Nearshore Americas

Agent Onboarding Has Seen Radical Change. Is that a Good Thing?

Talk of the “Great Resignation” as the return to the office draws closer in much of the world has shone a light on organisation’s strategies for the onboarding of new talent. 

If mass resignations do occur over the next year, then mass recruitment will also be needed, and if companies are to hang onto their most valuable hires – particularly in highly-competitive markets like tech – then their onboarding policies must be on point.

But social distancing measures and work-from-home models that have been adapted in response to Covid-19 have thrown a spanner in the works of usual HR departments. 

Rather than a friendly first meeting and a quick tour of on-site premises to meet the team, new employees are now being given a far shallower video meeting experience or, in the worst cases, simply being left to their own devices. 

The lack of human interaction with colleagues and the reliable hum of the office has caused loneliness and commitment problems for long-term employees. But for new recruits who may never have met their work peers face-to-face, the situation is causing an “easy-come, easy-go attitude” and a source of consternation for employers throughout the Nearshore.

Nearshore Americans heard from a leader of a growing contact center to hear the onboarding lessons his company had learned over the pandemic, and how it’s trying to ensure new employees receive the experience they hoped for.

Validate the Brand

As talent acquisition gains more interest from the business world, the role of employer branding in attracting and keeping hold of that talent becomes more important. In both the contact center space, where new recruits tend to come from a young population bracket, or in tech where the ethical and sustainability aims of a company is becoming a growing differentiator, employer branding is vital. In a time where two-thirds of employees believe that their work and personal lives are becoming increasingly blended, it’s important to connect the new recruit with the company’s brand.

Rudy Sanchez, co-founder and managing partner at Beliveo

Rudy Sanchez, co-founder and managing partner at Guadalajara-based contact center company, Beliveo Corporation, which has onboarded over 500 new agents during the pandemic, believes that fulfilling the new employee’s expectations of the company brand is vital for sound onboarding, even when employees will be working off site.

““We build our sites to sell the brand, not only to clients but to agents too,” said Sanchez. “This is part of our local identity in the markets we operate in.”

“When new agents come onboard, they pick up their equipment for remote work from the office, so that’s their kickoff with the organization. A lot of our culture is expressed through how we build our spaces and we like to get them familiar with the aspects of the company, the entire brand,” he added.

Be Onsite, If and When Possible

Many Nearshore nations are now slowly loosening restrictions on social distancing and allowing small gatherings in public and private spaces. Believeo’s sites – large warehouses with rolling doors that can be opened – mean that the company is able to have social distanced gatherings for those agents willing and able to meet for social activities. 

“Our sites are very large spaces, so it was easier to accommodate activities inside the premises, as well as the social activities we did in outside spaces,” Sanchez explained. 

The contact center’s younger employee demographic means the social side of the workplace takes on greater significance

“The key to onboarding continues to be finding the best way to engage new people, so the sweet spot is having activities like company orientation on site where possible, before moving agents to work from home again.”

The contact center’s younger employee demographic means the social side of the workplace takes on greater significance. “We don’t only pitch the work agents will be doing but also who they’ll be working with and there’s a lot of interpersonal engagement to be done,” Sanchez said. “To help that, we continued activities on the site where permitted and did offsite activities like meeting in parks away from the phones. That really helped.”

Rethink Training for Onboarding in the Digital World

For contact center agents, training is fundamental for job performance. How agents perform during the training period can be indicative of how they’ll perform during live conversations. But that training is, in the vast majority of cases, intended to be given presentially. The need to rethink training for the remote situation was another lesson learned, said Sanchez.

“We ran into challenges with training,” he said. “Some trainers were much more adapt at holding groups virtually, whereas others struggled. The same can be said for agents when the training was designed to be held on site.”

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One of Beliveo’s largest clients has been with them for a long time, and that trust allowed the company to transition to a form of self-paced training, which showed dividends for agent learning. 

“The change has played out really well and we’ve seen an increase in training performance,” Sanchez said. 

HR’s Role is More Important Than Ever

Human Resources have always played an important function within a business, but the pandemic has given the HR a much more vital role in the onboarding of new employees. High rates of employee turnover mean that HR has been pushed to the forefront of business operations.

Fostering a sense of connection and involvement within the new company is vital for fresh employees during work from home, and HR is crucial to this. HR is often the first point of call for new hires at a new company as vital contractual and – particularly important at the moment – health insurance benefits, are dealt with by the department.

Loneliness has become persistent problem for established employees, but a lack of interaction with new colleagues can seriously impact the onboarding process, and, increase employee churn.

HR’s traditional role as a support function within an organization has changed dramatically and it is now present in all parts of the employee lifecycle. Building a strong relationship with new hires as they begin their onboarding process is now another vital part HR must play, says Sanchez.

“It is more critical than ever to continue finding the best way to engage with our new collaborators in these COVID-19 onboarding scenarios. We need to continue leveraging all of the combined talent of our HR department and that within other areas of our organization to explore what works, what isn’t working and to iterate quickly when needed,” he said.

Peter Appleby

Peter is the Managing Editor of Nearshore Americas. Hailing from Liverpool, UK, he is now based in Mexico City. He has several years’ experience covering the business and energy markets in Mexico and the greater Latin American region. If you’d like to share any tips or story ideas, please reach out to him here.

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