No Pain, No Gain: Train, Train, Train

  • Written by Harry A. Strausser III

mug strausserEducation, in my opinion, is the very foundation of professional success in life. Our culture today dictates that, “in order to get a good job and make a good living you have to get a degree of some kind.” Students enroll in trade schools, community colleges, and universities in unprecedented numbers. Operators in our industry that collect on student loans can attest to the volumes of accounts placed with their organizations. Unfortunately, this education — these degrees, do not guarantee an actual job upon completion. There are lots of unemployed, educated young people across our nation.

Often, collection organizations are fortunate to acquire some of these smart, job-seeking candidates. Their degrees may not be germane to a collection position but these students are accustomed to learning. They embrace education. Counter to these entrants are the many non-degreed applicants that arrive in our offices. They have no formal education and struggle to find a good career. Applicants at both ends of this spectrum can become valuable, profitable and meaningful additions to our organization if they receive the proper training.

In the average collection office or department, when someone says the word training, managers cringe and run screaming into the hallways, team supervisors jump out of seventh floor windows, operations directors get a glazed look of confusion, and C level management says, “What is this thing called training?” Those that need training slit their wrists over break and occasionally new hires start a collection job at 8 a.m., leave for lunch at noon, and never return. Oh, sorry, that was a horror movie I watched last week. But does it sound amazingly and sadly familiar? Much pain, little gain, if we don’t know how to train!

I might have exaggerated a little on this example, but many organizations view training as a necessary evil. Something you need to do up front so you can get the collector on the floor to make your department/firm some money. In the training and consulting I have done over the years I have encountered firms that train a new collector for as little as two days and others that won’t release a new collector to the floor for a minimum of 30 days. Whatever the ramp up time frame in your office, you need to have a plan that not only includes new hire onboarding training but a topical outline of thoughtful, meaningful, and timely education programs. Most firms take a proverbial shotgun approach, but cutting edge firms develop an educational program.

In benchmarking off of successful training programs you should consider the following:

Hire a Compliance Director to identify topics of timely importance, audit communications, develop office policies and SOP s, and deliver content to staff.

Create a Training Manager/Director position. This person will continually assess educational needs while working in conjunction with the Compliance Director. The training manager will coach other trainers in large organizations and present education regularly in smaller firms.

Develop a clear, detailed training agenda/itinerary that will guide those that deliver education. Every day should be charted out hour by hour, particularly for the first two to four weeks, with specific content, talks, testing, and monitoring.

Continually assess educational needs and search out industry resources for program content. There are firms that offer hosted compliance testing portals with dashboards designed for management review.

Create an actual training program that not only starts with the onboarding education you already have in place but then introduces continual topical refreshments and new timely information for the entire tenure of company staff members.

Develop interesting and professional training modules that not only engage the learner but have the appearance and content of a contemporary, timely and thoughtful educational program. I can’t tell you how many training consultations I’ve done where during content/material review we uncover old, yellowed, dog-eared handouts from decades ago. Two years ago one organization was still using an overhead projector!

Track your training through either a learning management system or simply through a less formal method in your HR department. But track it accurately. Often firms conduct programs and/or send staff out to training but fail to document the date, topic, and successful completion.

The world in which our industry operates is dramatically different today than 20 years ago. There is an expectation by regulators, the organizations we support or clients we represent, to have a well-educated, groomed and compliant team. There is a lot of pain in maintaining a training program, but the gains are immense and the outcome places your organization in a better position for economic success, staff member retention, loyalty, and the sustenance of a highly compliant culture.

We encourage our readers to submit a “best practice” idea for inclusion in this column.

Until next time, I’m in a collection office near you! Harry A. Strausser III is president of Remit Corporation/Interact Training & Development.