The Latest Training Session

A huge multinational company has subcontracted its customer service to the company I work for, so whenever they have some clever brainstorm we get pulled into either a meeting or, worse, a training session, which usually consists of watching long presentations in Powerpoint, which I always felt was a good guideline but shouldn't be used as the sole method of training, but that's just me. I remember one cross-training session—the original plan was to have teams specialize, but for various reasons that didn't work out, so they had to train everyone on everything—where we had to spend eight hours reviewing material, and it was nothing but sitting in a room watching Powerpoint presentation after Powerpoint presentation, while someone read the slides to us, one at a time, word for word. It's even less fun than it sounds.

The company's latest brainstorm is to get in bed with a current fad diet. It used to be calories that were bad, then sugar, then fat, and now carbohydrates. Even the beer companies have jumped that bandwagon. I'm not impressed with beer commercials that claim the beer is low in carbs. I've never heard anyone say, "I'd love to go out and have a few beers with you after work, but I really can't. I've been trying to watch my carbs."

So we had this training spread over a few days this week. I looked at the agenda and noticed to my dismay that of the five and a quarter hours of time we were scheduled to be in the training, two and three quarter of them were allotted to Powerpoint presentations. Never a good sign.

It could have been worse. At least the people giving the lecture were there. We were dialed in to two other locations, one in Texas and one in Canada, via the teleconferencing device that is billed as a "collaboration system," and the people in those locations had to follow along via teleconference. Though close, it's not a fate worse than death, largely because, as usual, the connection was lost early in the meeting, and we couldn't get the other locations back, allowing people in those locations to escape the training.

I ended up passing the time by taking notes on the things that people said that didn't come out sounding right. I know that when people talk for a while they're going to say things in a manner that they don't quite mean. I know this because I've heard various co-workers put a person on hold by asking, "Can I hold you?", offer to help with additional concerns by asking, "Is there anything else I can do to you today?", transfer a French-speaking consumer to a French-speaking rep with the French-impaired phrase, "Uno momento, s'il vous plait," helpfully tell a consumer, "I'm sorry, but that's a Unites States product; you have to look for that product where you live, which is Canada," and in my case try to get a consumer's last name after they only gave me their first name by cleverly asking "And do you have a last name?" as if I think I'm taking to someone like Sting. (In my case, I did that twice, if you can believe that.) I know we aren't all that stupid, but as I said, anyone who talks a lot is going to stumble over their words a bit.

What inspired me to take notes was an overview of some of the fad diets, where the person speaking at that point described a man as "the creator of the South Beach Diet and the South Beach Diet." Padding the resume a bit there?

Some of the other wonderful things that were said:

Near the end, one relatively honest employee was going over how these things should be coded in our system, and when we had questions about some inconsistencies that cropped up, she sided with us on most of them and said she'd take it up with the people who developed the procedures, but—I love this—at another point put her hands out in front of her as if warding off criticism and said, "They got some fabulous procedure together, and I'm just the messenger." That should be engraved on a plaque and hung on a wall somewhere.

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