Distant Learning – Adult Education Strategies for the Call Center (Part 2 of 2)

Chinese CrisisGagné’s Instructional Design Model, is a conceptual model for moving organizational goals into organizational behavior, referred to by Gagné (2018) as a “motivational model of organizational goal pursuit,” (p. S98-S99).  Gagné’s instructional design model collects the curriculum, the organizational goals, needs, desires, managerially acceptable behaviors, and supports the trainer in the training environment.  Important to note, Gagné (2018) stated a known truth, the trainer, and training department, are dynamic influencers in the business organization, and any learning organization will gladly take the trainer and training department and make the importance of learning observable from the first moment a visitor enters to the last impression as the visitor leaves.

Gagné’s Nine Events of Instruction

Gagné’s Nine Events of eLearning Instruction

Gain Attention Gain Attention
Inform Objectives Inform Objectives
Stimulate Recall Stimulate Recall
Present New Materials Create Goal Centered eLearning Content
Provide Guidance Provide Guidance
Elicit Performance Practical Application
Provide Feedback Provide Feedback
Assess Performance Assess Performance
Enhance Retention to Transfer to the Job. Enhance Retention to Transfer to the Job.

As stated in Part 1, there is not a significant difference between Gagné’s Nine Events of Instruction, and Gagné’s Nine Events of eLearning Instruction.  The difference is in the modality or training delivery, or how the student interacts with the trainer and the materials.  The events are the same, and only adapted to the specific way the materials will be delivered.  Think of these two models as two different channels on TV, except one channel has the news anchor standing in your front room and the other channel you have your front room to yourself.

Andragogy - LEARNThe importance of making the shift from training being a singular activity for the extent of the employee working in a role and making training a regular event where learning is ongoing as a competitive advantage, represents a major hurdle for call centers to overcome.  However, it cannot be more emphatically declared, training is an event, and the training events can be replicated for lifelong and lifewide learners to enjoy.  Let us take the individual events and break them down into specific actions a trainer uses to plan and execute training in call centers:

  1. Gain Attention – a 360-degree event! Trainer and student should be present physically and mentally.
    1. This is not a game, nor is it an activity. Gaining attention means to tell the introduction to a story.
    2. State a real-world example problem statement.
    3. Represents a crucial moment in new training, to capture the cognition of the students. Get the students to have a stake in solving the problem.
    4. Tell them WHY this class is important to them personally and professionally.
    5. The trainer must declare, and then exemplify that they are a student, and the trainer is excited to learn and explore the topic with those in attendance.
    6. Encourage the student to be an active participant in giving and receiving feedback!
  2. Inform Objectives – a 180-degree event. Set high standards, train to meet those high standards, and watch the student perform!
    1. Restate the WHY
    2. Detail the WHAT
    3. Examples of HOW
    4. Focusing on these three items in the objectives will advance attention, and this begins to build trust between the instructor and the materials.
    5. Encourage the student to be an active participant in giving and receiving feedback!
  3. Stimulate Recall – a 180-degree event
    1. What do they already know? Ask!  Go around the room and get 100% participation, including the trainer.
    2. How do they use the materials, or topic of the class, currently?
    3. Get the students to declare WHY they are interested.
    4. Get the student looking for WHEN and WHERE they should be using the materials being discussed. Anticipation for application is crucial to attention!
  4. Present New Materials –
    1. Encourage the student to be an active participant in giving and receiving feedback!
    2. Students can instruct.
    3. Ask questions.
    4. Go around the class to involve everyone.
    5. Use conflict as a positive force to stimulate new thinking on current topics with new materials.
    6. Supply a “Parking Lot” for topics not specifically on topic but are questions from the students in the moment.
  5. Provide Guidance – a 360-degree event!
    1. In face-to-face delivery this means answering questions.
    2. In eLearning, this means answering questions; but employing technology adroitly to meet the student’s needs.
    3. Be honest! Expect honesty.
    4. Be forthright. Anticipate forthrightness.
    5. Declare what is known and not known.
    6. Timely responses are critical to setting up the elements of trust needed to achieve the remaining events successfully.
  6. Elicit Performance – a 360-degree event!
    1. Encourage the student to be an active participant in giving and receiving feedback!
    2. Regardless of delivery, get the student practicing what is being taught.
    3. Role play.
    4. Using software, searching for data, doing the duties of the role.
    5. Start as soon as practical and continue in ever increasing levels of difficulty.
    6. Emulate real life scenarios!
  7. Provide Feedback – a 360-degree event!
    1. Feedback is NOT criticism. The second the trainer becomes critical, is the moment trust is destroyed and the student stops progressing on the nine events of instruction.
    2. Feedback is positive, truth filled, and delivered best in a neutral tone.
    3. Honesty is everything.
    4. Use the sandwich method. Compliment what is being done well.  Offer opportunities for improvement (NOT Criticism).  Compliment other strengths.
    5. Be open to receiving feedback.
    6. Encourage the student to be an active participant in giving and receiving feedback!
  8. Assess Performance – a 360-degree event!
    1. Formal exams
    2. Informal scenarios where the student talks the trainer through what they would do.
    3. Student led instruction on a topic.
    4. Student led assessments of other students.
    5. Keep event 7 clearly in mind when designing performance assessments.
  9. Enhance Retention to Transfer to the Job – a 360-degree event!
    1. How does a student contact the trainer after the class concludes?
    2. How does a student know they have successfully learned the materials?
    3. Is the “Parking Lot” empty?
    4. Gage the enthusiasm of individuals to do what they are doing in class for real.

