Effective Solutions Through Partnership

Why Employee Training Is Really an Investment in Customer Service

Corporate Training, KAIP Academy, Learning, Training

Photo Credit: Stephen Alfano

By Stephen Alfano

Loop opened. Let me start by saying that I am a humanist at heart: I believe in and champion the philosophy that ultimately it is the critical thinking and rationale behind the actions of people that run any successful endeavor—especially business. I inherited this “people power” belief from my Socratic (and selfless) parents. This bent blossomed and grew with a ‘70s-era public grade school and ‘80s-era liberal arts college education. It then expanded further, and was honed razor-sharp over a 30-year marketing and business development career. Here, critical thinking and rationale took the form of extensive studying, shaping, and supporting the thoughts and behaviors of people at the center of the reaching the primary goal—satisfying customers.

“Customer service has everything to do with consistency, systems, training, and the habits you and your team create.” – Amber Hurdle, employee engagement author

Of course, considering Amber Hurdle’s insight, my preamble might sound a bit Pollyannaish to my fellow rationalist (albeit economist) peers and betters—those who might try to couch my thinking with the simple fact that without profitability, there is no business to be had. Fair enough. Customer-centric solutions delivered by educated and diligent employees don’t always spell profit in the marketplace. (The failures of Compaq, Circuit City, and Pets.com are textbook examples.) So, people—employees—are only partially responsible for effective customer service.

Statistically speaking, according to Jayson DeMers, Founder and CEO at AudienceBloom—leader in the social media audience acquisition marketing sector—in an Entrepreneur article, five out the ten reasons clients leave are directly related to employee involvement or interaction. And two more are indirectly related.

In my experience in marketing and business development sectors, I have seen surveys where 75% or more of the customer service satisfaction was employee-related, to wit: the difference between a loyal customer and one ready to walk away to a competitor seemed to hinge on the actions (or inactions) of employees. Considering that employee actions (or inactions) are mostly determined by training, investing in this area would then equate to an investment in customer service. Loop closed.

Below, you’ll find several incredibly helpful (and humanist) employee training-related links:

5 Tips for Developing an Effective Employee Training Program

Every Employee Needs Customer Service Training — Here’s Why

What the future of work will mean for jobs, skills, and wages

About the Author: Stephen Alfano is an Organizational Change Management Consultant and Communications Expert. He has 30 years of experience leading and managing internal and external marketing initiatives for both private and public-sector clients. His résumé includes providing both new business and business process improvement services to Apple, American Express, AT&T, California Department of Transportation, Chevron, Entergy, Levi Strauss & Co., Louisiana Office of Tourism, Mattel, Microsoft, Novell, SONY, Sutter Health, and Wells Fargo. Stephen currently works as an Executive Consultant with KAI Partners, Inc., providing change management and communications expertise and support services to California State Departments.

5 Ways to Achieve Work-Life Balance

Best Practices, Employee Engagement, General Life/Work, Human Resources, SAHRA—The Sacramento Area Human Resources Association, SHRM

By Melissa McManus, Ed.D and SHRM-CP

Work-life balance. I am sure you have heard this phrase before or even tried to fulfill its simple message: To balance your work and personal life.

Some of you might be thinking, “Yep, I’ve got this down to a science,” while others might be thinking, “It seems so easy, why can’t I just do it?”

Well, I am about to let you all in on a little secret…I know from personal experience that there is no magic answer or solution—work-life balance is something you have to actively think about and try doing.

As a Human Resources professional, one of my responsibilities making sure my employees can find ways to have this balance, which is important. Not only should it important to the individual, but it is important from an employer standpoint as well. Ever hear the expression, “Happy wife, happy life?” Well, we can apply that same principle here: “Happy employee, happy organization!”

Employees who feel rundown, overworked, or stressed are more likely to be less productive. It is easy to get caught up in our work, especially when we love what we do and who we work with and for. However, it is equally important to unplug (sometimes literally) once the work day has ended and take time for yourself and your loved ones. Sometimes this is easier said than done, as I have found myself putting in 10 hour days without even realizing it.

