can greatly expand the impact of training if you think holistically.
This blog post explains how to use the 70-20-10 rule to improve your customer service training by 900 percent.
Here's a short training video that explains how to handle a training request. In it, I share a five question framework to help uncover additional solutions that might help employees perform.