Andragogy - Trainer FailureHow does a trainer know they have achieved success using these events; “Enthusiasm is the greatest asset in the world, it beats money, power, and influence; it is nothing more than faith in action” – Henry Chester.  Faith in action involves trust and reflects confidence in the trainer by the learner.  Are the students excited to perform; if so, the trainer has achieved success.  If there are reservations, address them on an individual student level.  If there are hesitations; assure the student, the trainer is still there to aid and encourage.  Experience will be the new instructor and the trainer will now be a mentor and advocate.  Explain these roles and show how the trainer is still there through technical means and physical visits; ensure each student remembers that the trainer is still learning and is willing to learn with the student.

How does a business leader evaluate the efficacy of training using Gagne’s tools as detailed; through the performance of the employees in the roles they have trained to perform.  Set the standard for performance using an untrained individual, a newly trained individual, and a trainer, which then becomes the measurement template for evaluation.  For example, if the training was on performance of a task, then use time to complete the task as the metric and use the template in how quickly those tasks are performed as the measurement of performance.

Call Center Agent - FemaleEnd the silliness of five different methods for evaluating training.  Happy sheets are ambiguous and do not reflect reality.  Measuring learning is uselessly inefficient for judging how much has been learned, mainly because the person taking the test is not applying in real-life the principles learned.  Worse, only a small percentage of the population can adequately take tests and have that test-performance reflect real-life application in using the principles learned.  Measuring just through application is a time-wasting event.  It takes time to setup, time to take down, time to score, and still only a small percentage of the population can adequately show application when under testing requirements.  Speaking of time, using business results or returns on investment as the stick to measure training effectiveness requires long-term time commitment and resource investment which do not reflect the ambiguity of market conditions.

Only through performance-based assessments can training be evaluated as the event that influences business results or reflects a return on the training investment.  Thus, the assessment begins with those being trained able to perform the tasks hired to perform more efficiently because they succeeded at a formal training event.  Does the newly trained person exemplify the behaviors, attitudes, and enthusiasm, as a product of confidence and trust in the trainer, to act independently?  If so, training was a value-added event and the business will see the benefits.

Blue Money BurningOn a final note, give training an actual budget.  Too often training is an unbudgeted expense that absorbs costs unrelated to actual training.  This method of paying for training produces unrealistic costs for trainers to explain or to precisely track.  Changing how training is evaluated, and budgeting the costs of training, without all the garbage of untrackable expenses, will improve the call center immeasurably.  Call center leadership can, and should, be actively learning in the call center.  Learning represents a commitment to changing personally, then professionally.  Change is the key to competing in the current global marketplace, and the company that can change and adapt is the company focused on learning.

