Companies need excellent skills training. But sometimes, it’s better leadership they seek to make them successful.
Turning A Blind Eye
The afternoon of November 15th was cool and cloudy. There were freshly-printed spreadsheets on the conference room table; it was the latest data from the company’s call center. The paper was still warm from the printer and felt good on Christopher’s cold hands. The ad hoc meeting was called only minutes earlier. He surmised that it would focus on employee learning. Christopher had been tasked to help with a new training initiative designed to improve customer service feedback and increase sales over the telephone.
As employees began to gather in the boardroom and take their seats in the black leather chairs, Scott, the call center manager, said, “Hey Chris, I need your training expertise! My customer feedback isn’t so great lately. That’s why we’re here today. You must work your magic, buddy; I’m counting on you! You’re the best trainer I know.”
Christopher loved training employees, and he liked Scott (because of his work ethic and honesty). But he knew this was more than a training issue. Scott (and others) were not providing the much-needed leadership to the team. “Don’t worry. I’ve got your back!” Christopher told him.
Soon, the other department heads and the executive committee gathered in the room and started surveying the report. They greeted each other and exchanged pleasantries until Candance, the division director, pointed out the failing numbers. “I’m not here to throw anyone under the bus,” she said. “But we need immediate improvements if we’re going to turn these figures around,” she continued. “We’ve got clients to satisfy and sales quotas to meet!” Her tone was pleasant, but she meant business.
“More training is not the answer,” said Christopher. He then explained that companies who are not plugged into their employees’ work struggles might not understand the depth of emotion and the impact that their lack of leadership can have on people. And sometimes, they go about fixing performance and production problems with more skills training. “It’s time for better leadership skills,” he said. “And I’m not speaking poorly of Scott. He’s got the work ethic of an alpine swallow.” (a bird that reportedly flies for six months without stopping).
“I thought you had my back,” said Steve, wincing in embarrassment. “I’m struggling here; I am doing my darndest to succeed,” he lectured.
“I had to speak up,” said Christopher. “There’s an opportunity for improvement within each of us. I just conducted a training needs analysis, and I think that I’ve discovered the level of competency and skill on your team is excellent,” he stated boldly. “Just hear me out!” Christopher then suggested that the organization try to inculcate a culture of change and improvement through daily leadership principles using available call center data and technology to improve employee performance. “We’ve been turning a blind eye to this for some time,” he said. “You guys called this meeting before I could share my findings with Steve!”
“I want specifics,” said Candace. “Give me the details,” she continued.
“In the needs assessment, I discovered things,” said Christopher. He then described what had already taken place last week before the meeting was called. Here are a few of the things that he listed:
- Employees don’t know department-specific sales goals
- We don’t share our sales history records with the team
- Inbound call volume suggests understaffing issues
- The average speed of answer does not meet our standard
- Customer wait time in the telephone queue is longer than before
- We’re not publishing customer feedback for our employees to read
- Less than half of our agents ask for the business to close a sale
“I say we focus on these key performance indicators (KPIs) for a few weeks. Then, let’s return and report our findings,” suggested Christopher. “This is a training insider secret,” he lamented. “I don’t think more training is the answer; I think leadership is!” Christopher then paid Steve this compliment: “Employee knowledge in the call center is high. Steve’s team knows their stuff. It’s time to focus on individual performance. I have every confidence that together we can pull this off!”
A Closer Look At What Was Needed
Employee training that addresses employee growth, improved customer service, and increased sales are a worthy business goal. However, sometimes the primary reason training might fail is because it may not be the appropriate solution to a problem. Of course, there’s a lot that goes into achieving the desired business outcome and companies need excellent training. But sometimes, it’s better leadership they seek to make them successful.