We know that coaching offers many benefits for our experienced agents so we design coaching programs for on-going employee development success. However, we may not have equally effective plans in place for introducing and rolling out coaching with our newly hired agents. The first few weeks on the job can be major turnover time if we aren’t spending the time and effort needed to ensure the success of our new employees.
So how can we improve engagement for our new hires? Here are a few suggestions:
Discuss coaching before they are hired: During your interview process, explain how your center trains and coaches to benefit the customers, the employees and the business. We need to make sure that new team members understand our goals for continuous customer experience improvement, how we help our employees reach those goals and encourage their own personal goals.
Observe Your Trainers On The Job: When is the last time you sat in on a training session for newly hired employees? If it’s been a while, I highly recommend attending and spot-checking classes.
- Is the trainer talking down to or talking “with” participants?
- Is the material delivered with enthusiasm and knowledge beyond the manual or using boring slides for hours on end?
- Are the trainees encouraged to ask questions or is the session driven by the trainer’s need to keep rigidly to the planned timing for the module?
- Are online courses designed to keep interest or canned segments that are repetitive and boring and not customized for the real world of your customers?
Demonstrate the need for continuous learning and improvement: If you are a trainer, supervisor or manager, be open to training that includes playing your own customer calls, reviewing your customer emails with them and “grading” skills together from the customer viewpoint. Be willing to show that coaching and skills improvement doesn’t stop after training or once someone is promoted to leadership. Using agent sample calls is good but demonstrate that learning is forever!
Begin coaching as soon as possible: Some managers make the mistake of coaching only after the new hire has completed the full training program, which may be 6 to 8 weeks after hire. Coaching means more than listening to calls and discussing what happened. Look for coaching discussion opportunities such as these…
- Once their soft skills and customer experience training is completed, review the specific coaching tools your company uses: how, what and why they work and related to the training they’ve just experienced
- Ask them what skills they have learned and what they would like more training on to be successful
- Role-play using the coaching skills forms to help them implement best skills during practice time.
Meet one to one weekly during the crucial first 6 weeks on the job: Ask them what they’ve learned, what they’ve observed and what they think of the training so far. Demonstrate that you are open to feedback (and even criticism) from every employee so you and your teams can be the best they can be.
Make coaching something they look forward to. Start by taking a critical look at your current coaching program:
- Do your long time employees roll their eyes at the thought of coaching or fear it? Body language says a lot.
- Are experienced agents telling your new agents the coaching is a punishment, useless or a time to learn and be recognized for working hard?
If your coaching with experienced agents is negatively perceived, your new agents will have this same attitude before long.
Mix Up The Coaching Exercises: Take the boredom out of coaching routine by varying length, activities, delivery methods and interactions. For instance:
- Role-play each week during training with each other and with supervisor/ manager/ QA.
- Play the best agent calls, read the best emails and chats together in new hire classes so they not only learn in class and through modules online, but they can see and hear what the real life customer interactions are like in the moment.
Select Co-Worker Mentors For Them Who Are Positive and Knowledgeable: I’ve witnessed a long-time agent telling a new hire not to bother about a key process that they just learned in class. Some of your experienced agents may have excellent knowledge but are burned out with the job and readily share their complaints about work with the new agent. Mentors who have the knowledge but also the right attitude towards customers and your business are key for mentoring.
We need to continue to find effective ways to be more proactive in both training and coaching engagement with new hires. Don’t rely on your trainers, mentors or leads to be the only ones interacting and motivating new hires. Managers need to be involved in the training and coaching journey with new hires, and continue to be actively involved, as the new employees become integral parts of the team.