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Agent Onboarding: A New Strategy for the Remote Worker


Picture of first day on the job
Image: flowertiare -
As I discussed in my previous post, “A New Talent Acquisition Strategy: Virtual Interviewing,” knowing how to recruit the right contact center agent for remote work is a critical starting point for strong retention. In this piece, the second in my three-part series on agent retention, I’ll look at why onboarding is just as important.
Think of onboarding as the strategic process of integrating new employees into the organization and equipping them to become successful and productive. It goes without saying that onboarding is critical to optimize cost and efficiency, improve retention, and maximize company performance all while increasing employee engagement. However, this can be especially challenging with remote agents.
Strategic onboarding for remote agents isn’t about doing away with your traditional agent-orientation process; rather, it’s about building on it. Strategic onboarding takes traditional onboarding virtual to start agents off on the right foot using a variety of approaches to foster and sustain high levels of agent engagement from day one. Strategic onboarding for remote agents involves technology, communications, and engagement.
Technology plays a critical role in successfully onboarding new employees. New hires must complete an enormous number of forms and paperwork. Automating the routine, time-consuming tasks through a cloud-based human resources information system (HRIS) will expedite this process. Also, allowing agents to complete new hire paperwork in advance saves time and eliminates the tedious process on the first day. More importantly, getting new agents off to a quick start on day one gets them excited and engaged.
Prior to the agent’s start date, the manager should engage with them through a welcome video call. The call will help create a connection between the manager and agent and introduces the organization’s culture and values so the agent will feel prepared on their first day. During the conversation, the manager should walk the new hire through the onboarding process: actions to take prior to the start date; what to expect during the first 30 days; and any ongoing tasks they’ll need to complete.
Make the all-important first day of employment as engaging as possible. The first day sets the tone for the new hire’s entire career at the organization. Engage them in a group video call to meet and greet the team, as well as to introduce them to their navigator — a team leader who will be their point person for any questions or assistance for the first six weeks. Now is the time to go through the organization’s playbook and training calendar. The navigator will also ensure the new agent has all the basic remote work essentials, including log-in information and access to productivity tools.
Learning new things and helping people keeps agents engaged, and helps with retention. Now is the time to create a comprehensive and customized development plan for each new agent as part of the onboarding process. To ensure agent buy-in, this should be a collaborative effort between the agent and supervisor. Focus not only on steps to help the agent enhance existing skills and close knowledge gaps to help them succeed, but also consider how to use the agent’s individual strengths and interests to benefit the contact center, as well as the organization as a whole.
As part of the onboarding strategy, implement an employee satisfaction survey after the agent’s first 60 or 90 days on the job. This is a smart and effective tactic for three reasons: 1) it enables the contact center to gauge the level of engagement among existing new hires and prevent early attrition; 2) it provides managers with critical information and recommendations regarding how the organization might improve its onboarding process and other aspects of the job to ensure high levels of retention; and 3) it shows new employees that the organization truly values their opinions and suggestions and is committed to making improvements based on their feedback. This in itself helps to increase agent engagement and feelings of belonging and ownership and, thus, retention and performance.
While providing the right tools and environment for remote agents is important, engagement cannot be successful without solid communication. Real-time feedback and check-ins help employees and managers stay connected, aligned, and engaged. Compassion and empathy go a long way to show support for your agents so they can support your customers.

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Technology, communication and empathy are all fine. But, if you treat employees like hired hands, like most companies do, you won't accomplish much. Superior results come from moving to trusted partners who understand, drive and participate in the profitable growth of the company. Our research with Harvard Business School of hundreds of companies that economically engaged their employees as trusted partners have double the profitable growth of their peers. Yes, I did say double. Look at Southwest Airlines or Adams Beasley Remodeling. Both have trusted partners, outperform their competitors, higher profits and no layoffs, including in a pandemic. If you would like to learn more about the HBS benchmarking research, just contact our research associate, Iuliana Mogosanu at [email protected] .These Forbes and Harvard Business Review articles provide more background:

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