Fix Your Training with This Simple Model

A training manager recently called me to talk about empowerment.

She explained employees often worked in silos, and didn't reach out to collaborate with other teams. When there was an issue that required inter-departmental work, employees would just dump it on their supervisor.

The training manager had been tasked with finding an external trainer to help. She found me after watching one of my training courses on Lynda.com.

Unfortunately, I quickly discovered the team wasn't ready for training. This is really a common situation—leaders send their employees to training too early, and they don't get the results they want.

Here's how I determined that from a short conversation, and here's how it can be fixed.

Group of professionals attending a training class.

Where Traditional Training Falls Short

You may have had a big bowl of candy once the dust settled on Halloween. 

It's a big temptation. You know you aren't supposed to eat the candy, but it's right there. Staring at you. Tempting you. I’m not going to lie—I ate way too much candy.

The knowledge that you shouldn't eat the candy can be gained by training. But it's your environment, i.e. the candy bowl in plain site, that tempts you to eat some anyway. The solution is to change the environment. Remove the candy bowl and you will eat less candy.

The customer service team in the training manager's company faced a similar environmental challenge. 

Whenever employees would bring a challenge to their supervisor, the supervisor would simply take on the challenge. She never spent time showing employees how to handle these issues. After awhile, employees embraced the inevitable and just dumped work on their supervisor whenever they could, knowing that's what would happen anyway.

I walked through this with the training manager. She laughed a bit and admitted the last time they had brought in an external trainer, the training had been well-received by it didn't stick. 

The supervisor had always been too busy to help her team develop their new skills.

Here's the takeaway that applies to all of us: if you want training to stick, you must first adjust the environment and get leaders fully plugged in.

The 70-20-10 Model

There's a model that can help you address this issue. 

It's called the 70-20-10 rule. The concept was first developed based on research from the Center for Creative Leadership that showed leaders developed their skills from a variety of sources:

  • 70 percent of their skills came from challenging assignments

  • 20 percent were learned from a boss or mentor

  • 10 percent came from formal training.

Two caveats here:

  • The word "rule" implies it's hard and fast science, but it's really more of a guide.

  • While originally derived from leadership training, it's a good model to follow for other training topics.

So let's apply this to the customer service team that needs to collaborate with other departments:

Even if we sent them to a terrific training program, two factors would quickly override anything they learned. The boss (~20 percent of learning) would continue taking challenging assignments (~70 percent of learning) off their plate. Game over.

Now imagine what would happen if we could adjust the environment and got the supervisor to buy-in to some new behaviors. Here's how that might fit into the 70-20-10 model.

  • 70 percent: Employees are asked to work through challenges.

  • 20 percent: The supervisor coaches employees through challenges.

  • 10 percent: Employees are given training on internal customer service.

In this scenario, the training and the environment (daily work + boss) are all aligned.

Take Action

Think about the areas where you want your employees to develop. Take a moment to consider how each aspect of the 70-20-10 model fits in:

  • 70 percent: What challenges present learning opportunities?

  • 20 percent: How can you guide them as their leader?

  • 10 percent: What helpful skills can employees learn in training?


How to Know When Your Employees Need Training

Employee training has some big problems.

It's a big expense. There's the cost of hiring a trainer and developing the materials. You have to pay employees to attend. Many companies have to run overtime to backfill shifts while staff attends a class.

That investment might be worthwhile if the training worked. It often doesn't.

There are many reasons why training doesn't stick. Managers are often too busy to prepare employees for training or coach them through implementing new skills afterwards. The training itself may be poorly designed. Or employees may not be fully bought in.

Training is also overprescribed. 

There are many situations where another solution is more appropriate. My own analysis suggests that training only accounts for one percent of customer service employees' performance.

The best solution to all of this is to train employees when they need to be trained and not train them when training isn't an appropriate solution.

Here's how to know.

The Three Issues Training Can Fix

Training can only fix three types of issues:

  • Knowledge: the employee lacks sufficient knowledge.
  • Skill: the employee lacks sufficient skill.
  • Ability: the employee lacks sufficient ability.

So the only time that training is an effective solution is when employees have gaps in one or more of these areas. 

Some people ask me about the distinction between skill and ability. Skill is the technique involved while ability is a combination of natural talent and skill.

