Better Onboarding to Enable Organizational Agility

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1 RTM Consulting Better Onboarding to Enable Organizational Agility A Guide for the Support Services Executive Randy Mysliviec President & CEO

2 RTM Consulting All rights reserved. Better Onboarding to Enable Organizational Agility Introduction Service revenues for both hardware and software companies have grown much faster than product revenues over the past decade. And not only have service revenues grown overall margins have improved as well. But this isn t just another short lived trend to be. In the most successful technology companies, support services are taking on an important new role. Innovative services executives are leading their organizations and companies into the future by delivering Value Added Services those services that help companies sell more products, faster. For the technology industry, it s a watershed moment. As a result, effectively developing and delivering quality Support Services has become a critical component for success. Today s technology (e.g. hardware or software) companies are tasked with delivering increasingly complex and more advanced solutions to market, with greater support than ever before. A key driver of every successful Support Services operation is the ability to hire, onboard, and quickly make productive the people needed to deliver support services. The focus of this whitepaper is regarding a crucial yet often under-performing function called onboarding the activities required to make an agent/analyst productive. Onboarding a Key Driver of Successful Workforce Management Every day, Support Services is becoming more of a differentiator in the sales cycle. It s no secret that customers are basing renewal and purchase decisions on the experience they or others have had with your support organization. Coincidentally, we are also at a point where it s extremely easy for companies to move their contracts from one company to another, especially in the age of cloud computing. This is leading to a need for Support Organizations to be very agile in their ability to adjust to the ebbs and flows of business volumes. The end result of this situation is that companies are scrambling to find qualified resources in a timely manner. Lacking the proper disciplines for onboarding as part of your workforce management strategy can result in disorganized chaos of onboarding activities leading to other operational issues: 1. Companies are spending far too much money on the onboarding process. Due to a lack of process discipline, hiring leaders are often unable to dedicate the time it takes to screen applicants, causing it to literally take weeks to screen and hire small numbers of agents. 2. It s taking FAR too long to bring in the right agents at the right time which can impact customer responsiveness as well as contract compliance issues.

3 RTM Consulting 3 3. Agents are thrown to the wolves so to speak. A lack of onboarding process discipline results in less than adequate time available to train agents further exacerbating customer experience issues. As a result, it s not only costing companies too much money, but it s costing them customers. Imagine removing three days from the onboarding of agents - if your support center hires 50 people per year, you would gain almost ½ a year of productivity. The larger the organization, the more productive time that you can return to your customers solving their issues effectively. Days Saved Productivity Gains Agents Hired Per Year Productive Days Earned Figure 1 Identifying the Need for Change There are several indicators you can use to recognize when a change is needed to your onboarding process: 1. Customer satisfaction will begin to suffer due to a lack of consistency in service levels. Agent tenure will be quite apparent to customers, with customers responding by hanging up and calling back to get a different agent. CSAT scores will also begin to suffer. Monitoring CSAT by tenure to recognize trends will help identify potential onboarding issues. 2. Agents do not appear ready to take calls when they get out of training. You can see the look on their faces as the calls start to come in. Are they panicked? Are they scrambling? Are they asking questions that were covered in their training? The unprepared agent will become increasingly frustrated causing performance and morale problems, not to mention the customer recognizing these frustrations.

4 RTM Consulting 4 3. Your confidence in your staffing levels never seems to reach a comfort zone. You may be overstaffed at times to compensate for agents not being ready, or you will be understaffed because you can t get agents out of the training period in a timely manner. It s vital for Service Desk leaders to monitor operational and metric trends to recognize these symptoms quickly. If customer satisfaction and employee satisfaction are affected by the onboarding, it s very hard to get your team back in balance for superior delivery! Building Agile Onboarding Capabilities Onboarding can be broken into process stages. RTM Consulting s Just-In-Time Resourcing (JITR) (See Graphic Below) provides an overall solution for support organizations to do a very effective job of aligning resource needs to demand. Figure 2 Just-in-Time Resourcing The JITR solution breaks down the stages for onboarding quite well. At a high level, the stages of the onboarding process are forecasting (see circle above) and interviewing, hiring and training (part of the Candidate Sourcing and Development circle above). Forecasting Forecasting is a critical element of the process as it defines your resource needs. There are multiple complexities that come into forecasting that need to be taken into consideration. The two main items that need to be considered are agent attrition and anticipated new business. Attrition will be an easier task to forecast. With attrition, ebbs and flows should be easy to quantify; normally it does not

