In this text, I will review the period of making the assignment and reflect on how I developed professionally and personally. The first chapter gives a reappraisal of the group assignment and presentation. We chose DHL Call Centre as the development topic and analyzed the importance of setting up a new call centre based on theories about the reasons for building call centres.
Based on existing literature about call centres, we summarized the advantages of call centres and analyzed the current position of DHL. Therefore, our analysis provides a theoretical and practical groundwork for constructing DHL’s new call centre (Bruce et al., 2010). Later, we analyzed the factors influencing the success of call centres so that we can adopt the right strategy and avoid significant failure (Chiara et al., 2006).
The main concern is to promote service quality in all dimensions and by scientific means. In the second chapter, I will draw a line between what I noticed and perceived from the observation and questioning activities and what I learned in the course before.
Additionally, I will explain my understanding of PALS in terms of learning skills, practice, self-reflection, interaction, sharing, and equality. As a new participant who has never taken part in peer action learning sets, I learned a lot after I immersed myself in it (Bevan & Kipka, 2012). Finally, the last part indicates the skills I have developed and how I will benefit from them in the future.
Personal Development from PALS
A professional development plan plays a valuable role in my learning and future growth in a managerial career (Eric, 2006). The half-year experience of carrying out my personal and professional development plan brings many positive effects on my life.
The Future of PALS and What I’ve Learned
PALS aims to cultivate would-be managers of excellent companies. This calls for not only a good graduate student grade but also managerial and intercultural skills.
While action learning, i.e., learning by doing, is nothing new, peer action learning sets are a new development in the academic field. In learning this course, PALS mainly includes posting competition, lectures, workshops, and group/coaching sessions. In the introductory lecture, the sources and essence of PALS were introduced.
PALS stresses academic, managerial, interpersonal, and intercultural skills. The first one is a basic skill that one must have, and it’s the main purpose of on-campus learning. PALS cultivates our academic skills by setting up a problem that emulates the real business world, in which we can develop personal learning, data seeking, information processing, selection, and analysis skills.
Then, by writing and presenting, our academic skills are tested. Managerial skills range from time management, project management to decision-making, and it’s really energy-consuming as well as intellectually-rewarding to complete such heavy workloads both effectively and efficiently (Frederick & Prathibha, 2009).
In addition, the group work and observation activities enable us, especially an international student like me, to develop interpersonal and intercultural skills. What benefits us more is the guide and advice from our manager and the scientific method of performance evaluation.
At first, I thought that PALS is just a mixture of group work and fieldwork, and it is just like symposiums discussing the debating what we’ve learned. However, it turns out that PALS is more effective in improving teamwork. It is not an individual activity but covers the whole learning process and ensures that every participant can truly absorb knowledge from literature reading and interact with each other.
After I have an overall understanding of some ideas and concepts like convener, CPD step, it will take me more time to apply them in our daily life. So we can say that PALS is not a common conversation but an innovative way of studying.
The main characteristic of PALS is combining theory with practice. Learning by doing is one of the primary forces of development. Even the most primitive animals like dinosaurs learn their life skills such as hunting and fighting from their own experience, let alone advanced animals like human beings (Mike, 2011).
After lots of practice, we can carry on with good methods and refrain from bad methods. And that’s why PALS attaches great importance to practice. Successful training must be generalized to the job situation and maintained for a period of time (James Coloma, 2010).
The factors influencing the transfer of training include training design factors like whether it is didactic-oriented or experiential-oriented in the program, as well as work environment factors like supervisory and peer support and restraints and opportunities to perform learned skills in the job context (Harvey, 2010).
PALS did well in increasing the rate of transfer of training, encouraging all members to come up with questions and express their perceptions. Students are greatly inspired in the process.
To improve personal development, PALS focuses on self-reflection. In the pursuit of the right solution and better understanding, self-reflection plays an important role because, in many cases, the process to get the answer is more valuable than the answer itself.
The evaluation system of PALS is the best incarnation of this idea, where every effort and every performance is tracked down to give an all-dimensional view of a person’s development. In visiting houses, we perceive reality and gain firsthand information, while in diffusing personal practice, we search for materials and analyze problems both by ourselves and as a team. After weeks of participating, we have had improvement in teamwork and problem-solving.
PALS advocates interaction and sharing. Last but not least, PALS embodies a sense of equality. Instead of choosing a responsible individual or a coach, our work is done jointly, and we share responsibility. The sense of mutual support, mutual benefit has been embedded in the minds of participants, and this not only smooths the process of settling problems together but also inspires team spirit.
