During the last few weeks, I’ve spent hours upon hours onboarding new members of my team. From updating and creating documentation for them, to showing them how to use our platforms and tools, and explaining how we work and what is expected of us. As a team leader, I cannot stress the importance of giving a new joiner the best possible start. I call this their ‘training’. But really, it’s about getting them onboard, getting them to feel at home, getting them to learn and ramp up, and taking as much time as needed to get there.
Sometimes, it’s tempting to set a tight schedule and expect your new joiners to be as effective as the rest of the team within a few days. Other times, because you expect them to take over a former team member’s role, you simply forget how difficult onboarding can be in the very beginning. As team leads, because we’re so familiar with all aspects of a role, we can get into the habit of not putting ourselves in the new joiners’ shoes, and forgetting how things might not be so obvious to them!
In high-growth or fast-paced companies, it’s tempting to want to meet targets, make the numbers, or power through backlogs. But don’t be fooled. Your new team members will only get to where you need them to be if you have a well-thought out, step by step onboarding plan. Schedule their plan out over several weeks, rather than several days.
Why is this important? Well, investing in your new members is the safest path to solid results and staff retention.
The numbers speak for themselves. Call centres deal with a 26 percent employee turnover annually, whereas the average rate for the UK is 15 percent*. Fortunately, at Busuu, we have had no leavers in the Customer Satisfaction team over the past two years, and that is certainly helping us support our customers in the best possible way!
To help you give your customer service agents the best possible start and a successful career with your company, here are my three top tips for a successful onboarding plan:
1. Slowly increase the challenge
On day one, provide the new joiner with an agenda detailing what will be done every day for a week and the goals your new joiner should be able to meet by the end of their first week.
Try not to go into unnecessary details for a week or so, or you’ll run the risk of information overload. Instead, show them the most frequently used tools, and describe the most frequently encountered scenarios for their role.
To begin with, slowly assign them tasks that you know they can do, steadily increasing the challenge and adding more complex tickets to their queue. If you can create a “new joiner” profile, this will help to filter out the type of requests they can handle in their first week.
Later on, schedule additional training sessions, after 1, 2, 3, 4 weeks if needed, to review those “less likely to happen” scenarios, and to show how to use the complicated tools that you only get to open once in a while.
2. Provide regular feedback
Feedback is crucial for new joiners. Make sure you schedule regular check-ins with them. These provide great opportunities for you to tick boxes regarding their progress, and ask them for open feedback on how things are going and what they are still unsure about.
Let them know how they’re doing. Are they fast enough? What are their strengths and weaknesses? Is there anything they are not doing well? Whatever the answers are, make sure you’re doing what’s possible to help them out.
Lastly, reassure them. Tell them it’s normal to feel confused, it’s fine to get mixed up. It’s okay to get a bad review from a customer. It’s understandable if they’re slower than the rest of the team. They are learning and practice makes perfect! Let them know they’re on the right track.
3. Make it a team effort
Break down their training with a lot of shadowing sessions with the senior members of your team. This will be a great way for them to bond with their colleagues and see things explained in a different, more practical way.
If your team is large enough, assign your new joiners a “buddy” who can help them with their tickets. Make it a goal for the “buddy” to successfully onboard the new joiner.
So next time you welcome new members to your customer service team, make sure you set them up for success with a carefully considered onboarding plan. Rushing through their training will work against you in the long run.
*Centralus (employee engagement consultancy)