“I am convinced that nothing we do is more important than hiring and developing people. At the end of the day you bet on people, not on strategies.”
– Lawrence Bossidy, Former COO of GE
During my 25 years in the contact center industry, nothing has kept me awake more at night as much as worrying about recruiting and attrition in my contact center. It’s hard enough battling the “entry level syndrome” of the job, but with also having to balance the need to recruit for growth and turnover; you have the recipe for a continuous nightmare!
Many articles, books, blogs, whitepapers, best practices, etc. have been written about the latest and greatest trends, techniques, and technologies that will assist you with improving your contact center recruiting and attrition. Predictive analytics, job simulations, and custom assessments are all highly beneficial in supporting your efforts, but the reality is that even all the bells and whistles don’t completely tackle the root of the problem.
For me, there are 5 key contact center management rules that I have followed over the years that have consistently proven in assisting me to better understand how to successfully recruit and retain employees in the toughest markets and situations; whether there have been 50, 500, 1000, or 5000 seat contact centers.
Rule #1: Mercedes or a Yugo. If your contact center is seen as an employer of choice in the job market (compensation, reputation, management, job type, growth opportunities, etc.), you will naturally have a distinct advantage over your competitors; especially in high number of contact center markets such as Arizona, Florida, Texas, etc. Your first goal is to determine where you fall in the market. The key is setting the realistic expectation of where you measure up versus your competitors, and then determining the factors that you can change and/or improve on. Whatever the outcome; you will have to accept the reality; is your contact center seen as a Mercedes or a Yugo?
Rule #2: The 99.999%. Understand, even before you start, that in 99.999% of all cases, you are hiring for a position that is the entry way into your organization. THERE WILL BE ATTRITION! See Rule #1 again. Bottom-line, there is no technology, assessment, and/or magic genie that will suddenly appear and help improve your recruiting and retention if you fall below the Mendoza line of Rule #1. It’s a simple fact. In my career I have consulted with over 150 companies and managed contact centers for Home Depot, Caterpillar Financial, and Progressive Insurance and this rule has never changed!
Rule #3: Don’t be Pinocchio. Want to fail before you start? It’s simple, paint a different picture of the position and your contact center to the applicant during the recruiting process. I understand you need the candidates to fill the positions and sometimes; especially when the needs are great, you will want to try anything to get them in the door! Trying to evade the known issues and having to deal with the issues after they are hired will only cause you more problems later. True statement; in almost every case where I’ve been asked to evaluate post-hire turnover (<30 days), the majority of new hires that left the organization gave the reason that “the expectations of the job” weren’t clearly defined during the recruiting process. I would much rather have to interview more candidates to get to the prescribed number of hires, than be a Pinocchio.
Rule #4: The Revolving Door. Okay, your recruits have been hired, trained and now they have hit the contact center floor! The first 90 days of employment are the most crucial to success. More attrition happens during this period than at any other time. So, what’s the main reason for this? It’s the failure of the organization to properly transition the employees into their role. It can be quite an overwhelming experience to go from training to the contact center floor; especially in a large facility. Having no pre-determined “nesting” period, assigned mentor, or other management in place to help ensure success will create the “Revolving Door” mentality within your operation.
Rule #5: Did you Listen what I Said? The late Stephen Covey had a great quote that I’ve always lived by during my career; especially when managing people; “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” There is no truer failure of contact center management than to not listen to what your people are saying. Not listening and understanding the needs of your contact center organization will quickly lead to an unmotivated workforce. Failure of management is the main reason for turnover. Truly listening to what you hear shows an engaged and involved management team.
As long as there are contact centers, the discussions on recruiting and attrition will never go away. I, along with many of my colleagues in the industry, have battled this issue for years and will continue to do so. If this problem is solved, we will have discovered the “Lost Ark of the Contact Center Covenant!” All journey’s and discoveries are adventures. My intent for this blog was to not necessarily provide all the answers, because there aren’t any. I wanted to at least get you thinking about your own contact center and where you could positively impact change by taking some of the strategies I discussed to assist with your own recruiting and attrition challenges.