5 reasons why employee engagement is no game.

If you read a lot of industry news and commentary, you’ll notice that gamification is often promoted for its employee engagement benefits, particularly in a contact centre setting. We thought we’d take a look at various reasons why employee engagement is a much more complex area.

There are a multitude of reasons why contact centre agents might be disengaged and why agents in particular, deserve a little more than point & click activities in order to feel valued and thus, engaged. 

  1. Leadership that’s lacking

From speaking to our clients, across many sectors and at various levels in the organisation, team leaders play an integral role in the day to day effectiveness of the contact centre.

Broadly speaking, it’s commonplace to divide a large workforce into teams with team leaders typically taking responsibility for between 8-12 agents. It’s also quite common to find that team leaders have been promoted from within; formerly working as an agent themselves and displaying strong performance resulting in promotion. But, just as the leaders at the top of an organisation, set the tone and direction, so do team leaders in respect of agents’ day to day job satisfaction and achievement. So it’s vital to ensure the transition in the step-up is supported by developing leadership skills and not just in recognition of their having been ‘good on the phones’. In fact, it’s one of the hardest job transitions; to learn how to manage a team you were previously a part of.

With training budgets often slashed during difficult times and leadership training almost going out of fashion, it’s a good time to analyse the leadership qualities you need in your team leaders. In providing this support, you’ll be strengthening the entire team’s capacity to work through change, handle peaks, or self-manage by virtue of their team leader’s new found skills. Removing those stressors brings untold benefits to everyone’s job satisfaction.

  1. Bad working environments

I’ve visited and worked in many call centres over the years and am always amazed when no one else makes the connection between the environment and the performance. Stained carpets, smelly break out areas, broken chairs, stained chairs (eeuugh), poor ventilation, bad lighting, cramped work stations, noise, ghastly toilets and so on…. you’d sometimes think you’ve walked in to student digs. And then we wonder why staff have little respect for the job and even less commitment to it as a place where they want to develop and remain?

These things matter.

A contact centre that gets this right with a smart environment attracts smart people and the results show in a happy workforce and bottom line success. This is not just an exercise in veneer, where only the bits the client gets to see are polished; this has to run right through the organisation. And it’s a worthwhile investment.

  1. Limited opportunities for career progression

Let’s assume the other hygiene factors are fixed and you have agents with a real desire to stay and grow with the company. Various research pieces will tell you that job satisfaction and long service is rarely just about pay; rather it’s a combination of factors and the knowledge that there is a future for the individual. If we are to change the mind-set that contact centre jobs are merely a stepping stone before getting a ‘proper’ job, then the issue of progression is paramount.

This is not so easy.

The hierarchy of the call centre dictates that there are only so many linear progressions available – we can’t create an endless pool of team leader vacancies. So for those agents looking to develop, there needs to be a path for progression within the job itself.

Take a look at the skills any employee needs to get on in business, and in life. If your in-house training team lacks the expertise, look to your local colleges where grants are often available to support local businesses, or bring the skills in from another independent resource. Career progression is not just about promotion or simply improving the skill level required for the current job, it can add to your overall business success if you take a holistic view of where the company needs to be and what that talent needs to look like.

  1. Lack of communication

EVERY business needs to get this right but none more so than those who rely on a team of agents to speak for their organisation day in day out. ‘Smile when you dial’ is condescending to say the least if your agents are fed-up, frustrated and feeling ignored.

This is also one area where, for significant news, strategic direction, change management etc. electronic forms of communication are rarely satisfactory.

Intra-departmental communications are vital for building understanding, creating collaboration and exploring all the options. Time and again we see the Marketing department for example, removed from the operation (often in another building, another town) and yet setting an expectation for the service teams to deliver their ‘vision’. Think carefully about how you structure the physical layout of your organisation, which functions need to be ‘on the same page’ and how best to create those working relationships. Yes we live in a connected world and remote working is a reality but if the physical constraints compound the communication breakdown, it’s time to look at how the disconnect is impacting morale and ultimately the quality of delivery.

  1. What if no one wants to play?

People are motivated by different factors; recognition, pride in their quality of work, a happy team atmosphere…competing in a game like scenario doesn’t float everyone’s boat.

It’s not that all software or game-like solutions are bad. Simple, snappy, hip solutions for engagement & recognition have their place. But they should only be considered part of the input; if the groundwork of old-fashioned people management hasn’t been done, you’ll be creating further alienation in assuming that a plug-in will fix your issues.

Employee engagement is about meeting our basic human needs, and whilst it’s the current mot du jour, just remember, it ain’t nothing new.

Beverley Hughes
Chief Operating Officer, Ultracomms

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