Published: January 20, 2015 | Comments (1)
Everyone has a first day of work story. You know, when you were so nervous you left home really early and arrived at the office an hour before anyone else got there, so you had to wait in the lobby with the security guard, who became your new best friend? Or when you started on a Friday instead of a Monday because there was an important training class and you showed up in your “casual Friday” clothes, not knowing the trainer requested formal business attire to set the tone for the session? Or that time when everything went perfectly—all green lights, easy parking, friendly office mates, an office with a window and a “welcome to the team” lunch.
Don’t we all wish that first day could be easy sailing. More than likely, you have a somewhat embarrassing story about your first day of work, whether it was your first professional job or your first job ever. Brands usually do their best to prepare people so it’s easier to achieve smooth sailing…but sometimes those efforts fall short.
It can be especially difficult to start a new job when you are a remote worker. Sure, you don’t have to worry about dressing inappropriately, but there are other concerns. How do you access the system? How will you get to know your colleagues? What if you have questions or run into a problem?
Smart brands that employ remote workers have well-defined onboarding programs and the experience to walk a new employee through it all. If your brand doesn’t have a defined program or just wants a touch point, here are seven tips for a smooth onboarding process with remote agents.
1. Provide constant, clear communication.
If there is one essential element for successful onboarding, it is good communication. It doesn’t really matter what format the communication takes—whether your brand provides a centralized dashboard so all the information is in one place, or a series of emails that are triggered when onboarding steps are completed—what matters is that the communication happens. Provide a roadmap of what a new remote worker needs to do and communicate their progress, what’s next and how they can get help if needed. Maintain a friendly tone to make people feel welcome.
2. Ensure the technology is in place for people to be successful.
There is no shortage of technology tools available to help remote workers. The cloud has revolutionized remote work, making it possible for many more jobs to be performed from home. Implement the right tools for the job(s) to be done and train remote workers on how to use those systems. Be sure to include some tools for web conferencing so “face time” can be part of training sessions or meetings.
3. Offer virtual training sessions.
Whether the remote worker is new to the industry or just new to remote work, training is important to ensure success. Offer self-paced e-learning classes, as well as virtual classroom sessions, so people have the option of doing the training themselves or engaging with a group—a combination of the two is ideal. Training topics can include teaching remote workers about the brand they have joined; about the products or services offered; how to use the technology; how to sell; communication tips and tricks; how to handle a challenging customer; the options are nearly endless.
4. Establish a sense of community.
Remote work can be isolating—it’s important for remote workers to feel connected, engaged and welcome. Make sure remote workers know that they are not alone, that they are an important part of the team. One thing LiveOps does with our remote agent workforce is send a welcome email to new agents that includes photos and short biographies of each team member who supports them. It’s a simple way to put a name with a face and show that there is a team dedicated to helping them be successful.
Another idea is to establish an online community using cloud-based technologies. It can include FAQs, discussion forums, web chat, learning games, online resources or any number of other tools. Perhaps a “virtual water cooler” to make it possible for people to talk about the latest episode of that new reality show, share recipes or advice and get to know each other better. It should be clear that even if they are not physically located in the same place, they are still part of a team.
5. Make it easy for remote workers to communicate with each other.
Encourage remote workers to interact with each other and with office-based support staff. Create contests or challenges in the online community…post surveys with small rewards for participation…encourage people to offer best practices, answer questions and offer advice. Even make it possible for people to participate in simulations before taking live calls, or practice with a peer. The more people feel part of a brand and a team, the happier and more satisfied they will be—and that translates to how they interact with customers.
6. Offer multiple opportunities for feedback and questions.
Establish a “virtual open door” policy. Make it easy for remote workers to contact a peer or supervisor with questions. Offer surveys to determine opinions on training sessions. Monitor and engage on discussion forums. Encourage peer-to-peer support. A key part of encouraging feedback is using it to refine and improve processes and procedures. Make sure remote workers know their feedback is valued and helping the brand.
7. Be there to support, help and encourage when needed.
At the end of the day, remote workers are representing your brand, the same way employees in stores do. Customers may not see them, but their attitude and demeanor influences a phone call or online interaction just as much as an in-person interaction. Brands should certainly help remote workers when they need help, and offer support and encouragement on an on-going basis.
Think back to your first day of work again. What would have made it better? Was it something you could have done, or was it something the brand you were going to work for could have done? Perhaps it’s a combination of both, but more likely it’s something the brand could have done to make things go a little bit smoother and a little bit less stressfully for you. Onboarding remote agents can be a smooth process, or it can be a mess. Hopefully these tips will help make your brand’s onboarding go smoothly. Remember to ask those remote workers for feedback and make changes if needed!