So, how do you make sure to balance work and life appropriately? Here are some tips that you might find helpful.

  1. Be Organized: Stay as organized as you can throughout the day; set goals or make lists. Use whatever methods are effective, depending on what organization looks like for you personally. Find a way to prioritize and delegate tasks accordingly.
  2. Breathe: Remember to take breaks and refocus throughout the day. Sometimes I find that taking a quick walk or doing some simple stretches (especially important for those of us who work at a desk or in a seated position all day) can help you reset and allows you to be more productive and less stressed.
  3. Be Flexible: Be open to flexibility in your work and ask for flexibility when needed. We all need a little wiggle room at times and being flexible and having flexibility can lead to higher productivity—a win-win situation!
  4. Be Efficient: When you are at work, be efficient by staying present, avoiding distractions, and staying focused on your tasks. This can be as simple as keeping a clean work space, organizing your tasks or projects for the day, creating a timeline and sticking to it as much as possible, and delegating tasks as appropriate. Working efficiently allows us to get more done at a quicker pace and worry less when we go home (or get us home faster). Work smarter!
  5. Communicate: Communication is the cornerstone to just about everything. If you need something, ask for it. Whether it’s a day off or assistance with a project, be sure to communicate what you need—those around you cannot read your mind.

These tips might seem simple, but give them a try. By doing a few simple things, you may find yourself more energized, productive, and less stressed throughout the day and at night when you go home. Remember, it’s okay to leave work at work; I promise it will be there when you get back!

About the Author: Dr. Melissa McManus is a Human Resources Professional and research guru. One of her greatest strengths is her resolute ability to soak in new information and her never-ending thirst for knowledge. Melissa has a Master’s degree in Counseling, and a Doctorate degree in Educational Leadership with a focus in Human Resource Development. Melissa’s professional interests include human behavior, career development, research, writing, training, and knowledge transfer. She is passionate about life and describes herself as an avid bookworm. In her free time, when she is not running her kids to gymnastics or karate, Melissa enjoys reading (a lot), wine tasting, being with friends/family, and spending time with her husband and two children.

KAIP Academy Certified ScrumMaster® Training Recap

Agile, Certified ScrumMaster (CSM), KAIP Academy, Learning, Sacramento, Scrum, Training

Photo Credit: Ryan Hatcher

By Ryan Hatcher

The KAIP Academy held its first training sessions last week, delivering two successful Certified ScrumMaster® (CSM) trainings.

The truly innovative aspect of this training, led by veteran Certified Scrum Trainer Bernie Maloney of Radtac, was the overarching idea that the class members and the trainer are all active participants in a two day “sprint.” It turns out that Scrum and the Agile framework, in addition to being effective for project delivery, are also an excellent way to teach Scrum and the Agile framework.

The collaboration and teamwork inherent in the Scrum process was especially visible seeing groups of strangers quickly becoming cohesive teams capable of solving problems ranging from tossing ping pong balls through a course to building a city made of LEGOs.

At the beginning of the course, Bernie promised that we would get to know our classmates, learn, and have fun. Like an experienced Scrum team, he delivered high value on all three.

The KAIP Academy is excited to offer more training courses beginning in 2018. To stay up-to-date on future KAIP Academy course offerings, please email academy@kaipartners.com or visit the KAIP Academy course page. We look forward to passing more learning opportunities onto you soon!

About the Author: Ryan Hatcher is a skilled communications and management consultant with over a decade of experience campaigning for government, public affairs, and political clients. A recent addition to KAI Partners, Ryan serves as an executive consultant providing communications support to one of California’s heath care agencies. He resides in Sacramento with his wife, Nikki, and their two dogs.

Is the Certified ScrumMaster® (CSM) training right for me?

