Three Guidelines to Enhance Performance Management
By Rebecca Gibson
In too many contact centers, performance management is a checklist activity that managers and agents don't spend much time thinking about, except when goals or evaluations are due. The pitfalls associated with performance management programs can be traced to not spending enough time on the process. Managers who follow these three guidelines will vastly improve the quality of their performance management process:

1. The process should be collaborative.
Some managers and agents interpret the performance management process as one in which managers set expectations and evaluate the agents against those expectations. This approach casts the agent in the role of passive observer rather than active participant. Involving frontline employees in goal setting, monitoring and tracking, and evaluation eases the manager workload, encourages ownership and increases the likelihood that your agents will find the performance management program relevant and valuable.

2. The process should be fair.
It's no surprise that many employees don't feel the performance management process is fair. Some of this can be remedied through collaboration and involvement, as well as ongoing communication throughout the year. There are also several steps that you can take to ensure the fairness and validity of your performance management process. HR departments or department heads should consider analyzing manager scores across teams to verify that managers aren't unjustly rating their teams higher than others. Ask for employees' opinions about the performance management process in employee evaluations. Have HR review a sample of goals and evaluations each year and make the quality of goal setting and annual evaluations part of every manager's scorecard.

3. The process should be meaningful.
Frontline staff and managers need the time—mental time and clock time—to reflect on what they want and how they feel, as much as the realities of meeting milestones and deadlines. Agents should feel that their manager values them enough to take the time to set individual goals (not just cookie-cutter ones), observe daily performance and achievements, and write reflective, meaningful evaluations that seamlessly integrate employee goals, performance, dreams and aspirations.

Your performance management process can be meaningful and relevant. It can bring out the best in your agents and demonstrate your commitment to the company's success and your staff's professional growth. Don't miss out on the opportunity to implement a performance management process that improves the future prospects of the company, your center, your agents and you.

SNAPSHOT: Hartford Life

At Hartford Life, a subsidiary of The Hartford Financial Services Group, customer experience management is "a closed loop" strategy in which customer interactions are regularly measured and feedback is provided to the frontline employees. While managers track traditional productivity metrics—such as average speed of answer, service levels and handle times—to ensure that calls are being answered efficiently, they also routinely review after-call surveys, customer loyalty and customer retention data. First-contact resolution, considered to be a critical measure of the customer experience, is tracked at the rep level to create an awareness among frontline staff of how to handle calls in a manner that doesn't drive a subsequent contact. To close the loop, the contact center's productivity metrics and customer data is integrated into a collaborative coaching process that focuses on "employee self-discovery"—each agent gets to see how well they scored against their peers on various performance criteria, and then they have a conversation with their frontline manager on what they can do to improve. Read the full story here.


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