Like many people, I work for an under-staffed segment of a remarkably under-staffed company.
Before transitioning to professional services, I worked for support, and they are even more under-staffed.
I see a simple solution to this problem, but the company is too short-sighted to implement anything like this, sadly.
Problem: We need new people. Desperately. Especially in support, though we will need more in professional services, too.
[My] Solution: Establish an on-going co-op/intern program to bring new ideas, young people, and energetic minds to bear on the issue of handling customer service.
How can this be done? I think it’s a combination of trust and energy on the part of the management of the company: they need to be willing to trust people without “experience” to learn how to do the job, and that means they need to expend energy on aggressive recruiting of new talent.
I think the best way to start this is to go to local colleges and trade schools (including tech and community colleges) and look for people who actually want to work. There are certainly a lot of students who don’t want to work. And there are certainly a lot of students who won’t want to do what you need them to.
But I will maintain that there is a notable subset of students (even if they are not in “related” majors) who are both willing and able to handle the high-stress, interrupt-driven environment of technical support. And those are the folks you (we) need to find and recruit to handle your (our) technical support backlog.
One way to do this would be to hire them on as full-time, but hourly workers, and pay for up to 9 or 10 credits per semester at the school they are attending. This will give them an incentive to continue their education (after all, their employer is paying for it), and to want to stick around with the company when they’re done with school. Pay them, say, $20k per year, but cap their weekly hours at 40. Make sure they go home when the day is done so they don’t burn out. With the company paying for their school, it might take an extra year for them to graduate, but when they do, they’ll have both experience, and – probably – a desire to continue working for the company that helped them through.
The big selling point on this, though, needs to be that you only recruit outstanding sophomores, juniors, and seniors. Too many freshmen don’t know what they want to do, nor do they tend to have the drive – yet – to get to where they want to be. The other component needs to be to at least annually, if not semi-annually, issue 5-10% raises for those folks who are performing well – as a further incentive for them to want to continue.
The big advantage for the company is that when those students graduate, they’re very well trained of the company’s product(s) and procedures. This makes bringing them onboard as “real” technical support personnel much easier as their need not be a long orientation and familiarization period.
Unfortunately for where I work, though, the company is too focused on this quarter to worry about how they can improve the next decade.
Comments on “queuing the next generation”
“the company …need[s] to be willing to trust people”
What’s that word there? T-R-U-S-T ?
I think the approach these companies are taking just a function of corporate atmosphere. Small, nimble companies consistently provide better support in most cases, and it’s no coincidence that a small company is more focused on talent and drive than plodding along the status quo. In a smaller organization the two types of employees they will look for is cheap, and talented, or a combination of the two. Once someone has experience under their belt, the cheap part typically vanishes, so a successful small company will look for young/inexperienced but bright people who are willing to work cheap.
Sometimes that means working cheap with a promise of a big payoff later (i.e. stock options, partnership in a startup). Other times it’s as simple as a first job where a young employee can gain experience and move on to bigger things. For a small org, this is great – it means they have an opportunity to grab talent on the cheap, with some risk (your young inexperienced employee requires resources to train). Where that’s not viable, such as senior development positions, smart companies will pay a premium for talent and experience.
In a large company, the status quo is the ultimate goal – as long as things are working (profits > last quarter), then don’t change anything. In that environment, the consensus is that experience is everything, because of an aversion to risk on a young/new employee. Objectively, any given hire is just as likely as the next to be a dud, regardless of experience. The most experienced employee doesn’t guarantee the hardest/best worker, just the one who has been around longest. However, when you’re talking corporate America, experience translates to “no training needed” and “no risk” (despite much evidence to the contrary in the real world). The bottom line is that in a risk-averse environment, the safer the bet, the better. It’s the risk-taking companies willing to step out on the limb a little who will continue to reap the benefits of the large pool of inexperienced-but-talented workers.
I don’t see this changing in any company over a certain size, especially once they are public. Even Google, for all it’s emphasis on hiring talent, isn’t trying to take risks on the inexperienced. Instead, they seek out the most experienced talent and buy them at a premium, and use – comparitively cheap – programs like Summer of Code to help endear them to the next generation of potential geniuses (geniusii?). Being a public company makes you beholden to shareholders, sworn towards making profits and against risks. None of these bode well for an atmosphere of trusting in a bunch of inexperienced employees, regardless of their training, mentorship, or low cost.
This sounds like an apprenticeship. Which I approve!
It is almost like that 🙂
Comments are closed.