Imagine a warehouse worker lifting products onto a shelf. Skill is the technique the worker uses to lift products safely. Ability is how much the worker can actually lift. The worker can lift heavier weights through training, though there's a limit to how high that weight can go due to the worker's natural ability. 

Here are some issues that can't be fixed by training:

  • Lack of standard procedure or process
  • Poor policies
  • Broken procedures
  • Insufficient equipment
  • Poor attitude

 

Test Your Knowledge

Here are three training requests I have actually received. Read each request and determine whether you think training might be an appropriate solution. The answers are in the video below.

Scenario 1: A small department is having a hard time working together because two senior employees create an uncomfortable work environment. Will team building training fix the problem?

Scenario 2: Employees don’t know how to use the organization’s new computer system. Will computer training fix the problem?

Scenario 3: Employees can’t keep up with their workload due to a staffing shortage. Will time management training fix the problem?

Watch this short training video to learn the answers. You'll get to see a group of people from a live train-the-trainer class discussing each scenario before I finally reveal the answers.

More Resources

The short video was from my online course, How to Design and Deliver Training Programs. The course is available on Lynda.com and LinkedIn Learning. You can get a 30-day Lynda trial here.

You may also want to explore alternatives to training. Here's a handy seven-step action plan.

Finally, check out one of the classic training books, Telling Ain't Trainingby Harold Stolovitch and Erica Keeps. This book has been one of my go-to resources for many years.

Advertising disclosure: We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.


How to Make Time For Training

I'm a bit behind on listening to podcasts.

For instance, I've just finished episode 91 of Crack the Customer Code, a wonderful podcast hosted by Adam Toporek and Jeannie Walters. The current episode is #255.

Ironically, the title of episode 91 is "How to Find Time for Training."

One of the topics Adam and Jeannie discussed was restaurants and retailers like Chipotle and Starbucks that shut down the entire operation to conduct employee training. 

As Adam points out in the episode, "That's great for a reset," but shutting down the entire business for training is more of a statement than a long-term solution. And many smaller businesses may find it too economically difficult to close down completely.

Trying to train employees while the business continues to run can be an exercise in creative scheduling and challenging logistics.

It's difficult, but not impossible. Here's what you can do.

Step 1: Focus on What You Need

Many leaders mistakenly believe the challenge is figuring out how long the training should be, who should deliver the training, and when can it be scheduled.

This approach neglects one key decision: what training do you actually need?

My analysis suggests that training often addresses just one percent of the problem's root cause! Why worry about how long the training should be if it's such a small part of the issue?

Imagine you wanted to help your team do a better job of serving angry customers. Here are just a few contributing factors that have nothing to do with training:

  • Can you use voice of customer feedback to improve common problems?
  • Do customers have access to self-help solutions to simple issues?
  • Are employees empowered to resolve typical complaints?

Training won't address any of those.

Now, imagine you first implemented some solutions. You reduced product defects, beefed up self-help, and empowered employees with better policies and procedures to serve their customers.

You might still need training, but now you'd need a lot less.

A client once asked me to conduct training to help its call center employees sound more friendly over the phone. I did some research and spent just a little time talking to the employees. It turned out the call center was severely understaffed several times during the week and wait times expanded up to 30 minutes.

The employees sounded curt because they were in a hurry to get to the next customer!

I was able to help the client solve the problem just be reconfiguring the schedule so staffing levels better matched call volume. This solution eliminated much of the wait time and employees were more relaxed.

The employees suddenly sounded a lot friendlier and we didn't do any training at all.

 

Step 2: Embrace the 70-20-10 Rule

When most people think of training, they imagine a formal class such as a live workshop or an e-learning program.

The 70-20-10 rule, based on research from the Center for Creative Leadership, tells us this just scratches the surface of how our employees learn.

  • 70 percent of learning comes from challenging assignments
  • 20 percent of learning comes from a boss or mentor
  • 10 percent of learning comes from formal training

The rule was originally intended as a rough guideline for leadership training. It can easily be adapted to other training topics such as customer service.

Look at those percentages again. They tell us that generally speaking, roughly 90 percent of training (70: challenging assignments + 20: boss or mentor) is already happening to some degree. You just need a way to guide it.

