Why call center employee onboarding matters

While onboarding is a process new employees go through to get inducted into the company at the start of their career, it doesn't stop within just a few days. For call center employees, training is highly valuable and can't be overdone.

Employee retention is improved by up to a quarter thanks to good onboarding practices, so by spending a little extra time looking after new employees you will save time and money training people who aren't going to stick around.

Call center employee onboarding is about introducing policies, practices, equipment and information to your new hires, but can be confusing if it isn't done sensitively. Even though you'll be looking to get new hires up and running as fast as possible, rushing the onboarding process is counter-productive.

This checklist will guide you through the process step-by-step to make sure you get the most out of your call center employee onboarding.

Before the First Day:

Create a company email for the employee

Once the employee has accepted your offer, you should now communicate with them only using their company email address. Record this, along with the employee's basic details, using the form fields below.

Send them the login details to their personal email and explain how to link it to their favorite mail client.

(Source: process.st)

Send a welcome email

After you've let the employee know that they're going to be hired, the next step is to send them an email welcoming them to the company, telling them their exact job description and setting out the agenda for the first week.  

You might want to schedule that on Google Calendar, too.

See below for a template you can use for this:

Schedule start date on Google Calendar

Now you need to schedule a start date for the employee. Record this using the form field below.

Create a Google Calendar event and add it to your own calendar. Share the event via email to the employee's new company email address. From there, they should be able to add the event to their calendar and set reminders.

See this guide for more information.

(Source: itworld.com)

Employee Handbook:

Introduce to company history

Briefly discuss the company's history and mission to help set the tone of the handbook. At the very least, explain:

  • 1
    Company mission statement
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
    Position in the marketplace

You can also talk about the founder of the company, the company culture, discussion about the leadership team so people know who they're working for. Make sure you keep to facts and don't use this section for promises.

(Source: inc.com)

Explain paid time off policy

Ensure that this section explains the vacation policy including how much time each employee can take off and how to schedule it. Roughly note this policy in the form field below to avoid future confusion.

Use this section to inform about sick leave, family medical leave, military spousal leave and any other types of leave your company supports.

You may also address the holidays your company follows and during which dates the company is closed. If your company is open on holidays you should include information about compensation for working on holidays.

(Source: inc.com)

Discuss employee behavior

This section is used to discuss the attendance policy, meal breaks, rest periods and general expectations of employee conduct.

Include policies against employee harassment discrimination, bans on smoking, substance abuse policy, as well as how employees may use the Internet or e-mail.

Add a section on dress code, don't go in too much detail, but provide guidelines on what is and isn't acceptable.

(Source: inc.com)

Define pay and promotions

Explain your methods of payment and let employees know when they will be paid (e.g. every month, week, two weeks). Include your overtime policy, define work hours and explain the pay grade structure so that people know where they fit in the hierarchy. 

Include information about the compensation packages you offer, let the employee know if she/he is eligible for bonuses or stock options, how their performance appraisal process works. 

(Source: inc.com)

Inform about benefits

This section should cover the general overview of the benefits you offer such as (but not limited to):

  • Heath care
  • Dental care
  • Vision
  • Life insurance

Don't talk about specific companies, as they might change over time. 

Explain who is eligible for the benefits (only full-time or both full and half-time employees). List the criteria for eligibility, when a person can enroll in benefits, what critical life events can change your benefits (e.g. marriage, the birth of a child).

(Source: inc.com)

Save a full copy of the handbook

Now that you've checked through every section of the handbook and brought it up to scratch, the next stage in the call center employee onboarding checklist is to save a copy of it. Do so using the form field below.

Although it is also recommended that you save this copy in multiple locations, adding the specific version sent to the employee during this checklist can be helpful in tracing back any confusion or problems they encounter.

During the First Week:

Introductory session

It's no secret that employee turnover in the call center industry is a huge problem, which is why the onboarding process is so important. As such, organize an introductory session with the employee, recording the date in the form field below.