There are mainly four good outcomes. First is the acquisition of a lot of business-relevant knowledge; it helps me build more confidence and credibility as a professional. Second is that profession development plan helps me to build up competitiveness, therefore having more opportunities to show my abilities and skills in the job market.
Third, good foreign language skills and communication skills provide many comforts for me in learning and in life (Alexandre, 2009). Besides, it made me accept and be accepted by a new culture more easily. Last but not least, by reflecting on past learning and identifying the gap between my knowledge and skills with market demand, profession development increases my productivity and efficiency.
Benefits from visiting speakers program and organizational visits
In general, people assume that the whole business of call center staff is answering phones and dialing, and it seems to be an easy task. Most people don’t have access to getting to know more about how call centers operate, but we are lucky to know it better.
In a macroscopic view, the business of a call center is divided into two parts: incoming calls and outgoing calls. The incoming calls section mainly deals with customer queries. For example, customers who sent a package can check whether it arrives.
DHL applies a high standard in managing call centers, using a specifically designed IT system and sound-proof offices (Liebenberg & Danica, 2010). The human resource department takes charge of recruiting and training staff. Apart from on-the-job training, staff will also have to take tests. During work hours, phones are ringing here and there, and we can feel an atmosphere of intensity and busyness.
In the outgoing section, nevertheless, the working environment is quite different. Outgoing calls mainly aim to sell over the phone, so the ultimate goal is to increase gross revenues. The operators are busy dialing and inputting data at the same time (Burgessa & Steenkamp, 2006).
Surprisingly, to most people, the customer service staff experience a high level of pressure and stress because they have to keep talking all day without seeing the clients (Dan, 2010). Management has taken some measures to solve this problem by providing entertainment facilities, and it works.
Professional development from PALS:
It is well-documented that there is widespread unemployment worldwide, both in developing and developed countries. General knowledge indicates that there are two types of unemployment: structural unemployment and frictional unemployment (Pittaway et al., 2009).
The former refers to a situation in which graduate students do not match the type demanded by the company, while the latter refers to the unemployment that results from the time spent in finding a suitable job, which is often the result of industrial transformation.
Analysts agree that structural unemployment is more dangerous in the sense that the unemployed are thought to possess lower or unsuitable skills required in the market place, and it occurs even among young and better-educated people.
Due to technological advancement and the pressure of global competition, there will be an increasing demand for skilled workers, and therefore, the unemployment problem is not likely to be easily solved. In research, it is demonstrated that leadership, commercial awareness, communication skills, and foreign language are the most needed but shortest four skills among graduates (Donald & Winiecki, 2009).
To acquire the skills mentioned above, there are mainly two ways of training:
- On-the-job training: as the University of Sunderland emphasizes in personal future development, this takes an important part in my study here. PALS is the product of this awareness, which integrates many training methods in it. Take foreign language skills as an example. Although I am an overseas student, I get many opportunities to practice my English, and when I lose confidence or motivation, I will regain them from the manager and my group members.
- Off-the-job training: this type of training covers a wide range of subjects, which are outside the work premises. Orientation activities, reading, case studies, movies, and radios, and other multiple types of activities are included. For developing commercial awareness, as an example, one of our tasks was reading business magazines and learning online.
Commercial consciousness refers to an interest in business and an understanding of the commercial environment. A person with commercial consciousness is always insightful in finding business opportunities and potential risks, flexible in formulating strategies, and prompt in carrying out measures.
Companies regard commercial consciousness as an important criterion when selecting ideal employees, but according to a survey, only around 35% of employers were satisfied with the business and customer consciousness of graduates. Developing commercial consciousness could be beneficial both for the individual and the organization. In a one-out-of-100 selection, evidently only the one with professional knowledge on how the business or the company works will stand out.
The main purpose of developing commercial consciousness is to deepen the personal understanding of the clients, competitors, and suppliers of the company, and to develop the ability to provide indictable service.
During my participation in PALS, I developed my commercial consciousness in various ways.
One direct improvement for me in taking part in PALS is the skills of communication, and furthermore, fluency. As an international student, I always held back when I needed to communicate with others, because of a lack of confidence and a lack of communication techniques. But in the PALS section, I was greatly encouraged both by the manager and by peers.
There are many expressions about leadership, for example, “Leaders are people who do the right thing; managers are people who do things right”, and “Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it” (Silbergh & Lennon, 2006).
