Classroom training is a necessary approach; in the classroom, the basics are taught- the rules, regulations and tools required to do the job are learned there. But, it can’t ALL be taught or learned in a static environment and learning continues long after your call center employees reach the floor. So, what is the best way to provide continuous, effective training without a lot of spending? Peer mentoring!
What is peer mentoring? Steve Shellabear, director of Dancing Lion Training and Consultancy, describes it as follows: “Mentoring at its most simple is a relationship between a guide and a less experienced person.”1
Mentor vs. Coaching1:
Coaching involves learning new skills and know-how. It is usually focused on immediate improvement and skills transfer. Mentoring is about a developed relationship which allows a qualified individual to provide advice on a personal and professional level and mentorship can be goal-focused and strategic.
Is a mentoring program worth the investment?
Take a look at what education writer Robyn Grayless says in an article titled, “Bottom Line Stats About Employee Mentoring Programs3”:
- 80% of learning takes place between mentors and mentees
- 71% of Fortune 500 companies offer mentorship programs
- 77% of companies with mentoring programs say they improve employee retention and job performance
- 79% of millennials believe “mentorship programs are crucial to their career success”
- 47% of millennials will switch jobs to find better culture if they feel they are disengaged in the workplace. Mentoring engages employees and helps to establish a stronger culture, both of which reduce turnover and save money.
- 72% of mentees were retained as opposed to 49% who received no mentoring (in a Sun Microsystems study)
When does peer mentoring start?
According to Greg Levin, author of “Full Contact, Contact Center Practices and Strategies that Make an Impact”, some mentor relationships can begin during the training process, giving the mentee a chance to voice concerns even before they take their first call. Other mentorships take place weeks or months after the agent has left training, in order to give them a step up, help them refine a skill or just boost their knowledge.2
Steven Shellabear suggests some tips for setting up a mentoring structure for maximum effectiveness1:
- Define the mentoring objectives and ensure they are strategically aligned to the contact center and the organization
- Establish goals, responsibilities and measurable outcomes
- Design qualifying criteria for mentor and mentee
- Match mentors and mentees based on skills and objectives
- Provide expert support and training, as required
So, now you have a roadmap for providing mentoring to your employees- it’s time to pick some mentors! What qualities does a good mentor embody, besides a great performance record? It’s not always your most seasoned employees that are the optimum choice for mentoring. Here are some criteria to help you decide who might work as a mentor from your team:
- Exhibits patience
- Has great interpersonal skills- listening and empathy
- Shows a desire to help others (not everyone wants to be a mentor!)
- Has career experience that is of value to the mentee
- Has available time
How does mentoring work? There are multiple ways to employ mentoring:
- The mentor takes the calls and the mentee simply listens in, taking notes and learning from the expert.
- The mentor takes the call and the mentee utilizes the systems while listening in. This will help them master one skill before adding additional complications.
- The mentee takes the call and handles all facets of the call, and the mentor listens in. Usually, the mentor is a silent listener and doesn’t provide help or feedback unless it is needed. Sometimes this takes place after a call.
- The mentee takes calls and the mentor records them. They may sit together after the calls and walk through them together, while the mentor answers questions the mentee may have, and contributes additional insight and tips on the specific situation (e.g. how to handle a disgruntled customer, system help, additional resources, etc.).
Mentoring programs can offer a big lift for a little price and minimal effort. You might choose to employ any or all of the above tactics in your institution. Whichever you choose, providing a mentor is a simple and effective way to ensure your call center employees have an ally they can check in with, beyond the standardized coaching that can help catapult them to success.