Five9 recommends you to follow this process for an introductory session that will make new hires feel at home:

  • 1
    Greet new agents with name tags/place cards
  • 2
    Present a fun gift that reinforces your company culture
  • 3
    Describe your contact center’s vision, mission, and passion
  • 4
    Explain the importance of the new agent’s role
  • 5
    Pair your employee up with an experienced buddy/sponsor/mentor
  • 6
    Get an executive to welcome new arrivals
  • 7
    Go over benefits, policies, and any unusual customs (get HR to help)
  • 8
    Make sure everyone has a buddy or fellow new-hire to chat with at lunch
  • 9
    Get all the needed forms completed (but don’t make this a core focus)

The aim is to consolidate the information from the Employee Handbook, introduce everyone and create an awesome environment.

When this is done, they should feel ready to get on with their first assignments.

(Source: smallbusiness.chron.com & tmcnet.com)

Assign first tasks

To ease them into the job, send your new hire the details of a training assignment and monitor it closely. Provide feedback and encourage them to hit milestones.

Make sure to write down how the employee fared with the tasks. 

eLearning Industry suggests making a game out of it. In the article 4 Secret Tips for Gamifying Call Center Onboarding, Gal Rimon says:

"Game onboarding is more prevalent that most of us realize. Played Candy Crush Saga or Temple Run? You start at a beginner’s level and soon find yourself driven to win as if by some otherworldly force.

Well, that’s the secret behind these games’ success — they tap into our innate, habit-forming desire to win fast and to do everything possible to experience the cues that signify that we’ve completed a level and to reap the satisfaction of independently mastering a skill. Now, if we can create a similarly easy and rewarding ‘beginner’s level’ during employee onboarding and training, those first few days on the job would be less terrifying.

Additionally, the process would be more successful for the long-term. The habit-forming thrill of quick wins is also key to job performance as it teaches one skill at a time affording players the sense of mastery and autonomy, thereby achieving employee engagement and satisfaction."

(Source: elearningindustry.com)

Write down how the first tasks went

So that you're keeping a tab on how the employee is doing, write down how the first tasks went using the text box below.

Then, choose who will approve (in task #17, which is an approval task) the first assigned tasks. This is so that, if they didn't do well enough, they are tasked with the duties again until they're completed to a high standard.

Approval: First tasks

Will be submitted for approval:
  • Write down how the first tasks went
    Will be submitted

Set clear milestones

To help employees be the most proficient and productive they can be, it's best to set clear, achievable milestones with rewards and incentives.

At this point it doesn't matter too much if these tasks aren't urgent or even necessary. The first week should be a gradual curve of work that gets more important and demanding as time goes on.

Early training should be done in a basic call-fielding environment instead of their eventual work environment, the phone floor. Have new hires get to grips with the equipment, working as a team and with your company processes by taking rudimentary customer calls and being closely monitored.  

After the first week you will have data to review alongside fixed achievement metrics (milestones). This will give you and your employee a clear idea as to the areas for improvement.

Hold team competitions

Following on from the idea of making a game out of onboarding, if you're hiring several new employees at once it's motivational and educational to set up team competitions.

Include quizzes on the training material, measuring progress towards milestones, rewards and incentives.

Call center work's goal-orientated nature lends itself well to gamification, so take advantage of that when helping new employees get acquainted with the job.

Meet for feedback

At the end of the first week, you shouldn't expect too much from your new hire. Meet to discuss progress with milestones, how they feel they're getting to grips with the company procedure and how they are finding the job so far. 

It is recommended to train employees bit-by-bit way for around two months before giving them a seat on the phone floor with everyone else. Avoid flooding new hires with information. Just put them to the test and report on their progress. Make sure to be clear about what they did well and what needs improving.

Set another group of milestones for next week according to how this week went. Schedule the meeting using Google Calendar.

From the First Week Onwards:

Assign the new hire an experienced mentor

After inducting the employee into the company, assigning a few easy introductory tasks and building team relations, they're ready to meet an experienced mentor who will help them 1 to 1 with anything they're unsure about.

