Five Tips to Improve Employee Engagement During New-Hire Training in the Call Center
Illustration by Ben Biondo

I remember my first day as an agent at a major phone company. It was at the start of my working life. I was nervous. I had no idea what to expect for my first day. I walked in the classroom, sat down and began talking with the person sitting next to me. She was as nervous as I was. More importantly, neither one of us knew what to expect from training.

It has been almost 25 years since that moment. I still remember that “first day” feeling of not knowing what to expect or if I would even like working for this company. “Onboarding” has become a popular buzzword for managing a new employee’s first impression of an organization. That can increase employee engagement and reduce employee turnover. However, new-hire training can have an even greater impact, as far as making new agents feel as if they have made the right choice in joining your company. The following are ideas to reduce your agent trainee’s nervousness, while increasing knowledge retention and improving employee engagement.

1. Welcome your new-hire agents to your contact center before they get there.
Work with your talent management/human resources department to develop a welcome letter from your department to include in the new agent’s pre-employment welcome kit. Yes, there is probably already a letter from your CEO in the package that welcomes them to the company. However, an additional letter from your contact center vice president or director can make the new agent feel even more welcome.

2. Set expectations before they arrive.
One option to start off on the right foot is to include a mini-training package as part of their pre-employment welcome kit. What should be included in that kit? Suggested items include the new-hire training schedule, homework expectations and where to arrive on Day 1. Some organizations also include pre-work in the kit. Pre-work may consist of some written pre-reading about the company, industry or customer base. Another idea for pre-work is to have them look up information on the Internet regarding the company, industry, products and competitors. (Note: Always check with your organization’s legal department to see if this type of pre-employment work is appropriate in your state.)

3. Create a warm environment for Day 1 (and beyond) by greeting new-hires at the door.
There is an old saying, “Treat your agents the way you want them to treat your customers.” So create a friendly, welcoming environment for your new agents. Have your human resources representative and your trainer greet new-hires as they arrive on Day 1. Have your contact center’s senior leader drop by in the morning or at lunch to welcome the new-hires onboard. Some organizations will even provide lunch on the first day and invite the new-hires’ future team leader and manager to this event.

4. Give new-hires a tour of the contact center on Day 1.
Could you imagine going through new-hire training at an offsite facility, far away from the contact center? What would be the impact on your sense of teamwork? Would you have a sense of belonging? Alternatively, would you still feel like the new kid at school, even though you have been through several weeks of training? Well, I have seen that happen. This real-life company did their training at one location, while their contact center was in a nearby city. I remember how disconnected trainees felt from the contact center. This can also happen if training is conducted in the same building that the contact center resides in, but on a different floor.

People want a sense of belonging. They want to feel like part of a greater whole. So take your new-hire class on a tour of the contact center on their first day. Have them sit side-by-side with veteran high-performing agents so they can hear what great sounds like. This also allows them to meet the people they will be working with upon graduation. Encourage team leaders and managers to visit the training room during breaks and lunches to chat with their future team members. Invite workforce management staff, quality team members and other support personnel to present information and/or drop by the classroom so new-hires can put a name to a face.

5. Show new-hires how your organization supports your local community.
Millennials (people born between 1980-2000) make up the bulk of contact center new-hires in most organizations. One of the things they look for in an employer is a company’s willingness to give back to their community. Let them know how your organization supports local charities, raises money for worthy goals and is environmentally friendly within the local community. Anything you can do to create goodwill with an employee will contribute to his or her engagement.