February 2002 | Commentary | Carriers Corner

Improving Employee Efficiency Through Education

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Providing superior customer service is a fundamental goal of every successful business. The manner in which employees provide value-added service is key not only to maintain, but also to attract, additional business.

To be successful service providers, companies need to focus on variables such as improving employee efficiency and productivity through focused training and education programs.

The goal is to develop an extensive, multi-faceted process of training employees that enables them to grow with the confidence that they have the knowledge to meet the challenges they face each day.

Developing a successful training process includes five major phases, sometimes referred to as the "Project Management Methodology" approach:

1) Assess what needs to be taught. This can be accomplished by conducting a series of activities that include:

  • Identifying your audience.
  • Examining historical data.
  • Reviewing company goals.
  • Meeting with employees individually or in a focus group.
  • Developing an advisory committee.

A major tool used in the assessment phase is "gap analysis," which enables you to define the content of your training program. A gap analysis examines how important a knowledge or skill is to a job and compares that to the current knowledge or skill level.

The wider the gap, the more focus should be placed on training in that topic. Obviously, the more you assess, the better the end product. At this point, it will be helpful to identify ways to measure program success. This will come in handy during the evaluation phase.

2) Identify and develop the training material. Consider the budget and the amount of time you have to develop the program. Some things to keep in mind:

  • Review any existing material.
  • Adapt it to your audience.
  • Determine the length and scope of each topic.
  • Present the material to the advisory committee for review.

3) Test by running the program with a pilot class. Hand-picking a class of participants that is composed of a good cross-section of employees will offer an opportunity to obtain realistic feedback. Being conscious of what is working, as well as what is not working, is critical. It also may be necessary to make revisions to the delivery and content of the program.

4) Implement the program once the revisions are established. Determine a training schedule. You may still need to make some modifications to the program as you work your way through implementation.

5) Evaluation is necessary even as you begin implementation. Don't wait until you have completed the training. The more often you get feedback, the better your training will become. There are four levels of evaluation:

  • How participants reacted to the program. This may be obtained through an evaluation sheet.
  • What participants learned. Ways to get this feedback are through class exercises, observations, and more importantly, testing.
  • Are class participants in a position to apply what they have learned? An effective way to address this is to have them produce a corrective action plan that applies to their specific job. A corrective action plan identifies the activities employees will take when they get back to their job to improve their performances and to identify obstacles that would prevent them from achieving their goals.
  • Calculate a return on investment (ROI). Measure the job success levels of those taking the course. It will take a few months to gather data to determine what participants have achieved and what improvements they made, as well as what it will cost to make these improvements. All these evaluation activities will make the program an ongoing improvement process.

Training for Success

Utilizing this process throughout your organization will bring a number of benefits. For example, one of the best ways to fill management positions is to promote from within. Better-trained employees create a greater pool of qualified employees to draw from. This also improves morale.

Exceptional training programs help companies not only achieve their goals, but their employees' individual goals as well. Bottom line, this process will equip employees with the tools necessary to provide the best and most efficient value-added service to your customers.

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