Educator Tamara Schroer Shares Secret to Her Success
Tamara Schroer exudes enough energy and enthusiasm to light up a room. No, make that an entire house.
Tamara was born in Kalamazoo, Michigan and grew up in the Chicago area. She met her husband in Omaha during graduate school. They have two sons, one who is now in graduate school and another who is a college sophomore. In her spare time, Tamara likes to travel, and she loves good wine. A natural-born teacher, Tamara is vice president of Education and Development, and her agent-preparation programs are Working Solutions’ most poorly kept secret—and the key to its success in schooling virtual workforces for our clients.
Tamara’s success in building the program over the past two decades shouldn’t be a surprise. She has always been dedicated to education.
From Boys Town to Business
“I always wanted to be a teacher,” said Tamara. She studied education in college. As a graduate student, she was hired by Boys Town, the celebrated school that has been transforming the lives of at-risk children for 100 years. Following her time there, Tamara teamed with two education experts from Harvard and toured the U.S. helping high school instructors teach reading.
And just as she was ready to accept a job as a principal in Fort Worth, Tim Houlne, a grade-school classmate, convinced her to enter the corporate world instead. Twenty years later, Tamara is happy she made the move, incredibly proud of everything she and her team of degreed educators have accomplished in the virtual classroom, where Working Solutions agents are immersed in our clients’ brand messaging and image.
“When I joined Working Solutions, its agent onboarding program was like a series of correspondence courses. The company’s intentions were good, but it was really difficult to connect with agents.”
Getting Up Close through Virtual
The key for Working Solutions was to take its curriculum virtual. And while clients were skeptical at first, Tamara was a believer.
“We were a little limited in what we could do online. The secret would be to use great educational strategies and tailor them to every type of learner,” Tamara said, explaining that everyone learns differently. She believes you need to have great material and the ability to engage agents up close, even if you’re remote and far away. It’s done through gamification, role-playing and one-on-one sessions. All the while, Tamara advocates real-life business lessons versus conventional and “memorization by repetition” learning.
Using Technology to Teach
“Kim (Houlne, the founder) took a risk on me,” Tamara recalled. “For my first five years, I was the only instructor in the company. Once it was clear our programs were working, we hired more. Every one of them was (and is) a certified educator. This sets us apart in our industry.”
Initially, Working Solutions was constrained by a lack of virtual classroom software platforms. “You can only get so far by emailing PowerPoints to people,” Tamara joked. Today, her education team has all the technology necessary to engage agents. She even uses games like “Wheel of Fortune” to connect with the field.
The other key to connecting with agents is making the lessons seem personal. “We now have software that is so sophisticated that you can cut the size of a class from 30 to 10 with the press of a button. And with another press, you can get the number down to two.” Tamara explained that engagement equals effectiveness.
A Little “SALT,” Please
Agents still get additional seasoning after they complete their first round of education. “We put our strategic agent learning technique—or SALT— program in place two years ago. It’s like giving our agents a vitamin B-12 shot. There are seasoned agents/educators listening in on the calls. Think of it as training wheels on for 30, 60 or 90 days.”
Here’s why: “Our agents get the 30 percent of information they didn’t get during their formal instruction,” Tamara said. “Our clients and our agents love this.” SALT, along with Working Solutions University, which Tamara developed, serve as great agent educational tools. “The proof is in the pudding,” she said. “Just look at our client and agent retention rates. There is a reason we call our agents the ‘WooHoo Crew.’ Their knowledge and enthusiasm are why we are so successful after 25 years.”
All in all, she is convinced that education and culture are Working Solutions’ advantages in the market. “Continuous learning has powered the company for the past 25 years. From my perspective, there is no end in sight.”
“Every one of our instructors is a certified educator. That sets us apart in the industry.”
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