Reference

Gagné, M. (2018). From strategy to action: Transforming organizational goals into organizational behavior. International Journal of Management Reviews, 20, S83-S104. doi: 10.1111/ijmr.12159

© Copyright 2020 – M. Dave Salisbury
The author holds no claims for the art used herein. The pictures were obtained in the public domain, and the intellectual property belongs to those who created the images.
All rights reserved. For copies, reprints, or sharing, please contact through LinkedIn:
https://www.linkedin.com/in/davesalisbury/

Distant Learning – Adult Education Strategies for the Call Center (Part 1 of 2)

Chinese CrisisThe reality of Adult Education in the majority of call centers can be described as desperate, at best!  Why, because the model has been Bloom’s Taxonomy, mix in some ADDIE, add a sprinkle of desperation, and a load of “This is how it’s done here,” and you have the template for many corporate training programs.  Then remote training was forced upon the call centers due to COVID-19 related government mandates, and the model that barely worked before is fully inadequate to the present and future.  Yet, this unyielding model, is being forced into the new reality, like a square plug into a star shaped hole.  Stuffing this model into the new reality creates two things, waste, and confusion.  When we the call center leaders admit and face this reality head on, innovative solutions to the training problems can be derived.

Let’s admit this reality as well, Bloom’s Taxonomy does not work!  I am not advocating throwing it completely out the window, but Bloom’s Taxonomy hardly works in academia to barely describe a small subset of the population.  This is a reality that never seems to be communicated to people looking for training assistance.

ADDIE (Analyze, Design, Develop, Implement, and Evaluate) as a learning model is useless.  This is another reality that must be acknowledged.  The most dedicated ADDIE enthusiasts add their own additional levels to the Basic ADDIE Model, to produce an “ADDIE inspired training program.”  The problem with adapting the ADDIE model to a single training environment, is the ever-changing student in adult education.  The model cannot adapt, does not have a basic return and report, and frankly, fails when students change from training group to training group.

Experience teaches that a standard training model built upon the basic four steps becomes the eventual template for training in the call center:

  1. Gathering Information
  2. Design
  3. Build Content
  4. Evaluation

Not that this is the best method, but because it is a method that is inexpensive, quick, and by hammering these four items success can be observed, provided standards for education are set very low.  Setting standards low serves nobody, but this is the fallback position when ADDIE and Bloom’s Taxonomy fail, which in reality they will always fail, but the very select few in any given population.

GearsSome call centers will occasionally find success using Merrill’s Principles of Instruction, and if your call center is a series of tasks that are called “customer service” then your call center can find success using Merrill’s Principles:

          1. Task-Centered
          2. Activation
          3. Demonstration
          4. Application
          5. Integration

Important to understanding, Merrill’s Principles of Instruction are scalable, flexible, holistic, but are limited to one specific type of learning task-centered.  Merrill’s principles of instruction can be attached to any other adult education theory, including Bloom’s Taxonomy and improve the performance of training, if that training is to learn by route memory a task that must be performed.

Call Center Agent - MaleDuring my youth, I worked for a call center, a national brand, winner of generous amounts of accolades and industry awards.  Their model of approaching customer service was to give the customer what they wanted.  Providing a soft-spoken voice to the customer and giving the customer what they wanted.  The company was bought before the 2000 business shift, and is not remembered, because they did not supply the customer service the customer found valuable.  But this organization makes an excellent example of Merrill’s Principles of Instruction for task-centered adult education.  Teach the new hire how to give a bill credit.  Teach the new hire how to speak softly during confrontational situations.  Teach the new hire how to approach a customer to sell upgrades, new services, or plan improvements.  Never teach the new hire anything more than tasks that need completed.  Never allow the new hire to exceed the bounds of tasks and call this excellence in customer service.  Eventually losing the company to your competition!

The glaring holes in adult education, found in call centers currently, originate from three core areas:

  1. Failing to decide what type of company is desired.
  2. Failing to set high standards for learners.
  3. Failing to understand adult education.

