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Creating a Successful Environment for New Agents

Do you remember how you felt when you started a new job?

The first 30-60 days in a new position is a critical time for setting the stage for a new employee’s success.  Contact centers hire large numbers of new agents on a regular basis, and must create and support an environment that maximizes the opportunities for new agents to succeed.   Too often organizations don’t execute the “little things” that make individuals feel comfortable and valued when they start a new job.

Most organizations have standard programs (new hire orientation, new hire training, etc.).  The challenge is the execution of the “little things” during these programs and how the “simple misses” can have a lasting impact on a new employee.  Some of my personal observations of where the “little things” have not been performed correctly have impacted new hires with regard to:

  • Confidence in Tools and Technology
  • Feeling Welcome
  • Understanding Performance

Confidence in Tools and Technology

The tools and technology an agent uses are critical for responding to customer inquiries.  In order to effectively use these tools, the agent must have confidence that the tools work properly.  This starts when a new hire logs onto the system the first time.

Many times, when a new hire starts their initial training program they cannot log onto the system and even worse they receive the following message: “Access Denied”.  What a terrible signal to send to a new employee when they cannot even log onto the most important tool that they need to perform their job.

It is critical to assure that system access is set up properly and all instructions are clear and easy to follow before a new agent starts new hire training.  A new employee is excited to get started and the worst thing that can happen is they an “Access Denied” message on day one.

Technology is a critical enabler allowing agents to perform their basic job functions.  In order to be successful, a new agent must be confident of the tools they have at their disposal….that confidence can be destroyed quite easily.

Feeling Welcome

New agents should feel welcome when they begin working at an organization and there should be a culture and infrastructure in place to assist new employees in building relationships and feeling comfortable in the workplace.

In many new hire orientation programs, the agenda for day 1 includes a review of all the policies and procedures of the contact center, including attendance, tardiness, etc.  Think about the message that is being sent to the new employees when the first thing they hear is a list of all the ways they can get into trouble.

Consider how a new guest is treated when they enter someone’s home.  A host does not explain all of the things that the guest is not allowed to do in the house, instead a host may do the following: 

  • Introduce the new guest to other guests
  • Offer the guest something to drink/eat
  • Offer to hang up their coat

These are 2 very different scenarios, but there is something to learn from a host who is greeting guests….there is a need to allow the new hires to assimilate and meet others before the “rules of the game” are explained.

Understanding Performance

New hires must receive meaningful and understandable feedback about performance on a regular basis.  New employees want to know how they are doing starting on day one and it is not just about the numbers.
Supervisors need to spend one on one time with new agents, starting on day one, providing feedback.  The focus should not be the numbers that show up on an automated report, rather a conversation is required focusing on observations made by the supervisor and other support individuals.  The supervisor should not focus on the average handle time number on a report; instead the supervisor should provide feedback on what they observed during a call monitoring session (an example being how the agent could have controlled the flow of a call more effectively).

Taking on and succeeding in a new position in any organization is a challenging task for an employee….just think back to your first day in a new job.  It is critical for the hiring organization to create an environment that supports success.  Most organizations have programs in place to help new employees. The question becomes: is the program in place so the company can check the box or has the effort gone into the new program to assure it is executed flawlessly and the “little things” are done correctly?