The word “leadership” can remind me of a variety of images; it’s an army officer charging forward to meet the enemy; it’s an adventurer, cutting a path through the jungle for the rest of his party to follow; it’s an executive, developing his company’s strategy to stay ahead of the competition.
A leader is the one who sets direction, mobilizes morale, and finds something new. In this case, leadership is about mapping out the destination to ‘win’ and the path to achieve the goal as a team or an organization.
Yet, to take a smooth and efficient path, leaders must also use management skills to guide their team to the right destination.
Foreign language students may be at a disadvantage because they are not always able to compare themselves to native speakers (Richard et al., 2008). Furthermore, the reliability of these students’ judgments may be hampered because language acquisition is a complex process in which subjective factors such as affectivity and personality traits play a very important role.
One reason that language proficiency is important is that the world is becoming more and more interconnected, so there is a greater need for communication and an emergence of common interests.
The necessity of developing foreign language proficiency is that it helps to gain a deeper understanding of foreign cultures. During the orientation activity, I was immersed in an environment surrounded by English speakers and English cultural phenomena, which forced me to approach this country more closely. It also allows me to perform better in group work because I can express my ideas freely and reduces the chances of misinterpretation.
Developing foreign language skills can have positive effects on my life and studies in a new environment. Having good foreign language skills enables me to easily communicate with foreign people, make friends with foreign people, and ultimately enrich my horizons.
When doing literature work, my language skills allow me to have a more accurate reading of a literary work written in English. So, I have abandoned the habit of reading translated editions of literary works and have shifted both my language and my thought patterns to “English”.
Due to the need to expand into new markets, the majority of employers prefer to recruit employees with multilingual skills over those who do not. Therefore, PALS provides us with many opportunities to practice language skills, which will increase our competitiveness in the long run.
Furthermore, to see things in a different way, I also have a language advantage to some extent. As more and more multinational companies are expanding or shifting their factories and market focus to emerging economies like China, I will have more opportunities to explore the business world. It is believed that foreign language can be an indispensable aid for an organization to enter a foreign market.
Aid in the Future
The transfer of knowledge, as mentioned before, does not only mean “know,” but also means “competence.” When facing real problems, our “competence” will work automatically to come up with a solution.
For insightful people, they will have an overall view of the situation and make the right judgment; for people with high authority, they manage their limited time and have a cutting-edge in the crowd; for people with good analytical skills, they gather information and make prudent decisions. That’s how skills work in one’s life, so our aim in learning is to internalize these skills that may help.
It’s more heartening to know that these skills can have a significant impact on my future work. As mentioned before, PALS helped to transfer knowledge into competence, which will directly influence my work performance. When companies hire employees, they value the learning ability and problem-solving ability more than anything else, such as diplomas (Silbergh & Lennon, 2006).
Communication skills are extremely important for me if I would like to pursue a career in this industry. The customer service industry is itself an industry that connects people and bridges the gaps among people, where only friendly and effective communication is required (Wilson, 2010).
Even managers cannot avoid the training of communication skills, because only in this case can they have a better idea of how to improve the service quality of customer service staff.
By participating in the PALS program, I have developed academically and personally. In this module, our main topic concerns the theories and practice of call centers. With the widespread use of communication devices and the development of the economy, call centers are emerging here and there, acting as a low-cost method to maintain close relationships with customers.
The call center industry is a relatively new industry, which integrates IT, communications, network, and so on. High-quality service will help increase customer loyalty, thus reinforcing competitiveness.
Knowing the explosive power of the call center industry, it’s reassuring to pursue both research and careers in this industry. The PALS program provides us with well-organized sets of activities, including lectures, workshops, group work, and visits. We were assigned to develop a plan for a new call center in group work. As our team chose DHL for development purposes, we have done a lot of literature reading work and discussions.
Personally, I have improved my knowledge level and problem-solving capability by rethinking and learning from other peers. Also, I have gained the competence of self-development and continuous learning.
In a word, over the period covered by this assignment, I have obtained several skills that may help in my future career, such as self-observation, rethinking, questioning and problem-solving, formal expression and communication, leadership, and other knowledge of products, human resources, and projects.
I believe that these skills and knowledge would influence a lot in my future career. Surely, I still need to enrich myself and improve my capability continuously in future work and life to cope with the fierce competition.
It turns out that action learning has been a useful tool to face the intense, mutable market. It means a lot to the development of organizations and individuals. PALS, which is an innovative learning method based on the idea of learning in action, is beneficial in academic and practical fields.
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