Sunday, October 18, 2009

Chocolate for the teacher

posted Wed, 13 Oct 2004

I am training our customer service reps on a new feature in the program they use to set up new customer records. Every time corporate decides we need to cut S&A, they cut at the plant level – the place where we actually make product for customers and talk to customers. We have had several layoffs in the past few years and the plants are stretched really thin.

The poor service reps have so many demands placed on their time and are paid so little and given so little credit that I hate to add to their burden, but what I am doing will make their lives easier in the long run – as long as they still have jobs once we convert to SAP. But that’s another story.

[But a quick aside as long as I am digressing. The training plan for the conversion is to have the service reps come to corporate for three weeks of training on SAP. Those of us on the business team – as opposed to the SAP team – have pointed out that our service reps are single moms or even married moms but in most cases women who care for children or aging parents and no matter what are not prepared to be away from home for three straight weeks. The SAP team has told us that that is the most efficient way to train them.

We were discussing the issue in a meeting with my division’s management, trying to find a solution. One VP said that he would tell his wife she would need to babysit and that all the other managers needed to do the same. A woman manager piped up, “You mean ‘spouse!’

Oh for crying out loud, I wanted to say. Look around you. There are 30 men and only four women in this room. You are the only woman here who is married. Sheesh. Don’t take everything so personally.]

Back to the training. When I do training or ask the service reps for data or to work on projects, I try to offer carrots instead of sticks. For this current training, I told them the classes – which I do over the web and the phone – weren’t mandatory, but they were the only way they would be eligible for chocolate.

I don’t send the cheap stuff, either. It’s Godiva or nothing. True, there is better chocolate. I actually like See’s truffles better, but Godiva has the better name, even though it is owned by Campbell’s Soup. Sorry if I destroyed any illusions there.

Anyhow, after each class, I send the students a quiz. I tell them the quiz is really a test of my effectiveness as a teacher. At first, I told them they had to get everything right to get the chocolate, which is still the case, but I have revised the rules to be that they get as many tries as they need to get everything right.

The test is open book, open notes and open neighbor. And they can email questions to me. Am I too easy?

I look at it this way: my objective is for them to learn what I am trying to teach them. When they get the answers right on the quiz, then they are getting close to understanding. And when they get chocolate for making the effort and getting close to understanding, they will be more willing to cooperate on future projects.

Why doesn’t my boss ever give chocolate to me?

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