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Taking a Fresh Look at Onboarding

Congratulations! You’ve successfully hired a fresh crop of agents who have pledged to provide an exceptional customer experience on your behalf. All the hard work is done, right? Not so fast. Their journey with you is just beginning and, if you want to wring the most value from these new employees, you need to keep them happy and satisfy their sense of belonging.

Many companies “onboard” new employees, which usually consists of moving the new employee through the customary human resources payroll, benefits, and paperwork gates, and into and through training. However, this is a myopic approach that fails to adequately address the longer-term needs of the employee and the company. Adopting a more fulsome lifecycle-centric, employee engagement approach provides a foundation upon which the new employee can feel valued and successful for the long term.

Today’s employees have greater expectations of their employers than ever before. Awards and incentives, long a staple of contact center life, are no longer completely adequate to ensure a satisfied and engaged workforce. According to Gallup, workgroups that meet four dimensions of employee engagement regularly outperform those that don’t. The four dimensions are:

  • What do I get? – I know what’s expected of me at work.
  • What do I give? – How does my organization recognize my contribution and encourage my development?
  • Do I belong? – Is the mission of the company congruent with my beliefs?
  • How can we grow? – Do I regularly get opportunities to learn and grow in my job?

Organizational surveys indicate that companies with engaged employees routinely outperform their competitors by significant margins. The Gallup organization, in a recent analysis of its Q12 employee engagement assessment found that employee engagement measurably affects key business outcomes including profitability, performance, and customer satisfaction. The survey concludes that companies with engaged employees perform at a significantly higher level, reporting a 37% reduction in absenteeism, a 25-65% decrease in turnover, and a 10% improvement in customer satisfaction.

An area of further organizational research interest in recent years has been that of the influence of emotions and emotional intelligence on work performance, work team dynamics and business outcomes. “Emotional affect” encompasses a broad range of feelings including discrete emotions and has significant implications in organizational behavior and employee engagement

This research also concludes that affect is a leading indicator of performance, tenure and leadership.  The academic evidence is overwhelming that the display of affect has significant impact on performance at the individual, group, and organization level. Members of a workgroup who exhibit similar affective characteristics demonstrate higher customer service performance and lower absenteeism; a workgroup consisting of members with widely divergent affect tends to exhibit greater friction, more absenteeism, less cooperation and reduced business performance; and leaders literally set the tone for their workgroups – their positive moods are strongly correlated to higher customer service performance.

Despite your best efforts otherwise, not every agent is going to live out his or her natural life in your employ. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing so long as your top performers aren’t making a beeline to the door. Factors within and outside your control will drive employees elsewhere and it’s important to adopt a disciplined approach to uncover the causes for attrition and acting on those that are within your control.

Not every employee is willing to participate in an exit interview when he or she leaves. Using an online, anonymous questionnaire will make this process easy, relatively painless, and will expose areas of greatest employee dissatisfaction – some of which will be easier to address than others. For example, you may discover that the predominant reason for attrition is low wages. When balanced against the recurring costs of sourcing, recruiting, hiring and training new employees, it might be more sensible to increase pay by some marginal rate. The math in this exercise is pretty straightforward, but it will take working through some different scenarios to achieve the right balance.

Organizational research consistently concludes that engaged employees are high-performing, loyal employees. Listen to them. Find out what makes them tick. Discover what drives their behavior. Design work teams that are emotionally alike. Understand why people leave you. Creating and maintaining the engaged workforce takes some effort, but the results are worth it.