Training Our New Starters at Digi-International

OUR SISTER COMPANY, DIGI-INTERNATIONAL, IS BASED IN LONDON AND SERVES AS A TRAINING HUB FOR OUR INTERNATIONAL NEW STARTERS, BEFORE THEY MAKE THE BIG MOVE TO CAPE TOWN. WE CHATTED TO ONE OF OUR FACILITATORS, ANDREW JAMES, ABOUT THE TRAINING PROCESS, HOW THIS HAS CHANGED DURING THE LOCKDOWN, AND WHAT IT MEANS FOR THE FUTURE OF OUR INTERNATIONAL NEW STARTERS.
 
How did you get into training at Digi?
 
My journey with Digi started at DigiOutsource in Cape Town in March 2015 as a Customer Service Host. After 9 months in the call centre I was successful in my application to become a Coach, which gave me the platform to run training sessions for my team and create presentations to help facilitate these sessions. I really enjoyed being a Coach as it was about connecting with people and helping them grow in their positions and career.
 
About a year into my Coaching role I had the opportunity to spend a few days with the Training team, learning how training sessions are run and how things work behind the scenes. After being able to facilitate a session myself I knew that my next move would be to the Training department!
 
The chance to become a Trainer came as a bit of a surprise and a massive life change. In March 2017, two years after starting my career at Digi, I was approached by my HR Business Partner and advised about a training role that had become available. The catch was that it was about 13,000km from home, at our sister company Digi-International in London. After a quick conversation with my wife I applied for the role and by June 2017 I was flying to London to follow my passion.
 
Three years later I love the new life that Digi helped me set up!
 
Tell us a little about the new starter training.
 
Our new starter training programme runs over 4 weeks and is very comprehensive; covering our brands, technology and how to supply the world’s best customer focused assistance. It is geared at people who are new to the industry and where English is not their first language. Digi employs over 40 different nationalities and we bring them together to learn from us and from each other.
 
There is a strong practical element, where new starters are put on the floor to learn from more senior agents. They see first-hand how to utilise the technology that provides customers with the best possible service. As trainers our aim is to assist our new employees to settle in to their new role as quickly, happily and productively as possible.  The training material is easy to understand, without complicated jargon, while striking the right balance between the required theory and real scenario-based practical training.
 
The Digi training approach has less teacher-style learning and more facilitation lead methods.  We want our people to be independent, self-sufficient and to take ownership and responsibility of their role.
 
How has new starter training changed in the last few months?
 
The last few months have seen some big changes in the way we run training due to the ongoing global pandemic. We are fortunate that business hasn’t slowed down during this time, and that, in fact, the Digi family continues to grow. A global lockdown hasn’t stopped us from getting our new starters ready to join the team!
 
With travel to the United Kingdom being restricted and travel within London limited to key workers, we had to make several changes to ensure that we could still train while working from home. Having access to the best technology has allowed us to continue training with limited interruption. We now run virtual sessions that provide new starters with the same quality training that they would have received in the training room.
 
Due to the lack of face-to-face interaction we have had to find creative ways to ensure that the training is still learner driven and interactive. One of the biggest challenges of virtual training sessions is not being able to evaluate body language. For example, body language helps us pick up when a trainee doesn’t fully understand a concept but is perhaps too shy to speak up.  One way in which we counteract this is by setting up regular one-on-one check-in sessions with all the new starters.  
 
Vital to the new starter training experience, which we cannot emphasise strongly enough, is ensuring their overall wellbeing.  There is a strong drive to ensure that our trainees continue to feel engaged and part of the team, even though they may be in a completely different country. Weekly quiz sessions have therefore, become a regular occurrence where new starters ‘meet’ their colleagues, team members and managers in a more informal setting outside of the training environment.
 
What do you think this will mean for the future of new starter training?
 
It’s proven that combining in-class and out-of-class learning such as coaching, shadowing and mentoring with senior employees, yields the best results. I don’t want to speculate too much on what the future holds, but I suspect that we will continue to do what we do best, using our blended learning approach together with new and relevant technology to maximise the knowledge sharing impact for all new starters.
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