Change is hard, especially in the contact center industry. The humor of this eye-opener is that those of us in the contact center profession are supposed to be in the business of helping meet the needs of our ever-changing customer expectations.
Leaders want their agents to be flexible and self-motivated. Yet I’m perplexed when I see contact center leaders that are often their own worst enemies and resisting change. I’ve spent most all of my professional life being invited into organizations by the contact center to help them implement and adopt new practices, technologies and approaches. And when asked which stakeholders are often the most resistant to these changes, it’s the contact center leaders, those senior-level and executives at the top of the list.
This is a problem since we’re facing one of the toughest industry transformational challenges we’ve ever encountered with increasing contact channels, multi-generational workforce, moving to the cloud, Artificial Intelligence, remote work and mobile devices (to name but a few).
The Most Important Factor
For organizations to go beyond surviving to thriving in turbulent times requires strength and depth in effective leadership. The quality of leadership is one of the most important predictors of an organization’s future success (Peterson, Walumbwa, Byron and Myrowitz 2009).
But proven leadership talent is scarce, so it must be developed, because leaders are facing more complex challenges earlier in their careers (Bersin 2012). Because of all of these issues, it is in every organization’s best interest to develop frontline supervisors.
This becomes very clear when you look at findings from the Centre for Workplace Leadership:
- The frontline is, in many ways, a new frontier where organizations can change the way they respond to the environment.
- Frontline managers are no longer the limbs of an organization but the entire muscular-skeletal system.
- Leadership at the frontline is a competitive advantage that leads to a more profitable, agile organization.
- Frontline leadership, when aggregated to the company level, is just as important as senior leadership.
- As economic volatility increases, frontline leadership capability can have a greater impact on business outcomes than senior leadership.
To accomplish their organizational goals, organizations must switch from a frontline supervisor training focus to a supervisor leadership development journey that leverages a blended learning framework.
The Irony of It All
The irony is that the same leaders that are resistant to change need to develop leaders that are more adept and responsive to change. So, what this means is that the most unlikely source blocking contact center transformation are the leaders themselves.
According to the 2018 “Annual Learning & Development Benchmarking” report from Toward Maturity, organizations are in a dire position. The report states that 98% of top organizations name “improving organizational performance” and “integrating learning into the workflow” (93%) as priorities. Despite this, “supporting workplace learning” is listed as one of their weakest skills.
New Needs Different Thinking
Leaders must face the fact that there is a need for a fundamental and significant change. What I’ve learned is only the
few rated as exceptional contact center leaders are embracing the change. Those reluctant to change want to merely adjust their training processes, instructional methodologies and existing learning technologies. But learning journeys are not training events or classes.
Blended learning development journeys are not a training deliverable. You may include or embed training activities or events in a development journey, but training isn’t the focus. The sooner the contact center industry embraces this the sooner we’ll begin to turn our outcomes, performance and customer experience impacts.
What must stop is the continuous defense of old and outdated models. Approaches in learning and development like ADDIE was created to meet the learning needs of learners more than 40 years ago, but now we have a modern learner in contact centers. While ADDIE does have a place, it does not meet the modern learning with context of today’s workflow.
Different = Big ROI
For organizations that have been successful with supervisor leadership development journeys they are seeing big returns (Source: DDI). When organizations develop their frontline leaders adhering to the success path and learning journey framework, development quality increases by more than 90% versus just 9%. They develop better leaders…faster. They are building their very own Supervisor Dream Team.
Beyond development quality, 81% of people who reported to a developed leader said they were more engaged in their jobs. And 22 companies reported ROI for their training programs found ROI figures ranged from 147% to 633 %.
These organizations finally realized that low-quality supervisor development efforts consisted of training events, general leadership classes, books, and movies. The journey framework and having a supervisor success path are also more sustainable because they extend beyond development as an event and they incorporate the more experiential and hand-on learning opportunities that the modern learner needs.
Modern Times Require Modern Approaches
So, to capture a 90% improvement and greater performance quality in supervisor skill development you need a continuous, experiential and holistic competency-based skill development approach and to leverage different learning methods such as virtual classrooms, micro-learning, videos, blogs, boot camps, podcasts, coaching and professional communities of practice.
It’s near impossible to hire in enough of the high-performing frontline supervisors you need. Even if you are a small contact center. When it comes to modern times, modern approaches matter. This applies to your equipment and tools as well. If you want to meet the needs of the modern learner, you need to design first and foremost with equipment and tools that enable modern learning deliverables. You can’t use what you used 3 to 5 years ago, it’s already outdated.
Blended learning, workflow learning and learning journeys will change contact center leadership learning and development forever. The questions are will contact center leaders change, do they know how to make the needed changes, and are they adopting to the tools to enable it?
Unblock = Acceleration and Agility
I invite my fellow contact center industry leaders to evaluate their performance against those experiencing a 90% improvement over leadership development quality. Are you fostering frontline supervisor leadership growth (and developing agents to supervisors) at the individual and overall leadership development at the organizational level?
Are your learning strategies aligned with your business strategies? Do your learning strategies take advantage of the “journey of learning,” or are they transactional events?
Leadership has become one of the most valuable assets that every organization must have. However, it can’t be bought. It must be continuously developed, nurtured, rewarded and replicated. The benefit of approaching leadership development as an ongoing journey is the acceleration of mature, committed leaders who are prepared to activate the business strategy, be more agile and responsive and not block but to embrace transformation.