Zengage is all about customer experience – bringing you help and advice to ensure that your organization’s customers have the best possible experience they can. We often drawn the strong connection between happy, empowered employees and good customer service.

Along those lines, it is important to examine how staff training can impact employee happiness, and in turn customer happiness.

A recent report (registration required) from the prestigious McKinsey Quarterly discusses the value that organizations put on training. McKinsey tells the story of the Boys and Girls Clubs of America (BGCA) who, seeing a lack of leadership capability within its organization, embark upon an extensive training program. Part of this work included producing some metrics over the cost and return from leadership training – the results (see graph below) are pretty compelling:

Training Employees to Learn

Training Employees to LearnSo what lessons can be taken from the BGCA experience? McKinsey focuses closely on choosing the right metrics to measure gains from training. As the organization points out:

A retailer pursuing better customer service and sales growth, for example, could train employees by getting its managers to provide real-time coaching and to role-model best-practice customer-engagement techniques. Rather than just measuring the managers’ time allocation or employee-engagement data—as most would do now—the retailer should measure the impact of its programs through hard business metrics, such as sales, basket sizes, and conversion rates in critical categories or departments. Similarly, a manufacturer might try to improve its operations by teaching plant supervisors lean-manufacturing and coaching skills, but rather than tracking only how many managers have been trained, it should track metrics such as downtime, the overall effectiveness of equipment, or fill rates.

What the report fails to look at though is the difference between “training and performance” and “learning and performance.” In a customer service setting, it is possible to “train” employees to say all the right things, to provide them with a cheat sheet of standard answers, and to instruct them to rattle off phrases like parrots do. This does little to provide a real benefit to the organization.

Rather, an approach that focuses on employee “learning” and measures performance, based on improvements made through self-directed and self-sustained learning, is preferable.

You can “train” an employee to flip burgers and change oil filters. However, if you truly want to create exceptional experience, employees require learning, an entirely different beast.

Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

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