When thinking about what a good induction programme looks like, it is almost easier to think about what it shouldn’t be, i.e. death by PowerPoint, delivered by an untrained facilitator who likes the sound of their own voice.
Here are four key pointers to getting your induction programme right.
A good induction programme, like any good training programme, should be interactive. Delegates should be invited to discuss and respond to information, not just sit passively soaking it all up (people often forget most of what is just ‘told’ to them.) As early as 450BC, Confucius said “Tell me and I will forget. Show me and I may remember. Involve me and I will understand.” This idea is the principle of accelerated learning and all good training design theory.
Induction programmes usually require a lot of information to be imparted, but this can still be done in fun ways: quizzes, treasure hunts, scenarios, mind map exercises and any number of activities. We even print policies onto jigsaw puzzles and have races to build the jigsaw before discussing the content. This is far more effective than hundreds of tedious slides. The training environment should always be a relaxing, fun environment so that delegates can really feel comfortable to open up and take in new information – especially important when they might be suffering from first-day nerves.
A training manager once said to her colleague: “Oh by the way, we have three new starters tomorrow.” “Oh right. I’ll just get the folder down,” was the breezy reply. Down came a huge white ringbinder from a top shelf, packed with photocopies of policies and procedures in tiny print. I was appalled. My response would have been: “Where are the HR files on the new starters and why was I not notified about this last week?”
A good induction programme will be tailored to the individuals. A personalised folder, name badge and a trainer who is familiar with at least the basics of their CV can be a very comforting welcome to a new starter who feels overwhelmed and anxious. With smaller induction groups there should be the opportunity to tailor information and focus onto the areas that will benefit them the most. If they are all going to be based full-time at one site then the awareness of other sites may be helpful but they do not need an in-depth seating plan.
Content can also be flexed depending on the background of the new starters. If all are coming from elsewhere within the contact centre industry then there is no need to spend a long time on the basic ‘this is what a contact centre is’. If you have expertise in the room acknowledge it!
3. Well delivered
The induction is the first real opportunity the new starters get to experience their new employer properly. If the trainer is not a good speaker or does not facilitate well, then the new starter may very quickly become bored and disillusioned and may even question their choice of employment. Induction trainers should be selected for their training delivery skill and their knowledge and experience of the company.
The trainer should be able to build a good rapport with delegates and put them at ease, and the evidence of this should be that the trainer is positively thought of and remembered long after the induction training is finished. How do people greet your company trainers when they pass them in the corridor? Your trainers may benefit from some tips on designing new and engaging activities or need some feedback or coaching on their delivery and facilitation styles.
Most organisations also have the opportunity to deliver some content on-line using an intranet or bespoke training package that allows new starters to complete sections of training individually. This can provide a break from traditional training. However, I am aware of some organisations where people have been able to ‘cheat’ their way through the on-line induction training system and not really absorb the learning. Some reviews and discussions in the group workshop environment afterwards may be helpful.
4. Well structured
‘How long should my induction programme be?’ This is a difficult question for me to answer without knowing what needs to be in it. ‘What needs to be in it?’ is a difficult question for me to answer without knowing exactly who your organisation is and what you do. However, here are some simple things to consider:
Day One: Welcome, Getting to Know You, Company Vision, Values & On-site Basics
Do: Bond them as a group, let them get their bearings on site, ensure they have all the relevant passes and permits and log-ons and know the basic expectations of them for the duration of their training (ground rules, timekeeping, etc).
Don’t: Spend hours on company history that has little impact day to day. Keep it to the edited highlights.
Day Two: Company information –clients, customers, competitors, organisation (organagram) charts, department overviews
Do: Share information that they need to know to be a loyal and good representative of the organisation working in the place they are based. Let them go on a ‘discovery mission’ about competitors and present back information.
Don’t: Use out-of-date organisation charts or ‘colour’ their views of individuals, customers or any other parties or give too much detailed information about other sites, people or departments that they won’t need or remember.
Day Three: Policies & procedures (data protection, employment basics, rules and regulations)
Do: Make the ‘discovery’ of this information engaging and have discussions about it. This ensures no one can claim they did not know they would be sent home if they turned up in football strip on dress-down day!
Don’t: Scare people. While there is a need to be realistic and informative about policies, paint a good picture of your organisation to keep them coming back for training tomorrow!
Day Four: Health & Safety and other regulatory or contractual obligations
Do: Let them explore regulatory information on-line, give them questions to answer and a list of websites to look at to find the answers. Discuss scenarios, play ‘spot the risk’ with office images or cartoons.
Don’t: Show out-dated VHS footage of a construction worker sawing his own foot off. Not usually very applicable to the contact centre!
Day Five: Job-specific induction – starting to learn more about the logistics of their specific job, either with their new team or as a group of new starters if they are all doing the same role
Do: Let them listen to recorded calls and get hands-on with a practice version of your system. Week two of your induction programme may now lead them nicely into hands-on, in-depth job training in a safe environment.
Don’t: Make them sit passively for the next few days, weeks or even months side-by-side silently listening in to other people taking calls and watching them use the system. It’s boring and it isn’t learning that sticks! As soon as they are the one taking calls they will feel like they are looking at those screens for the first time.
Share your induction structure with your participants on Day 1. They need to know what to expect and where the programme is going. Encourage them to ask questions every step of the way and remember to have fun too!
Carolyn Blunt is a contact centre training expert with Real Results Training.