7 Tips for Staying Connected with a Distributed Workforce
by Susan Hash
The last few years have brought about a few considerable changes in the way contact centers manage their employees. One of the most significant is the growing proportion of distributed agents—whether they work from home, in other office locations or in satellite centers.

Those who manage distributed staff have found that communication can be a challenge: Without regular face-to-face contact, it’s often difficult for managers to ensure that they’re being effective at communicating with offsite agents, engaging their staff, managing agents’ performance and development, and developing a cohesive team-based culture. The following seven tips can help you to stay connected with your distributed agents.

Take a holistic approach to communication.
Don’t rely too heavily on email or other electronic communication tools. Make sure that you take a holistic approach to communication that includes face-to-face contact, such as regularly scheduled companywide meetings, team meetings and training sessions, as well as regular phone calls with managers and senior managers.

Make praise personal.
Excellent performance deserves a personal communication. When agents hit their performance goals, frontline managers and the senior management team should reach out to them with a phone call whenever possible. Instant messaging or click-to-chat type applications can offer an occasional alternative to ensure that the agents receive real-time accolades for a job well done.

Ensure that written procedures and processes are easily accessible.
Don’t leave it up to your agents to find information and answers about processes and procedures on their own. Invest in an internal intranet for your policies, procedures, forms and information. Having Wikipedia- or Google-style searching across a knowledgebase will help agents to easily and quickly access information.

Promote sharing and conversation on internal wikis.
Many companies are setting up internal wikis to communicate project updates and promote brainstorming with remote staff. Wikis are particularly useful in a support team environment because people can post comments and respond to comments by their coworkers, and it creates a record of the conversation.

Provide an internal social networking site.
While a wiki is a great productivity tool, how can you promote more personal, relationship-building conversation among your distributed staff? Some companies are offering internal social networking sites that encourage collaboration among employees, as well as a place to post the type of non-work-related information that fosters interpersonal relationships in a traditional workplace, such as classified ads, lunch menus, new baby announcements, rewards and recognition.

Hold a (virtual) brown bag lunch.
Employees who work together in one location have many opportunities to build close relationships with other members of their team on a daily basis. One of the best ways to carve some time out of the workday to spend with staff and coworkers is to have lunch together—a worksite tradition that remote workers can’t participate in, or can they? Virtual brown bag lunches (via conference bridges) can be a highly effective technique for creating a team environment across sites.

Start a team blog to keep people in the loop.
Internal blogs are a great way to share company information, photos and personal experiences, while keeping distributed staff updated on important events.

Inside View — TravCorp USA
by Susan Hash
Tour operator TravCorp USA has honed its hiring approach into a rigorous four- to six-hour process that requires candidates to pass seven stages. To staff up for the peak travel booking season—January through April, during which time call volume typically doubles—the center adds some 40 agents to its existing staff of 80 FTEs. For candidates, the hiring process ends when they are offered the job. For the management team, the process enters another phase: post-hiring analysis, which lasts from April through June. Managers get together regularly to review their attrition rates, analyze their successes and failures for the previous hiring round, and discuss how to improve their success rate.
Read the full story here.


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