Contact center jobs can be very complex, repetitive, and thankless. Working in a contact center often means having a highly monitored, low control job that can quickly lead to burnout. Because of this, contact center attrition has long been an issue employers have tried to tackle.
In addition to constantly trying to compete for the best talent, employers must also try to retain top talent long enough to justify the cost of training. Various surveys indicate that, depending on job complexity, contact center employees must be retained and productive for anywhere from 3 to 8 months in order for the organization to reach the break-even point and recoup the costs of training.
How to Improve Employee Retention
There is no panacea or magic trick that will guarantee those who are hired will stick around and be excellent performers, but below I lay out some tips and best practices that should help you to get closer to that goal of improving employee retention. First, I will go over how to get the right people for the job and then, once you have them, how to keep them from longing for greener pastures.
How do we get the right employees?
How do you go about getting the right employees in the first place? A pre-hire assessment test battery will get you started in the right direction.
Pre-hire assessment battery: Perform a job analysis to determine what knowledge, skills, abilities, and other characteristics need to be present for an employee to perform optimally on the job. Then identify the pre-hire assessments that can best identify these attributes. These may include problem-solving or cognitive ability assessments, personality assessments, simulations, and structured interviews. From there, the assessment battery must be validated through traditional criterion-related validation, validity transportability, or content validation.
Ok, we have them, how do we keep them?
Now that you have some tips on how to get the best talent through the door and sticking around through onboarding, what are some ways to ensure they stick around?
Make a great first impression
In a previous blog, Steps to Take Before Your New Employees Arrive, the author highlights four key tips for creating a great first impression on a new employees’ first day. Remember, now that you have set up an effective pre-hire assessment battery, don’t start your celebration dance on the 10 yard line. We’re familiar with how that ends. So once you have a valid assessment procedure implemented, use the following tips to start the relationship with your new employees in the best way possible.
- Set the agenda for the first week - sends the message that you are invested in making their first week meaningful
- Tell them what to bring – new employees crave direction, so be as specific as you can; don’t forget to mention the dress code, and be very specific about where they should be and at what time throughout every day
- Gather your resources – make sure everyone who needs to be part of the onboarding process knows what is expected
- Set up workspaces – in addition to sending a warm and welcoming message, this allows new hires to immediately start working after the onboarding process
Discretionary work and low monitoring: A recent global study showed that contact centers with high quality jobs that offer employees discretion in how to conduct the work and low employee monitoring typically experienced 9% turnover across all of the countries in the study vs. 36% turnover for those workers in jobs with low discretion and high monitoring. Often contact centers will make a job highly structured trying to get the most out of their workers and end up driving off their best and brightest talent instead of letting the top talent feed their performance enhancing ideas back to the other workers.
Teamwork: One study2 found that employers who offer employees a chance to join a problem-solving group, where employees meet offline on a regular basis, had 50% fewer workers quit –provided at least 30% of the employees participated in the program. Using self-directed work groups who are given the resources to solve daily problems as they come up had similar successful results. In addition to a reduction in boredom, group work allows for the opportunity to learn new strategies for high performance and for solving common work problems. By participating in these groups, the employee likely has a higher sense of engagement and organizational commitment.
Incentives: The types of incentives can run the gamut, but specifically giving workers the opportunity for full-time work instead of part-time work, promotional job ladders, and pay-for performance are good incentives to implement. Additional training to enhance current skills or acquire new ones also serve as a reason for an employee to stay with the company and indicate company investment in the employee. If workers do not see the opportunity for full-time work or have an ability to advance, then they are more likely to walk away in search of a better opportunity.
These four factors appear to point to involvement playing a key role in the rate of attrition in a contact center. Attrition appears to be lower in contact centers with high skill requirements, autonomy, a chance to work collaboratively, and an incentive structure designed to enhance motivation and commitment to the job3 One study found 45% annual attrition in contact centers that took more of a production line approach, compared with only 25% in high-involvement centers. Even after controlling for all labor and operational costs, contact centers that adhered to the high-involvement system with their employees experienced higher net revenues.2
So, in summary, set the foundation for hiring quality employees with a pre-hire assessment battery and follow up by making a great impression once they arrive. After successfully onboarding the new employees into your contact center, get them involved with other workers and give them the ability to shape their work performance and enhance their skills instead of scripting their work and then heavily monitoring them.