Agile Instructional Design: Call Center Training Case Study

Written By

Constance Paschall

February 01, 2019

Where I work, UnitedHealth Group’s OptumRx Learning Services, call center training for learners focuses on these training techniques:

  1. “How to” instructions and demonstrations from an instructor, or eLearning
  2. Published customer relationship behavior expectations
  3. Job shadowing
  4. Small group discussions of case studies
  5. Role playing
  6. Demonstration

Instructional designers traditionally use the ADDIE model in developing training materials. Most readers will be familiar with this model. However, the time required to complete the in-depth ADDIE process can be lengthy, and designers may get stuck in a constant cycle of updates, reviews, and approvals that do not get things done quickly. Our Optum RX team has a goal of providing services “at the speed of business,” so we have adopted Agile design as our project management process.

Agile

Agile is a project management strategy that incorporates the Agile Manifesto: productivity, loyalty, time to market, engagement, and the Agile principles. I summarize it as a strategy for productivity, business value, and customer engagement.

Strategy for productivity

The first step in the Agile process is to identify the expected outcome, based on a request from an end user. At OptumRX, the instructional designer (ID) schedules an analysis meeting with the requesting business manager and a training delivery supervisor in order to confirm the training need (the request should have enough information to support that there is a training need). The ID is prepared with learning solutions and strategies, and will recommend an initial design that will meet the business goals of the manager’s organization. If there is no need for training, the discussion will be a short one.

By the end of the meeting, the business manager, delivery supervisor, and ID will define the initial design, training content, and schedule for delivery, as appropriate. The designer may need to create new materials, and the manager will identify a subject matter expert to ensure technical excellence. All stakeholders will leave the meeting knowing the next steps and timeline. The key to success is that the ID has anticipated the needs and is prepared. This is different from the way that ADDIE usually proceeds, and is much faster.

The ID organizes a future meeting with the stakeholders to confirm and approve the curriculum and materials, as well as the scope and sequence of progress. An ID may also organize a meeting to encompass multiple similar requests at one meeting. An agreement document, such as a statement of work, and first draft of materials with agenda, are also part of the meeting invitation. Stakeholders arrive at the meeting prepared either to express their concerns or to approve the plan.

Loyalty from focus on business value

How do managers know that the material has a focus on business value? The business trusts that the ID understands the business values, or has the same goals as the business.

  • The ID and the SME work together to maintain technical excellence of content, and both take ownership of the resulting quality.
  • The manager sees that the ID understands the business goals and values involved. Quality analysis reports are focus points. Accuracy and effectiveness of the instruction are updated continually.
  • Trainers and eLearning consistently present effective material that includes live examples, and up to date procedure and system changes. Each set of learners has a representative ID; the stakeholders know who to contact, and relationships support understanding.
  • Learners can perform as required immediately and are confident of their knowledge and abilities.
  • Business management sees error rate drop.

For example, if the consistency of call center learners to authenticate the caller is measured and management defines the acceptable level of errors, the ID and SME will identify the content and training methods needed for learners to reach those levels. Training becomes a stakeholders’ partnership with one goal: training learners to provide customers with exactly what they need in a compassionate manner.

The moral to the story is that the development process has to be agile, with changes as they occur. Slow changes to materials are unacceptable. Endless review, testing, and approval cycles are not agile. Business changes too fast.

Customer engagement: Business manager and trainers

For the ID, the direct customers are the business manager and trainers. These stakeholders should be the ones identifying content, providing examples, reviewing the material, and evaluating the effectiveness of the training methods. Collaboration means everyone works together for desired results.

Indirectly, the business clients, providers, and members are the customers whom we all are trying to please. Their feedback is most important and should guide the direction of all training. Besides identifying successful customer service, the customer feedback defines the learning objectives. The ID will work with the stakeholders and determine how training will result in happy customers.

Conclusion

To conclude, the strategy for training design at UnitedHealth Group’s OptumRx Learning Services is not an endless cycle that doesn’t support the speed of our business. It is an agile flow of cooperation through a sustainable design, always looking forward to the next success.

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