Coaching Starts At Onboarding
Coaching your agents helps them feel connected, engaged and valued at work. Why wouldn’t you start this process during onboarding?
A few years ago, Richard Branson tweeted that companies should train their people well enough so they can leave, but treat them well enough so they don’t want to. From then on, the idea of training employees, in your case contact center agents, to propel business has taken flight. That training starts with personalized coaching on day one.
Now, I’m not here to pick on your onboarding process (I’ll do that in another blog). But rather, to help you make onboarding new agents easier, and frankly, better.
In general, contact center onboarding processes tend to hammer in the classroom work. New agents are stuck in a room to practice interactions and listen in on senior agents’ calls. Or in other words, these processes tend to dump major amounts of information in your new agents’ laps. And while this is insanely valuable, you’re missing the other side of the conversation.
Your agent needs 1:1 time with you to ask questions, get direct feedback and to build a relationship. Classroom training prepares them to deal with your product or service, and that’s important. But personal coaching shows that you’re committed to their success.
1:1 Manager Time
Every couple of days during the agent’s first few weeks, schedule 30 minutes for them to sit down with you for coaching sessions. These early conversations should focus on setting goals and understanding the new agent’s strengths and passions related to the role.
Getting to know your agents on this human level gives you insight on what they need to feel supported and accountable. And it allows employee development conversations to begin early, which can help frame meetings moving forward. Let’s not forget, these conversations also let your new agent see that leadership values them.
Peer mentorship lets your new agents get to know more tenured folks who can be another coaching resource. You likely have several direct reports as a manager, so having your veteran agents’ support can lighten your load. And, it gives your experienced agents an opportunity to take on some leadership, contributing to their professional development and grooming them to become team leads or move up to a higher tier of support.
Your new agents should get some time with executives. I know this can be difficult if your organization doesn’t already have executive buy-in. But, this investment into new hires will have a real impact on agent attrition; a financial cost we know those same executives are watching.
My suggestion is to host this in an informal setting that’s suitable for small groups of three to five new agents per executive. A lunch meeting would work perfectly. The executives can share their contact center experiences, including best and worst customer stories and lessons they’ve learned along the way. And it lets the executive team understand your new agents’ goals, hopes, and concerns. Plus, it’ll humanize the leadership team and help your executives stay rooted in the company at the ground level.
Record Your Presentations
Recording your onboarding presentations gives agents easy access to the training should they need a refresher at any point.
Whether they’ve been with the contact center for two weeks or two years, your agents can benefit having this material at the ready. As you uncover agents’ struggles during ongoing coaching, you can refer to the recordings as homework or development activities. I would also encourage you to keep a list of interesting questions that agents ask during onboarding. Then, turn those key questions into FAQs where you update answers regularly.
Does your office have regular Lunch & Learns or culture meetings? If so, slot some time in for your new agents to attend events. They’ll get a look at how your company lives its vision through your culture.
Interactions like this can help them adjust to their new environment and come out of the new-hire-training shell. Also, new agents will see that coaching can happen in relaxed ways outside of 1:1s and review periods.
Start Coaching Early For Long-term Success
Coaching your new hires through their onboarding process doesn’t have to be elaborate, and it certainly doesn’t have to be difficult. If you start coaching during week one, you can begin getting buy-in early to retain your best agents. New agents need to interact with other employees and embrace those outside of their training room to release the tension and nervousness of a new job.