5 RTM Consulting 5 fluctuate substantially. If you re turning over 10% of your people monthly, it s expected that the trend will continue with a small plus or minus factor. New business on the other hand requires more process discipline. You need to have a relationship and process with your development and product teams to get notification of change releases and new products, and a relationship and process with your sales team to recognize forecasting needs for new customers/projects which may increase your service volumes. Best practice includes the capture and reporting of forecast data, and a recurring interlock meeting with the cross-functional teams to develop and agree on a working forecast. Interviewing One quality that most successful managers have in common is their ability to interview. They know what they need and who fits their style of operation. Three interviewing steps practiced by successful leaders are: 1. Identify the cultural needs of the team and create a target hiring profile. Many organizations are different culturally - one agent may be a great fit at X company and not at Y. You have to hire people that fit your culture, if you don t, not only will that agent fail, but you will as well. Do you want someone very technical, regardless of the personality? Do you want someone with a great personality that you can teach the technical aspect of the job? Do you want a process oriented person that can follow the same process for each interaction? All these conversations and decisions need to happen prior to hiring anyone. Creation of a target profile is a good standard practice. 2. Disciplined interview preparation. A good interviewing process is just that a disciplined process. Lack of preparation has predictable results. When unprepared, you may find yourself reading the resume for the first time as the candidate is sitting across from you waiting for the next question in awkward silence. An example of a process for interviews might be as follows: Set up a half day process where they meet with HR at the start or end, have them interview with a peer, have them meet with you at the start or end; the key to success here is having a repeatable process for each candidate that works for your company. At the end of the interview assembly line, you will know if that candidate is a fit for you or not. Make the process efficient, predictable, and with an eye toward identifying agents aligned with your culture and positioned to succeed. 3. RTMC has a proven methodology called Warm Pool Recruiting. After deciding who you want and how many you want, Warm Pool Recruiting will help you speed the process of moving from a candidate list to a real hire in the shortest possible period of time. With this methodology (diagramed below), you will have a quality group of individuals at the ready to join your company fairly quickly. There are a few caveats to this process though: a. You have to recruit continuously, whether you require personnel or not.

6 RTM Consulting 6 b. You MUST maintain contact with your top recruits until a position is open. You would hate to lose them because you hadn t talked to them. There are a variety of ways to do this without too much effort. c. You have to remain organized in your approach by knowing who you want and clearly documenting your thoughts of each candidate. In some situations, it may be 60 days or later that you actually have a need for them. Develop forecast/capacity plan New sales, product, and attrition input to drive a forecast interlock Recruit from selected sources to build 'warm pool' candidate lists, then select from internal or warm pool list(s) On-boarding, training, team staffing and management Warm Pool Concept Continuous recruiting e.g. monthly Selected cities/sites Target profiles Promos/ ads /other to attract candidates Keep em warm till ready Figure 3 Warm Pool Recruiting Warm Pool Recruiting will help you in a couple of areas. You will be able to quickly bring candidates in without having to go through the entire interview process AND you will be confident in your talent acquisition efforts! Hiring Hiring is often a tedious process at many companies. There are normally many steps to go through after you ve identified your choice until they are actually on site to start. This is often a procedure in itself and usually best to treat it that way. Below is a list of activities which have proven successful in medium to large organizations.

7 RTM Consulting 7 1. Set a schedule for the hiring process and approvals. There should be a set day of the month to start and another one to end the process. Getting executive leadership time for approvals is often a challenge. Schedule a day to go through the forecast with the approving manager and obtain approval for all the openings you have that month. It s much easier to get approval for 20 people than it is to have 20 meetings to get approval for each individual. (This supports the importance of the forecast process!) 2. Monitor your failed hires. Are you consistently losing candidates due to some breakdown in pre-employment screening? You may be able to recognize a trend(s) to adjust your hiring profile, processes and levels. Like many management tasks, the hiring process is a repeatable process. Document the process and have your team follow it. Training Now that we ve made it to the training stage, the fun can begin! You ve recognized the need for new hires, located your resources, hired them and now they finally are ready to start. It s important to understand your environment and come up with a detailed training plan that will help each agent be successful when coming out of the new agent training. Some tips from the trenches for training success: 1. Bring your new people in on a recurring basis to attend training together. It s much easier for the agents to learn in a group situation where conversations are stimulated by discussion of early experiences. Many agents may not want to ask a lot of questions as they feel they were hired to do a job and asking questions may give the appearance that they are not prepared to do so. They will feel much more comfortable to get their ten questions answered and only have to ask one. 2. Ensure you have appropriate and productive training tools and methods. To avoid information overload, a best practice is to focus on fewer training hours and target the most practical aspects of the situations they will encounter. The remaining time should be spent teaching the agent HOW to find the answers they do not know. The old adage teach them to fish is a great moniker to use. Teach them how to find the information they need, and they will be more successful serving your customers. 3. Live calls, early and often! Get the new agents on the phones quickly, listening to an experienced agent. It is especially helpful doing this for a day before even taking them into a classroom. Let them see how seasoned analysts handle the customers and use the tools. Imagine getting trained on something you ve never seen or done before? It s very hard to ask the right questions to ensure that you re ready. At the very least, you watched someone taking calls and you can recognize some of the activities to ensure you re prepared. It is also

