Train the trainer through empowerment

Train the trainer through empowerment

Leykam, Garrison

As companies navigate to latitudinal positions on the organizational compass, horizontal management structures create opportunities for all employees to participate in the training process. Not only are telemarketers being given ownership and control of their own performance results, they are being challenged to share their front-line experiences with other departments. TSRs and CSRs are collaborating with operations staff across functional areas to enhance processes that will translate into increased product quality, improved service deliverability and incremental revenue. The prerequisite to such collaboration is peer training on currently performed functions so everyone is starting from the same information base. Such a “latitudinal compass” approach to improving business practices through information sharing and cooperative process improvement extends the roster of “train the trainer” candidates to include telephone representatives.

For the first time, an increasing number of front-line employees are being given the opportunity to “break out” of their narrowly defined job descriptions into “workstations without walls.” They are doing this through participation in self-directed work teams and high-performance work systems. Telemarketing representatives are being encouraged to ask the question, “What is possible?” instead of, “What is expected?” More important, telemarketers are being given senior management’s endorsement to create their own answers to this question. TSRs and CSRs are making the transition from taking their abilities for granted to taking them to the discussion table to create change. It becomes an imperative, therefore, to provide these employees with the necessary skills to ensure their success in the empowered environment.

The successful latitudinal “train the trainer” program needs to include three key components: Insight, I-Sight and ForesightTM.

Insight starts with the shared recognition that each telemarketer can make an informational contribution that will play a role in overall performance enhancement; that each TSR’s and CSR’s customer experiences are unique. First and foremost is the need for each telemarketer to identify his or her experiential knowledge base. This includes asking oneself such questions as, “If I were president of the company and I had the opportunity to make any changes that would benefit my customers, `What would I do more of?’ `What would I do less of?’ `What would I stop doing immediately?’ `What process improvements would I make?’ `How would I empower my employees to deliver one-call-does-all customer service?’ How would I maximize order size?’ How would I increase post-purchase, incremental revenues?’ `How would I ensure absolute customer satisfaction?’ `How would I change my product or service?”‘

These questions are followed by identifying what the issues and barriers are to effecting change in these areas. As telemarketers begin to ask themselves these questions, the role of the inhouse trainer shifts as well to that of process facilitator. The trainer assists telemarketers to arrive at core operational issues by tapping into experienced customer interactions, outcomes and opportunities. All conceivable responses to the aforementioned questions are listed out and prioritized in nominal group fashion. The optimum agenda of the Insight stage of the train-the-trainer program includes the development of a front-line-driven information base that collectively represents the company’s best insight into customers’ (internal as well as external!) needs and desires. It also includes training telemarketers on the relationship of employee empowerment and corporate performance; that each TSR and CSR can make a positive difference in the company’s future. A solid train-the-trainer program will incorporate a presentation of the corporate culture as driven by employee involvement in all operational aspects.

Once the telemarketers have built this informational foundation by defining their Insight, “privatized” information (indigenous to one’s own experience) needs to be transformed into “publicized” information (shared with others for purposes of performance enhancement). The key word here is “communication”; getting people together from all functional areas to exchange core information. This is accomplished during the “I-Sight” stage of the train-the-trainer program.

For the experienced trainer, this means educating telemarketers on how to present information to a group. Often compared to skydiving without a jumpchute, public speaking, even in a small group, creates fear in many. For the telemarketer used to a one-on-one relationship with an unseen partner, this can be even more harrowing. Mentoring and modeling successful behaviors can be very helpful in reducing communication anxiety. Within a group of telemarketers, the trainer can role-play the desired presentation. This is accomplished by offering his or her own Insight into customer experiences. At the end, the trainer can explain the key elements of the presentation. These can include how the information was assembled, tips for overcoming fear of public speaking and how to avoid extraneous information while getting your point across. The participants can then go in turn presenting their own information. This kind of roundtable is not only instructional, but presents a “safe” environment for test driving one’s delivery and content before an actual interfunctional group meeting. For any employee motivated to enhance their career, learning to present to a group is an invaluable arrow in the quiver. This stage of the train-the-trainer program should also include fortifying the new role of the telemarketer-astrainer as well as teaching the essentials of teamwork.

Once information has been identified and exchanged, action plans for change can be developed. This is the Foresight stage of training-thetrainer. Telemarketers and their interfunctional group peers, enlightened as to each other’s abilities and frames of customer reference, can now go about the task of creating change. To ensure the success of this process, facilitator intervention is again required. The group is about to embark on a process that will quickly gain momentum as the members begin to stretch their empowerment wings and experience initial collaborative success. This momentum must be channeled with additional skills training. In spite of initial enthusiasm to get things done, telemarketer-trainers must be cautioned that change does not happen overnight. It’s a process that takes time. Identifying the critical areas for change is a necessary step. Setting one or two realistic goals is preferable to attempting to change the entire company overnight. The train-the-trainer program should include advising employees to stay focused on the goals. It’s easy to be caught up in the enthusiasm of simply being part of a new team. However, that’s not the ultimate destination. The team is but a collaborative conduit to improve performance for the benefit of the customer, the employee and the company.

Change will be the result of peers training each other on their respective abilities and knowledge so that best-fit solutions can emerge from the greatest amount of relevant data. As employees attempt to find and agree upon solutions to performance problems, they will need coaching and training on: problem identification; how to constructively deal with confrontation; how to conduct meetings and what to do when things go wrong; focusing on objectives; setting up metrics to measure success; enlisting the assistance of senior management; how to reach consensus; flexibility and shifting gears; and, communicating results. All of the foregoing train-the-trainer skills increase employees’ effectiveness, boost morale and raise career path competencies.

Traditional train-the-trainer programs have focused on the professional development of the recognized trainer through seminars, workshops and certification programs. As latitudinal-compassed companies drive employee empowerment and the training function has less residency within a so-titled department, the need to offer relevant skills throughout the organization becomes paramount.

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Garrison Leykam, MA, is a partner in the training company, ApogenesisTM, Inc. which provides leadership, team development and performance management training to companies, organizations and professional sports teams. He is a member of the American Society for Training & Development, the Association for Experiential Education and the Society for Human Resource


Copyright Technology Marketing Corporation May 1997

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