For example:

70 percent: Challenging Assignments

  • Engage employees to solve problems
  • Have employees conduct self-reviews and peer-reviews
  • Encourage employees to share best practice solutions to difficult issues

20 percent: Boss or Mentor

  • Hold short, weekly team meetings (many use my weekly tips for agenda topics)
  • Give employees one-on-one feedback

10 percent: Formal Training

You can save time by leveraging video in many cases. Here's one example where you can use video to reduce training time by 75 percent!

I've also assembled these simple training plans to help you blend experience, mentorship, and formal training into an effective training program takes less than one hour per week.

 

Conclusion

A lack of time isn't a great excuse for not training your employees.

You can make training work if you do it efficiently. Ditch the old content-heavy, classroom-only training model and adopt a new approach that puts the focus where it belongs: getting results!


Simple Training Plan: Preventing Customer Anger

Over the past two months, I posted a couple of training plans that customer service leaders can use to train their teams.

The idea was to provide a low-cost alternative to hiring an expensive customer service trainer. These plans are designed to be cost-effective and easy to use.

The first was called Serving Upset Customers 101, which focused on helping customer service reps learn the basics of defusing an angry or upset customer.

The second was called Serving Upset Customers: Eliminating Repeat Service Failures. This training plan showed customer service teams how to learn from angry customers to avoid repeated issues.

This training plan is the third in the three-part series. 

It's called Serving Upset Customers: Preventing Customer Anger. The best way to handle an upset customer is to prevent that customer from getting upset in the first place.

Give it a try and send me your feedback to let me know how it goes.

Overview: Preventing Customer Anger

Participants will be able to do the following at the end of this training:

  • Create personal connections to avoid angry customers
  • Alert customers before they encounter unpleasant surprises
  • Avoid specific words that can trigger customer anger
  • Use the pre-emptive acknowledgement technique

This course is the third in a three part series:

  • Part 1: Serving Upset Customers 101
  • Part 2: Serving Upset Customers, Eliminating Repeat Service Failures
  • Part 3: Serving Upset Customers, Preventing Customer Anger

Resources Required:

  • Worksheet: Workshop Planning Tool, cost: $0
  • Training Video: Working with Upset Customers. You'll need a Lynda.com or LinkedIn Premium subscription for each participant. Subscriptions start at $19.99 per person, per month and discounts are available for teams of 5 or more. A 30-day Lynda.com trial is available here.
  • Exercise Files: The Working with Upset Customers training video comes with a set of downloadable exercise files to help implement concepts from the course.

Time Required: <1 hour per week for 3 weeks.

 

Pre-Work: Do This Before You Begin

You can boost the impact of any training program by properly preparing. Here are two simple assignments you should do before starting the training.

Assignment #1: Create a training plan. Use the Workshop Planning Tool to create a training plan:

  • Identify your goal for the training.
  • Determine what needs to be done to prepare for success.
  • Decide how the training will be run.
  • Create a plan to sustain your progress.

 

Assignment #2: Announce the Training. Tell your team what to expect by announcing the training via a team meeting, one-on-one conversation, email, or some other form of communication. Make sure you address three things:

  • Tell participants what the training is about.
  • Explain why the training is important.
  • Share how you expect participants to use the training in their daily work.

 

Training Plan: Eliminating Repeat Service Failures

This plan is divided into three lessons that each take place one week apart.

Pre-Work:

Ask participants to watch the short training video, Creating Personal Relationships (2m 29s), before attending the first meeting. This video is part of the Working with Upset Customers course.

 

Week 1: Kick-off. 

Call a 30 minute team meeting to kick off the training program. Hold it in-person if possible, or via Skype or web-conference if your team is remote. 

  1. Review the purpose and goals for this course.
  2. Re-cap results from previous training programs (if applicable)
  3. Discuss ways that personal relationships can prevent customer anger.
  4. Assign training videos and activities for the next meeting.

 

Assignments for next week:

  • Exercise: Experiment with rapport-building techniques to create personal connections with customers.
  • Watch video: Avoiding Unpleasant Surprises (2m 51s).
  • Exercise: Download the Expectation Management Worksheet exercise file. Use it to identify situations where you can help customers avoid unpleasant surprises.

 

Week 2: Avoiding Unpleasant Surprises

Call a 30 minute team meeting to check-in on the training program. Hold it in-person if possible, or via Skype or web-conference if your team is remote.