8 RTM Consulting 8 important for the agent to see what they re getting into. Is this really for them? Why wait two weeks to find out - let them see it immediately. 4. Test the results! At the end of the training time, test your agents for their readiness. Focus less on issue resolution, and more on their ability to talk to the customer and to find answers. New agent training is not an easy process. It takes discipline and time to refine a curriculum and schedule to ensure you re teaching the right thing at the right time. It s important to review this often, with the feedback of both seasoned agents and less experienced agents. Final Thoughts Onboarding is comprised of four repeatable processes: Forecasting, Interviewing, Hiring and Training. It s important to recognize each of these steps as a potential failure point. Because these are repeatable activities, create your processes like an assembly line. Develop proper governance and metrics for each step, and practice continuous improvement processes for making iterative and positive change to your results. You should also be able to establish how long it takes to get through all four of these processes. This data will be required for support of forecasting. Summary Effectively developing and delivering quality Support Services has become a critical component for success. Today s technology (e.g. hardware or software) companies are tasked with delivering increasingly complex and more advanced solutions to market, with greater support than ever before. A key driver of every successful Support Services operation is the ability to hire, onboard, and quickly make productive the people needed to deliver support services. Following the practices described in this paper should help your organization improve the onboarding process and make it a real competitive edge for your company! About RTM Consulting and the Author Cincinnati-based RTM Consulting provides strategic and operational advice to assist technology companies with increasing revenues and margins by leveraging services more effectively. Specializing in Resource Management and Services Business Optimization, RTM Consulting helps teams responsible for professional and consulting services, and support or shared services achieve the benefits associated with successful services portfolios. With its unique Just-in-Time Resourcing solution and Business Acceleration Services, RTM Consulting helps large, medium and small firms move beyond theory to practical application of industry best practices and achievement of exceptional results in the shortest possible period of time.

9 RTM Consulting 9 Randy Mysliviec leads RTM Consulting, providing high impact advisory services for technology companies service businesses. Acknowledged by industry sources as an expert in Global Resource Management (GRM) and author of the Just-in-Time Resourcing brand of solutions, Randy advises multinational companies with the complex challenge of operating services teams serving the global market. He is a founding member of the Technology Professional Services Association (TPSA now TSIA - the Technology Services Industry Association) and served as a member of the TPSA Advisory Board. Randy is also a contributing author for PSVillage All rights reserved.

10 RTM Consulting The Challenge Technology service providers and other human capital intensive service organizations including hardware, software and consulting companies, internal shared service organizations and outsourcing entities all know that efficient management of human capital, project processes, and other service delivery and go-to-market related processes are key to market success. Today s challenging business environment makes running a services business highly dependent upon having lean and proven business and operational processes designed for peak performance. The Solution Our unique combination of decades of services and outsourcing operational experience coupled with solutions targeted to the services organization allow us to work with large, medium and small firms to move beyond theory to practical application of industry best practices and achievement of exceptional results in the shortest possible period of time. Contact Us: (855.RTMC555) Who We Are RTM Consulting provides strategic and operational advisory services to technology companies and other industries to assist them in increasing revenues and growing margins by leveraging consulting, professional and support services more effectively. What We Do Strategic Planning Services - We use our extensive leadership experience to help services organizations build the right strategy and operational model to make value creation a reality. Resource Management - We help you focus on Getting the Right Person in the Right Place at the Right Time with our Just-in-Time Resourcing (JITR) solution. Project and Portfolio Management Our unique PMO/PM frameworks will help your organization efficiently run projects on-time, on-budget, with consistently excellent quality. Services Business Optimization - Our skilled practitioners help you identify and implement best practices necessary to transform your services business into the most efficient and effective operation possible. Skills Development/Training - We enhance the soft skills of your consulting and professional services personnel to complement your product, business and technical knowledge. We also offer training in project management, resource management and other services based disciplines. PSA/PPM Consulting - We provide an objective third party assessment and assistance in choosing the right automation solution for your needs and assist you with implementation to achieve the benefits of your investment. Outsourcing Advisory Services - We assist both providers and consumers of outsourcing services with Strategic Sourcing Consulting, Resource Management Strategies, Business Optimization, Skills Development and Training, and Resource Management/Project Management Automation. Value Realization Services - Our unique Value Realization Framework enables you to help your clients close the technology consumption gap by accelerating adoption of your products full range of features and functions. How We Do It Company Capabilities Overview Our mission is to help consulting, professional and support services organizations get better at what they do Our highly disciplined management consulting and operational services include: Rapid Diagnostics to identify opportunities to improve business performance. Implementation Services to make solution implementation fast and effective. Business Planning Services to turn your vision into a realistic operating plan. Business Acceleration Services to accelerate your time to value with RTMC solutions. Copyright All Rights Reserved.

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