Record who is assigned to be their mentor in the form field below.

According to ICMI:

"Effective agent onboarding doesn’t end with initial training. To ensure that new-hires receive the extra support and attention they need on the official phone floor, many leading centers pair them up with an experienced agent – or agents – upon completing training. Such mentor-protégé relationships help keep promising frontline staff from becoming overwhelmed by the steady and at times unrelenting flow of customer contacts.

Having a peer nearby to help rookies through tough calls, rough spots and peak periods is a surefire way to not lose your latest hiring and training investment after just a few weeks or months of making that investment."

(Source: icmi.com)

Start transition to the phone floor

With the help of your employee's mentor, the new hire can start getting more comfortable working on the phone floor. The calls taken during this period should be undemanding and basic, purely for instructional purposes. A great part of mentoring is that the mentor can give feedback straight after the call session.

The transition from incubation (unimportant calls) to the phone floor (final working place) should be gradual and happen with constant supervision.

eLearning Industry says:

"We find that key to success is to place newbies in less complex and demanding customer service channels, such as responding to clients via email or social networks where there are no immediate responses to deal with. This gives them the time they need to gain knowledge and experience before say answering calls or dealing with technical problems. To help then gain that knowledge, integrate and succeed, continue to incorporate learning and gamification during their regular workday — be it through team contests, solving challenges, or training as a qualification."

(Source: elearningindustry.com)

Send out an assessment form

You can use Survey Monkey or Wufoo to put together a form and gather a bit of feedback from your new hire. 

This will help them formulate their thoughts and make it easy for them to tell you what needs they have and ways they could be better looked after.

It's also helpful for you to find out how you could onboard more effectively in the future.

You can download a sample assessment form below and replace the 'our company' field with the company name, and make a copy in Survey Monkey or Wufoo for distribution:

Organize a social event

Organizing a social event is a great way to really cement the team-building you should have been promoting up until this point, especially if you're training new hires in groups.

ICMI offers insight on the best way to do this and why:

"The best centers realize this and build into the onboarding process frequent events and gatherings – both inside the center and out – intended to strengthen relationships, increase morale and make new hires truly feel like they are part of a tight-knit team. This can take the form of group luncheons, fun team incentives/contests and projects, celebration dinners, recognition events (Customer Service Week festivities, for example), bowling night, and other creative mixers."

(Source: icmi.com)

Keep in contact with the new hire

Until they feel like they are able to work without them, they should be reporting any concerns or troubles to their mentor so they can be resolved.

Make it clear that you're always ready to help them and arrange any extra training if they need it, and keep track of their progress towards new milestones.

Meet with both the mentor and employee to see how they're getting on and check the survey for any issues that might still be unresolved.

The Rest of the 90 days:

Review progress

Call center employee onboarding should last 90 days. This gives the new hire time to settle in, to realize anything that might be a problem, and to solve it with their mentor or manager. 

As you reach the end of the onboarding process you should be conducting weekly progress reviews with your new employees and checking they are settling in well.

Start to work in the idea of long-term goals as you get closer to moving the new hire to the phone floor.

Make sure to write down how well the employee has progressed or not. Then, choose a higher-up from the Members form field below, so they can review and then approve or reject the employees' progress.

(This should be the person at the top of your department, like a call center director, to ensure that they're happy with the employees' progress.)

Approval: Progress review

Set long-term goals

Based on the employee's ability to reach milestones you have set in the past, formulate some long-term goals you would like them to work towards.

This is something you can assess during each weekly progress meeting but monitor more infrequently after the settling-in process is over.

Explain the future plans

During your final weekly progress review after 90 days with the employee, you should explain what the structure will be in the future. Make sure to note down how the employee likes to be contacted so you can tailor your continued communication in a way that suits them. In-person, phone, email, or something else? Explain:

  • When meetings will be
  • How often you are going to be checking in
  • Whether you have an open door policy
  • How you handle issues your employee would like to discuss


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