Agile, Certified ScrumMaster (CSM), Human Resources, KAIP Academy, Learning, Project Management, Scrum, Training

With the KAIP Academy’s Certified ScrumMaster® (CSM) training sessions taking place soon, we wanted to address some questions we’ve received about whether a CSM designation is worth it. One of our partners, Michael Bosch (Certified Scrum Professional from Brightline Solutions, Inc., a locally-based firm offering Agile Delivery and Change Management Services) answers some questions we’ve received. Hopefully these will help you if you are on the fence about getting your CSM certification! If there are any questions we haven’t addressed, please ask them in the comments—or email academy@kaipartners.com—and we will tackle them in a future blog post!

Question: I have relatively limited experience using Agile processes and I am not an “IT” person. I do business process analysis and participate in Change Management on an Agile project.) Would training to be a Certified ScrumMaster® be appropriate for me?

Answer: Absolutely. Scrum, at its heart, is what’s known as an empirical process control framework. This means it helps us figure out what needs to be done when it hasn’t been done before. Organizational change management frequently involves solving the unsolved, building incrementally and adaptively, and creating and maintaining early and constant communication with the project community. All these are honed in the acquisition of a CSM.

Question: I would likely be described as an “end user” of systems rather than a person who develops systems. Would it be useful for me to be a Certified ScrumMaster® if I’m not developing new systems?

Answer: Yes, if you find yourself leading or being part of teams that are called upon to perform what is referred to as “knowledge work, i.e., effort that requires creative, adaptive, incremental development of something that has a lot of unknowns to it. If this describes your team’s work, then having the knowledge of a CSM will help you be more predictably successful.

Question: I have learned the basics of Agile and use it on the projects I work on—how would getting a CSM help me at all?

Answer: Learning Agile in a way that it can be used to get reliable, adaptive products in the hands of clients when they need them in a way that provides real business value is constant and rewarding journey. Pursuing a CSM adds to the value of that journey; moreover, it provides a benchmark with which we can rely on a set of established, common knowledge about Scrum as a community of Agilists.

Question: I readily see the value in getting my CSM designation in my role, but I literally can’t afford to take time off from work and pay for the training costs: How can I get my employer to endorse or sponsor my training?

Answer: When I got my CSM, I ran into similar issues. One idea is to work out a bargain with your employer: you’ll take the time off as vacation if they pay the course. Another selling point to give your boss: You can provide the team/organization with a presentation of what you learned. Or, you could do some research and gather data and information (the KAIP Academy website and KAI Partners Blog are a great place to start) on the real business value, profitability, and potential for innovation represented by employees gaining their CSM.

Question: I work in administrative services but work with Project Managers and Certified Scrum Masters daily, how would being certified as a CSM myself help me?

Answer: The CSM certification provides a balanced, effective introduction to Agile and Scrum. The value this provides is exposure to the concepts, vocabulary, and mindset of an Agile framework. It would help you in understanding the difference between the approach your PMs follow as opposed to your CSMs – giving you a firm perspective on the entirety of work being performed and delivered.

Question: As a human resources professional (in a leadership role), other than understanding the language, process, and methodology, is there a benefit to me or my organization for me to be a Certified ScrumMaster®?

Answer: Agile and Scrum are human-centric and collaboration and communication dominant. In these and other ways, Agile comports with the mindsets of human and talent resource management. HR is a process-centric discipline, too—much of what is performed follows prescribed workflows. New initiatives, unusual circumstances, and expansion of business services often result in a need for an HR team to have a framework to plan, execute, and deliver on these needs that is adaptive and lightweight. Scrum to the rescue!

Question: Would having this certification make a difference in the way I perform my job functions or interact with my staff (of whom I have PMs and Agile/Scrum personnel)? From a human capital perspective, what would be the benefit (or the disadvantage, if any) of achieving this certification as a human resources professional in a leadership role?

Answer: Dedicated, committed acquisition of a CSM will result in positive changes in one’s leadership styles and capabilities. It provides an alternative to Theory X management styles, giving the HR professional a fresh look at how to govern the creation and sponsorship of self-governing, self-managing teams. Without the knowledge and practices provided by a CSM certification process, an HR professional would be unprepared to support this ever-more common organizational structure.

