How Charles Schwab Ensures Learning Changes Behavior

Dean Griess

Managing Director – Talent & Organizational Development at Charles Schwab

August 7, 2018

We’re constantly looking for ways to ensure behavior change occurs as a result of our learning & development experiences at Charles Schwab. Schwab has grown from a small discount brokerage to a leading investment services firm with more total assets than any publicly traded investment services firm in the U.S., the #1 custodian for independent advisors, and a leader in asset management and retirement planning. Part of our formula for success is making sure we train our employees to exhibit key desired behaviors when interacting with clients.

It’s not enough to just impart new knowledge to our employees, we also have to ensure this information is applied and behavior change actually occurs on the job. This is an age-old question for learning & development professionals. How have we cracked this code and made a difference at Charles Schwab?

While we are constantly refining and experimenting, we redesigned our curriculum into a 4-step process for training new hires and ensuring learning sticks.

Step 1. Core skills training: a framework for client interaction

When new service and support financial service representatives join Charles Schwab, we first teach core skills that they should possess for delivering the service our clients expect from Schwab when they call us. For example, we train them on essential components of emotional intelligence to increase their EQ awareness and empathy when interacting with clients. But we don’t believe in binding them to a phone script. Instead, we give them a framework and let them go with the flow while on calls with clients. For example, we provide a specific behavior model for interacting with clients that they follow during the training. We also build in plenty of role-playing opportunities while in class.

Step 2. On-the-job training: practice makes perfect

We then move the new service and support professionals into our on-the-job training phase managed by On-the-Job Learning (OJL) supervisors. These supervisors are from the business, but not learning team members or direct managers. The supervisors coach the new hires on how to apply our behavior model by sitting in on calls and giving them live feedback as they interact with clients.

Step 3. Manager coaching tool: reinforcing behavior change

Finally, during the reinforcement stage, managers continue to work with new hires by using a specific coaching tool that tracks their progress on critical behaviors based on our client interaction model. Managers will listen in on calls and rate their employees’ level (foundational, proficient, or mastery) and then work on coaching them in areas of opportunity. When new hires join the team, we set a baseline for their skill level so managers can track their progress over time. Managers and trainees listen to playbacks of their recorded client calls and compare it with best-in-class recorded calls so trainees can see where they can do better.

The goal is for new hires to demonstrate consistent mastery of the key behaviors of our client interaction model in 9-12 weeks. For example, one of the behaviors we’re trying to nurture in our reps is a natural curiosity to understand what’s driving the client’s request and to ensure we’re uncovering the additional needs. It’s during this critical reinforcement stage with managers that we gauge whether behavior change has occurred in our trainees.

Step 4. Measure training effectiveness using the Kirkpatrick Model

Finally, to evaluate the effectiveness of our training, we measure the 4 levels of the Kirkpatrick Model.

  • Level 1 Reaction gauges how participants respond or feel about training. Did they like the course? This sentiment could be captured with initial pulse surveys or via Training Promoter Scores.

  • Level 2 Learning measures if they learned the material. Do they know it? Various assessment tools can test their level of knowledge. These could be quizzes or tools that test system navigation capabilities such as whether they input the data in the right place.

  • Level 3 Behavior checks whether people are applying what they learned on the job. Did they change and move the needle? This is the part we focus on with our new behavior-driven approach to learning. Rather than leave this to chance, we’ve built in an entire follow-up process post-training that tracks whether employees change their behavior. Metrics we look at are improved efficiency like average handle time for service representatives and enhanced engagement such as client satisfaction scores. Our manager coaching tool and reinforcement phase have also accelerated the time it takes for new hires to adopt the desired behaviors.

  • Level 4 Results evaluates whether training positively impacted the organization–making a difference in our business numbers is how we deliver impact to our business partners. This might be the number of new clients signed or specific revenue numbers.

Our 4-step process has helped make a difference in ensuring behavior change occurs post-training at Charles Schwab. In particular, our third step involving manager coaching and reinforcement plays a vital role in accelerating learning. As a result, our new employees can excel at their jobs much earlier in the process and begin to create the kind of positive client relationships critical to our business.

See new ebook 5 Ways to Change Behavior at Work to learn how other companies like Lyft ensures behavior change happens.

Dean Griess is Managing Director of Talent & Organizational Development at Charles Schwab. Dean has 16 years of experience in the training arena that accompanies his BA from Colorado State University in Speech Communications. Over his career, he has helped develop/certify over 800 facilitators globally and led multiple training organizations in diverse industries. Dean has a passion for learning and building strong relationships within any organization. He is a Certified ATD Master Trainer and an ATD Rocky Mountain Executive Council Board Member.
Charles Schwab exists to help people achieve better financial outcomes for themselves and their families. We offer investors a contemporary, full-service approach to build and manage their investments, providing investment-related products, services, and sophisticated financial planning that combine the best of what people and technology have to offer.

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