In the Beginning

In the Beginning

Identifying the organisation's Training needs is a key task that should be done with the expertise of a detective.


Nagaraju Muniswamy was an ambitious man. Known as Muni to his colleagues, he headed the India operations of an organisation that was in the business of repair and service of electronics, and served some of the biggest computing and telecommunication brands worldwide. Every month, all the countries were evaluated on revenue growth and customer satisfaction. Muni’s India operations never stood well on Customer Satisfaction (CSAT). And this made Muni to mull over the problem. Even though his Service Engineers were qualified and welltrained, they received average CSAT scores from customers.


Secret Sauce


What was the ‘secret sauce’ as he fondly said, which would get him good CSAT rankings? He hit upon the idea that the missing secret sauce was Improved Training. And hence, the Service Engineers (SEs) went through another extra week of soft skill training after their induction. The SEs became politer; they were all smiles most of the time, the resolution rates were not low too, yet the CSAT stubbornly remained as below par.


Muni felt lost. Even though he had hit upon the secret sauce, it would not yield the desired taste. As a person who never gave up easily, he decided to investigate further. He added additional columns to the CSAT feedback form which was received from the customers and started going about their verbatim comments. To his surprise, he noticed they were all happy with his SEs - they were polite, friendly and willing to help. The resolution rates too were high, 96% agreed that they had received the expected resolution. But a problem that could be discerned was lurking somewhere within the lines of the form. Some of the problems with the laptops were serious, and they needed to be taken away to the service centre and took some time to fix, but some of the problems were not so complex.


If the SE was well-equipped with the right gadgets, he or she could fix the simple problems then and there. It is this sub-section of customers who seemed to be playing spoilsport and were constantly providing less than satisfactory ratings. Being the smart man that he was, Muni quickly added a new category to the list of problems so that the SEs were better equipped with gadgets to fix a larger number of problems onthe-spot. Quite predictably, the resolution became quicker and that sub-section of customers who assumed that the company was needlessly taking a lot of time turned around to provide the desired ratings.


Training is a Panacea


Muni was a clever man and was quick enough to manage to figure out that the gap in numbers was not due to lack of Training, and there was a challenge in the process itself. However, there are thousands of Managers out there, who attribute every performance gap to Training and then train employees ad nauseam hoping that the performance will improve.


Training is definitely a cure in many situations, but is not the case every time. The trick is to be able to discern the situation when it is a solution and when it is not. Part of the trick truly lies in the way Training Needs are Identified (TNI). There are many sources for finding out the competency gaps in any organisation. Some of these are:


Appraisals: The Annual Appraisals. Invariably, employees fall short of expectations. Appraisals are the time of the year that employees are formally asked about the kind of Training they would like to undergo. Earlier, employees were mealymouthed and not very forthcoming about the kind of Training they wanted. Not so today. Today’s employee instinctively understands that Training is the Ticket to success and demands as many types of Training as possible. Compiling this set of expectations is one of the primary tasks of the Training Manager.


Skill Matrix: Some relatively advanced organisations have a Skill Matrix in place. They generally tend to be for behavioural skills, but functional skills also figure at times. If the organisation has an updated Skill Matrix then the competency gaps are there for everyone to see and fill. The one risk that organisations run with the Skill Matrix is that often they are not updated, and the data found are from the stone ages and may really be a red herring.


Surveys: Companywide employee surveys are the most common way of finding out what the company is really looking for. Employees tend to produce a laundry list of wants, but no company has unlimited budgets and opportunity cost of employees needs to be considered before data from surveys can be accepted. Better still, have close ended questions and offer a limited range of options in the survey. If that is being stingy, add text boxes, which can be filled for those who do not see their options in the drop downs.


Focus Group Discussions (FGDs): A lot of the way you do your TNI depends on the culture of the organisation. If it has a relatively free wheeling culture and people are comfortable airing their views, then FGDs are a wonderful source of information. The days of meeting and greeting in person and having a hearty chat over a hot cup of coffee are increasingly rare. We are all Zooming in ether, literally or otherwise. However, we do meet over virtual platforms and elicit learning gaps.


The Sherlock in You: Remember when you are identifying the learning gaps, you are a bit of a Sherlock Holmes. Apart from the above-mentioned modes of gathering information, keep your eyes and ears open. Look up performance data, do you see a gap anywhere, in any department, in any function. For example, I got a call from a Program Manager, who told me that his clients thought poorly about his Project Managers. Could the Training teamhelp? Such tip offs always help when you are putting your entire TNI together.


Performance Data Reviews: During the Appraisals not only should you go through the feedback and the employee requests but also areas which you feel can be improved significantly. Once due to the bell curve a few people did well in the Sales team, but the overall sales achievement in the company was nothing to write home about. What could be the reason, is it a recessive economy or a less than skilled sales team. Go figure.


TNI is the Key : So, the TNI is a key upstream activity which decides what you are going to do in your L&D journey in the coming Quarters, Year and more


Chances are if you have been using your magnifying glasses well, and your dear companion Watson has been by your side, you are on the right track. Until next month then, happy detecting!


This is part of a 10 series article on Learning and Development



Dipankar Das is the author of Cracking the CSAT Code at the Call Centre. He has worked in diverse organizations, including Genpact, Concentrix and for the Tatas. He is currently Vice President and Global Head of Skill Development at iSON Experiences.


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