From HR to PM and everything in between, we hope this article helped you get the answers you need to know whether the Certified ScrumMaster® training is right for you!

How to Use tools from Work to make the Holiday Season Easier and Happier

Best Practices, Communications, General Life/Work, Managing/Leadership, Organizational Change Management (OCM), Project Management

By Judi Phelps

‘Tis the season to get overwhelmed by holiday parties, Secret Santas, decorating the house, numerous family functions, and all the other festive activities that can take over your life this time of year. On top of that, the end of year is always a busy time at work, as you try to get everything off your desk and out of your email inbox before leaving the office for a week.

I was thinking recently about all we have to do in both our personal and professional lives during the holidays it got me thinking—how can we take the skills we use in the office every day and apply them to our personal lives? If we project managed our personal lives a little bit, perhaps we would be able to increase the quality and quantity of the time we get to spend with our friends and loved ones—not to mention entering 2018 feeling like we have things under control.

Here are some of my suggestions for project managing your holiday season:

  1. This can be overwhelming, but gather the family and begin the conversation to determine what your plans are this holiday season.
    • Prioritize Tasks: Decide what you want or what needs to get done this season, plus which events are most critical or which you are most excited to attend. Make sure you ask your family their vision for what the holiday celebration should be. Then determine the level of commitment from yourself and others—do you have the commitment needed to accomplish all your tasks?
    • Make a Timeline: Look at what is on the schedule. Whether it’s extra choir rehearsals, cleaning, decorating, or addressing envelopes, schedule everything out so you have a clear picture of what needs to get done by when.
    • Identify resources (both physical and financial): Assign roles to complete the tasks. Seek volunteers for tasks no one wants to do (e.g., clean the bathroom before guests arrive; make room in the coat closet). Maybe an older grandson and friend could put the lights on the house. It may not be how you would have done them, but it gets the job done! My 3- year-old grandson actually helped me decorate their Christmas tree this year—this is a great memory and the tree got decorated! Just don’t forget to empower your team—you should be willing to accept imperfect results!
    • Plan for Contingencies: Have a backup plan for when things go haywire. Perhaps you and your best friend had dinner plans but you’ve run out of time for shopping—will your friend combine shopping with visiting?
  2. Change Management: A year goes by in a flash, but 365 days is actually a long time! Some change is bound to happen!
    • Take inventory of your contact list. Marriages, divorces, new babies, moves? Whether it’s updating the Christmas card list with a new address or adding a new nephew to your gift list, make sure you are working with the most up-to-date information.
  3. Communication Management: You can do all the planning and scheduling in the world, but if no one is informed or consulted on what’s happening, then the plan doesn’t mean much!
    • Think about the most effective way to make sure everyone knows what is happening and when. Ask your family/friends which communication method works best—maybe it’s a Facebook chat or a group text. Perhaps a Google doc where everyone can make edits as needed. Just make sure everyone knows what’s going on so they are not left in the dark—remember everyone else has their own plans too!
  4. Work toward the Goal: As you move through each item in this process, remember the goal…
    • …to have fun and celebrate! Perfect is not the goal, and you may find that a little breathing and perspective will make a misadventure a memory!

Getting all of this together may not be possible, but approaching the season with the same skills you use to conquer the business or project issues you deal with everyday could get you further along to a less stressful holiday season. I know I’m working on it!

About the Author: Judi Phelps has a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and worked for the State of California for more than 38 years, starting as a part-time clerk-typist and ending as a Staff Manager II. Judi worked almost all of that time in various areas of the Medi-Cal program, implementing program policies as well as working to develop policies. As a consultant, Judi currently works with clients to look for better ways to achieve the mission. Judi loves singing and scrapbooking—sometimes together!—for both the paper-craft and the time with friends aspects. Judi enjoys traveling, entertaining, and making memories (to put into scrapbooks) with her two grandsons.

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