Published: January 03, 2017 | Comments
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The benefits of employee engagement are compelling and undeniable, as shown by many industry leaders. But when in the employee lifecycle does it start?
Sometimes we talk about subject matter experts and seasoned employees being the most important to engage by empowering them with important assignments and projects, but I believe that there should be no minimum tenure requirement (real or perceived) on when an employee is arbitrarily eligible to be engaged in the job, and that means you have to start engaging them right off the bat. Newcomers and those who know their daily tasks intimately can be equally invested in succeeding and can make equally satisfying contributions to their own work.
Starting on Day One
From the moment an employee walks in the door, they are getting a sense of how everything works and what is normal in the office, from the dress code to the way people talk to each other and do their work. This extends to the degree of employee engagement that is endemic to the contact center. Before you ever actively encourage them to engage with their new job, they will probably see how engaged the current employees are, which will make onboarding new people into an engaged culture very easy, but will be an uphill battle for others.
Trainers can have a tendency to assume or desire a blank slate in new hires, even asking that they “unlearn” some habits from previous jobs. While there may be some specific scenarios where this is a good practice, I generally don’t think it’s necessary. You hired them for a reason, and they should know that their prior experience is valid and useful.
Unlike other industries where every person you hire may not necessarily have any work experience doing that particular job, everyone you hire in the contact center does have experience with customer service, if only as a customer. Of course, my experience as a customer of an electrician doesn’t mean that I know anything about electrical work, but when the experience of the customer is the central function of the business, those experiences and instincts that we all have about customer service turn out to be a tremendous advantage. We forfeit that advantage when we fail to engage employees in their own work.
Asking the Right Questions
The most powerful thing you can do in a training environment to foster engagement is to ask the trainees for their opinion. Ask “Does this make sense?” - not just to see if they are retaining the material, but genuinely to find out if the way you’re doing things makes sense.
Throughout training, it’s useful to have a new set of eyes on each workflow, policy, or procedure that everyone else has been stuck doing the same way for years because that’s just the way it’s always been. Make sure they know that the trainer and the management are open to those new perspectives.
My only caveat is that there is a fine line between the attitude that all existing processes are eligible for improvement and the assumption that all existing processes are wrong. You do of course want people to learn to do all their functions correctly and to trust the resources available to them, but always have the door open to something that could be better. Employees will enjoy having their name attached to the positive results that come from asking the right questions.
Investing in Professionals
When I first arrived at my job, this culture of empowerment made me feel like I was hired to carry out a professional service and to leverage my professional opinion as a skilled member of a team, and not that I was just hired to answer phones and click a mouse and read a script. This fundamental attitude of collaboration, professionalism and trust from day one will set a foundation that will last and develop into a richer and broader culture of employee engagement.