Engage Your Agents: Best Practices to Train Your Workforce

Any manager aiming to engage agents and build skillsets in the contact center has considered the question, “How do my agents learn best?” Or maybe, “How does engaging agents increase their desire to learn or the knowledge they acquire?” In this second installment on agent engagement, we’ll answer those questions by exploring the term andragogy (an-druh-goh-jee) and how it applies to the contact center.

Malcom Knowles, an American Educator, was the first to introduce the idea of andragogy in the United States. According to Merriam-Webster this concept simply means, “the art or science of teaching adults”. Knowles sought to understand not only how to teach adults but also the motivation of adult learners; in his quest he developed these five principles:

  1. Adults need to understand why something is important to learn.
  2. They need the freedom to learn using different styles.
  3. Adults need to experience what they are learning through activities.
  4. Learning must be available when the adult student is ready.
  5. The learning process must be positive and encouraging.

So how do these principles translate to the contact center? Read the following ideas to learn ways to incorporate these concepts into your agent training:

  • Define the “Why” – To increase understanding, check your training materials to ensure you’ve explained the “why” in your processes and rules. Consider asking your top-performing agents to review current training materials to verify the “why” is answered, and to suggest changes or new content. In daily work, encourage your agents to ask questions about their evaluations and to respond to comments, if appropriate. Knowing that a healthy dialogue is accepted and encouraged prompts agents to not only review feedback but to dig a little deeper and consider how their daily practices should change.
  • Grab Attention with Variety – Use a variety of training methods to reach agents with different learning styles. This may include PDF files, videos, and real-life audio recordings. Try creative exercises, such as a scavenger hunt through software to highlight important functionality or processes. Innovative and varied training makes learning interesting and is sure to engage your agents.
  • Keep it Real – Rather than focusing on abstract concepts, adult learners are most engaged when solving problems and learning skills they can use today. When creating learning modules, consider building case studies that present a problem for the agent to solve, and reinforce the correct choices with a quiz. It may even be helpful to ask a group of agents to collaborate on a case study, so they can build camaraderie and leverage each other’s experiences and skills. When advising agents to share their ideas in a group exercise, look for ways to emphasize individuality as a true asset and encourage teammates to tap into each other’s strengths to build stronger, more agile teams.
  • Just in Time Learning – Coaching software that automatically sends an eLearning lesson when an agent receives a low score provides relevant training that can be completed during times with low call volumes–when agents have time to focus. And, if it’s done automatically, managers can concentrate on other, important responsibilities. In addition, agents need a window into their performance history that shows their evaluation scores over time. With this history, agents can celebrate their wins and be the first to notice areas that may need more training or attention.
  • Positivity is Key – It has been said, “Experience is the best teacher”, and, indeed, working through the details of an evaluation and subsequent coaching–including learning from errors–can produce your most valuable agents. But in order for this to work well for adult learners, it’s important to set the expectation. Let your agents know that errors, when used to learn critical lessons, are an acceptable part of a successful career.

Investing in a solid, feature-rich workforce optimization solution helps you develop focused training that engages adult learners—your workforce. Offering a variety of learning media in your training program, combined with an encouraging and positive environment, lays the foundation for constructive, continuous skill-building. The result of these efforts? Watching your agents rack up wins while serving your customers well.