Six key considerations for employee training and upskilling

Simon Johnson of Freshworks

Guest post by Simon Johnson

For businesses, hiring the right people is usually only half the battle. Even the best candidates can be lost without the right guidance as they become used to their new roles and working environments.

Therefore, the role of structured training and development as soon as employees arrive will help them hit the ground running and ensure they reflect their employer’s core values from the outset.

The pandemic has highlighted how crucial this process is. A recent report by the CBI found that nine in 10 UK employees will have to reskill by 2030 as a result of accelerating changes to the world of work.

The report, based on analysis by McKinsey, also found that in the next decade, 26 million workers will require upskilling to keep up to date with technological and business developments as their roles evolve. Meanwhile, another five million are set to go through a fundamental job change and require retraining.

A huge part of this responsibility must sit with businesses, with these findings showing how the pandemic will further drive employee demand for training. With the accelerated digital change we’ve seen in the past year, the workforce is desperate not to be left behind.

For example, customer service agents have seen their jobs change drastically and this role provides a good way of illustrating the tips in this article.

Customers are more connected than ever to the businesses they buy from, and that means they’re constantly sharing their experiences – both positive and negative. Providing top-notch support is directly related to customer retention, loyalty and satisfaction – a key way to guarantee ongoing revenue.

It’s clear that in an ideal world, employee training should start straight away, but what should employers’ key considerations be for the career development they’re providing to staff?

Start small and gradually increase complexity

Employers must avoid overloading new hires by bombarding them with every piece of training they’ll need at once. Instead, they should start with a few small tasks to tackle and build on them over time. Using the example of customer service, employers could consider introducing a new team member to one support channel at a time so they can focus on fully learning that tool and process.

Here, the use of AI tools can also assist new hires by identifying the next best actions and learn on-the-job more effectively. Alternatively, if incoming support tickets are sorted by topic—such as billing, login problems, and technical issues—employers should pick a queue to have a trainee focus on at first, then expand to others over time.

These tactics make it easy for new employees by giving them access to the complete information they need and ways to automate routine work like ticket classification, assignment and updates.

Train directly in the relevant support channels

Training should not be theoretical. While it’s okay to start explaining the basics in training software, text documentation, or a video example, employers must ensure it’s not the only place their new agent learns how to work in a particular support channel. They need to know best practices for a channel, plus how to actually use each one effectively.

Each support channel also has its own challenges, and a new agent will need to be trained on the specifics for the type of support they’ll be providing. For example, if an agent handles live chat, their training should include a section on chat-specific skills, such as how to handle multiple chats and tips for pacing the conversation so that they are able to help the customer and find the information they need all at once.

This is supported by our recent research, which found that customers assign significantly more value to responsiveness than the time taken to resolve a query. Therefore, it pays to not overload new staff members with too many channels or conversations to manage.

Assign mentors to new hires

A period spent shadowing peers to learn new skills can be fantastic for development. When an employee joins, companies should assign them a mentor to check in and help them grow over the first few months in their new position. While they’ll certainly have other colleagues to go to for assistance, setting up a mentor-mentee relationship they can count on will go a long way.

Employers should also consider making the mentor someone on a different team to help the new employee branch out and meet other people, as well as give them a space to talk openly and honestly in a way they may hesitate to do within their own team.

Break down company silos

New employees will struggle to adapt quickly if they aren’t given access to all the data they need to do their jobs – this includes breaking down silos between teams in order to collaborate effectively.

Without 360-degree insights on relevant information, less experienced employees won’t be able to perform to the highest standard. In fact, research from Freshworks found that when internal sales and marketing teams aren’t aligned, both teams suffer from greater drops in revenue and conversion rates.

Ensure new agents know the product inside and out

However, no matter how much training an employee does on these specific tools, if they don’t know the product very well, they’ll struggle when it comes to actually helping customers.

New hires must be given time to try out the product or service they are supporting. Those training new hires can create a way to assess their knowledge, such as a short quiz built into training or by having a teammate run through how they’d help a customer with a handful of common issues.

Establish a “learn on the go” culture

Training must not be limited to a specific tool or portal. Instead, a culture that includes hands-on learning should be established. For example, customer service agents should approach providing support as not only an opportunity to assist customers, but also to continuously learn and improve.

Employers should work on creating a team culture that feels welcoming, so that anytime an employee faces obstacles, they won’t hesitate to reach out to a peer for a second opinion on how to handle a particular situation.

Companies taking responsibility

Companies have a responsibility to upskill their staff to help them meet company expectations quickly and move with the current trends in their respective industries. Well-trained employees are better at supporting their businesses and building better customer relationships, using emotional intelligence and a broad communication skillset.

In the customer service world, this is especially important; when customer service is good, people remember. They tell their friends, they feel loyal to the brand, and they’re more likely to trust their money with the company they’re having a good experience with.

Simon Johnson is General Manager, UK and Ireland, Freshworks