Hiring remote agents isn’t a new concept, but the COVID-19 pandemic has made the ability to work virtually even more important for many insurance agencies. Unfortunately, even if your agency has previously had an exceptional traditional onboarding process, it may not translate well to a remote work environment. Here are tips for creating a remote onboarding process that educates, engages, and retains agents.
Why remote onboarding is challenging
Virtually onboarding employees takes different preparation (and perhaps even more effort) than face-to-face orientations. Without the typical in-office introductions, meetings, mentoring, and collegial environment, remote employees who are new to your organization may feel isolated or otherwise disadvantaged.
According to BambooHR, employees who feel their onboarding process is highly effective are 18 times likely to feel highly committed to their organization. This makes onboarding an essential tool for reducing turnover. Across industries, up to 20 percent of employee turnover happens within the first 45 days, according to the O.C. Tanner Institute’s Global Culture Report. In short, it’s time to get your team on board with remote-ready onboarding.
Tips for better remote onboarding
1. Start assessing for onboarding during the interview process. Working remotely requires a specific skillset, so make sure your application weeds out candidates who may not feel comfortable working from home. Look for computer-savvy candidates who are self-motivated by using an application process that mimics their future work environment as much as possible. If your agents need to be proficient in using a chat feature, require an online chat with the applicant as part of the application process. Will the employee need to use a specific video platform like Zoom? Conduct the screening interview using it.
2. Determine the logistics. You’ll likely need to provide a new agent with equipment and IT support. First, answer these questions to facilitate the process?
- What equipment will your remote worker need? Laptop, printer, monitor, phone?
- How will they log on to your system?
- What files and systems do they need to access—and which are restricted?
- What type of internet connection will they need?
- What antivirus requirements are needed to keep company and customer information safe?
- What tools will they need to collaborate with colleagues and management?
- What are the required working hours or is the schedule flexible?
- What time zones can the employee work from or that flexible as well?
3. Take time to train. Perhaps the most critical factor in the success of your new employee is how effectively they are trained. Take the time to restructure or replace your training materials and methods to accommodate online learning. Experts recommend role-specific training sessions that include question and answer time to clarify important topics. If appropriate, record demonstrations so visual learners can better understand the subject. Integrate interactive elements, like quizzes and games, to engage participants. Onboarding training also should include a way to monitor your employee’s results and a module that can help the new agent set career goals. You may need to invest in a professional trainer to help, but it will be money well spent.
4. Enable digital signatures. The employee handbook and other policies must be sent digitally to remote workers. Organize all of the necessary paperwork and policies in one email with a clear subject line. This will help employees find and refer to these documents quickly in the future. Take advantage of digital signature software such as DocuSign to allow agents to acknowledge receipt of these documents digitally.
5. Assign a primary contact person. Once an agent is hired, designate one specific person to oversee that person’s onboarding process. Often a hiring manager, this person will be tasked with introducing the employee to their colleagues, handling questions, and shepherding the new agent through the onboarding process.
6. Facilitate mentorship. In addition to assigning a primary contact, pair a new agent with a more seasoned mentor to help guide them through the orientation process. The mentor can help teach the soft skills that training doesn’t cover, like time management, workflow, and networking, and can pass on what they’ve learned while working at your company. Mentors should be friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable about the agency’s policies. Ideally, mentors should meet virtually with new employees regularly and check in daily during the first few weeks.
7. Be visible on-screen when possible. Over the first 90 days of employment, it’s critical that your new hire feels supported, embraced as part of the team and part of the company culture. Host regular video calls to welcome new remote team members. One-and-one calls provide opportunities to set expectations and answer questions, while conference calls help build community among team members. Consider scheduling weekly check-in meetings throughout the onboarding period to ensure employees are adjusting well.
8. Encourage casual chatting. An easy-to-use chat app like Slack or Microsoft Teams can help remote workers feel connected to the organization. Ongoing chat channels enable staff to collaborate, ask and answer questions, and get to know one another.
Setting up a remote agent for success starts Day One—and often before. It may require a shift in how your agency brings on new hires, but it’s a necessary step to retaining good employees and reducing costly turnover. Happy onboarding!
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