In addressing what type of company is desired, Myron Tribus asked, “What type of company do we aspire to be?”  Tribus claimed there are only two answers for this question, a money tap, or a learning organization.  If your call center is simply a front for a money tap organization, continue using Bloom’s Taxonomy and ADDIE, change nothing, and you can cease reading at this point.  Your competition wishes you the best of luck!

Andragogy - The PuzzleIf, your company is a “learning organization,” please allow me to aid you in discovering a better way to educate your adult learners.  Adult education, also known academically as Andragogy, is specifically designed for the adult learner to discover new content.  Important to understand, adults learn through events, not through hierarchical learning, which separates pedagogy from andragogy.  The events an adult learns from will include the environment the learning was delivered in, include feelings and emotions, and will be understood through the lens of earlier experiences, including previous success and failures in formal education, as well as attitudes, and socially accepted behaviors.  In Europe pedagogy (child learning) and andragogy (adult learning) are often confused and without a clear distinction.  For this article, training adults (post-secondary school aged people) is andragogy, and the training is a formal event in a new hire’s schedule; the best thing a business can do for adults in formal learning environments is to set high levels of performance.

If your organization is going to set exacting standards of performance, and expect those standards to be met, then your first job is to improve who instructs, and how they instruct.  How are your trainers and mentors trained?  What are their standards of performance?  Who trained them?  Formal and informal education has value, who set the standards for the trainers to meet?  Where can an aspiring trainer find the standards to be met to earn the title “trainer” or “mentor?”

Which is where an adult educational model that works, is needed, and applied, “Gagné’s Nine Events of Instruction.”  Interestingly, with minimal wording changes, the same nine events of adult education are applicable as a standard for face-to-face, online real-time, and online student led delivery modalities.  Here are the basic nine events as established by Gagné.

  1. Gain Attention
  2. Inform Objectives
  3. Stimulate Recall
  4. Present New Materials
  5. Provide Guidance
  6. Elicit Performance
  7. Provide Feedback
  8. Assess Performance
  9. Enhance Retention to Transfer to the Job.

These events represent episodes, or steps, for powering adult education and adapted for both task-centered and non-task-centered educational events.  More importantly, these nine events of instruction open the door to declare the standards desired, how those standards are met, and how the adoption of those high standards are evaluated.  Evaluation should not be a single faceted event, such as a written test; but should be reflected in the changed behaviors, attitudes, and mental functioning of the individuals.  Except to evaluate in this manner, the objectives must specifically identify what a successful candidate of that learning event shall reflect.

Stated more simply, does the trainer know what a successfully trained candidate looks like, and are they modelling that successful candidate in every student interaction?  If the answer is no, how do you the business leader know that successful training can occur?  Training is evaluated for the following reasons, to validate training, justify costs, improve design of training, and improve selection of training methods.  Thus, the importance of evaluating training programs. The five levels of measurement are (in order) reactions (Happy Sheets; where an emotion measures the training program), learning (new or improved skills which are observed), application (behavior changes which can be observed), business results (behavior changes leading to improved results), and return on investment (ROI; monetary return over a specified time, after training occurs.  Yet, a simple truth prevails in training, even without formal training improvements can occur in behavior, unless the evaluation of training is an event and retention of knowledge as transferred to the job is measured instead of all the other training evaluation methods.

Andragogy - Trainer FailureTraining in the call center must change, adapt, and be understood through Gagné’s Nine Events of Instruction, and Gagnè’s Instructional Design model, which helps to take strategic goals and tactical actions, blended together in the training events, and observed through ROI improvements.  If training does not lead to a changed individual, why spend the money to train?  If the trainer is not exemplifying the behaviors of a successfully trained person, how can any other employee be held accountable for not learning?  It is imperative that how training is evaluated changes as the current models do not measure training, do not explain the resources invested, and does not justify what training is or what a trainer does.

Part 2 more fully explores Gagné’s Instructional Design Model and the Nine Events of Instruction in more detail.

© Copyright 2020 – M. Dave Salisbury
The author holds no claims for the art used herein. The pictures were obtained in the public domain, and the intellectual property belongs to those who created the images.
All rights reserved. For copies, reprints, or sharing, please contact through LinkedIn:
https://www.linkedin.com/in/davesalisbury/