  1. Discuss the results of the using rapport-building techniques exercise.
  2. Discuss the results of the avoiding unpleasant surprises exercise.
  3. Assign training videos and activities for the next meeting.

 

Assignments for next week:

 

Week 3: Preventing Customer Anger

Call a 30 minute team meeting to check-in on the training program. Hold it in-person if possible, or via Skype or web-conference if your team is remote.

  1. Discuss the results of the Pre-Emptive Acknowledgement Technique exercise.
  2. Brainstorm common trigger words and more effective replacements.
  3. Discuss ways to sustain the learning and solutions from this course.

Simple Training Plan: Eliminating Repeat Service Failures

A few weeks ago I posted a simple training plan that customer service leaders can use to train their teams.

It was called Serving Upset Customers 101. The focus was training customer service reps to respond effectively when serving an angry or upset customer.

This training plan is a sequel. It's called Serving Upset Customers: Eliminating Repeat Service Failures. It focuses on actions you can take after serving an upset customer to ensure the same issue doesn't happen again. 

Give it a try and send me your feedback to let me know how it goes.

Overview: Eliminating Repeat Service Failures

Participants will be able to do the following at the end of this training:

  • Preserve long-term customer relationships
  • Identify the root cause of chronic service problems
  • Share customer feedback with appropriate leaders

This course is the second in a three part series:

  • Part 1: Serving Upset Customers 101
  • Part 2: Serving Upset Customers, Eliminating Repeat Service Failures
  • Part 3: Service Upset Customers, Preventing Customer Anger

Resources Required:

  • Worksheet: Workshop Planning Tool, cost: $0
  • Training Video: Working with Upset Customers. You'll need a Lynda.com or LinkedIn Premium subscription for each participant. Subscriptions start at $19.99 per person, per month and discounts are available for teams of 5 or more. A 30-day Lynda.com trial is available here.
  • Exercise Files: The Working with Upset Customers training video comes with a set of downloadable exercise files to help implement concepts from the course.

Time Required: <1 hour per week for 3 weeks.

 

Pre-Work: Do This Before You Begin

You can boost the impact of any training program by properly preparing. Here are two simple assignments you should do before starting the training.

Assignment #1: Create a training plan. Use the Workshop Planning Tool to create a training plan:

  • Identify your goal for the training.
  • Determine what needs to be done to prepare for success.
  • Decide how the training will be run.
  • Create a plan to sustain your progress.

 

Assignment #2: Announce the Training. Tell your team what to expect by announcing the training via a team meeting, one-on-one conversation, email, or some other form of communication. Make sure you address three things:

  • Tell participants what the training is about.
  • Explain why the training is important.
  • Share how you expect participants to use the training in their daily work.

 

Training Plan: Eliminating Repeat Service Failures

This plan is divided into three lessons that each take place one week apart.

Pre-Work: Ask participants to watch the short training video, Preserving The Relationship (3m 10s), before attending the first meeting.

 

Week 1: Kick-off. 

Call a 30 minute team meeting to kick off the training program. Hold it in-person if possible, or via Skype or web-conference if your team is remote. 

  1. Review the purpose and goals for this course.
  2. Re-cap results from Serving Upset Customers 101 (if applicable)
  3. Discuss ways to preserve the relationship with an angry customer.
  4. Assign training videos and activities for the next meeting.

 

Assignments for next week:

  • Exercise: Follow-up with an angry customer to preserve the relationship.
  • Watch video: Conducting an After Action Review (3m 24s).
  • Exercise: Download the After Action Review worksheet exercise file. Use it to evaluate a recent experience with an upset customer.

 

Week 2: After Action Reviews

Call a 30 minute team meeting to check-in on the training program. Hold it in-person if possible, or via Skype or web-conference if your team is remote.

  1. Discuss the results of the following-up with angry customers exercise.
  2. Discuss the results of the after action review exercise.
  3. Assign training videos and activities for the next meeting.

 

Assignments for next week:

 

Week 3: Finding Room for Improvement

Call a 30 minute team meeting to check-in on the training program. Hold it in-person if possible, or via Skype or web-conference if your team is remote.

  1. Discuss the top customer complaints and identify the most common.
  2. Brainstorm solutions to some of the most common problems.
  3. Discuss ways to sustain the learning and solutions from this course.