By Susan Hash
If your contact center's absenteeism is out of control and you're looking for a
quick fix that will get your agents to show up for their shifts, then you're out
of luck. There is no magic pill that will cure the condition overnight. High absenteeism
generally is an indicator of a much larger problem that stems from disengaged agents,
low motivation and poor morale. If you don't identify and address the underlying
cause, then the health of your overall operation will continue to deteriorate.
Having an attendance policy that is fair and consistently applied is a good first
step to minimizing pain for your staff. But how do you begin to diagnose, treat
and prevent deeper problems? Making informed decisions starts with feedback from
Analyze the Workforce
Your staff's cultural diversity and their attitudes toward work offer critical clues
to the root causes of poor attendance. The way that people view time and work-life
balance is deeply rooted in their personal value systems, which are shaped by an
individual's religious beliefs, family, age, environment and education.
Conducting a workplace culture survey will help to identify the different groups
that are represented in your workforce, such as nationalities, age, gender and employment
status. For instance, your workplace may include single mothers who don't have as
much control over their attendance, or Gen Y workers who value flex time.
Practical Pointer: Rather than relying on negative sanctions, such as threatening
individuals with job loss because they are struggling to balance work and family
issues, consider using positive motivators. Make it possible for an individual to
be more productive by implementing a telecommuting program or offering flexible
Involve Agents in the
You can significantly reduce tardiness, absenteeism and employee dissatisfaction
by getting agents involved in developing new schedules, says Tiffany LaReau, a certified
workforce manager at Human Numbers.
LaReau recommends forming a schedule focus team—a diverse group that includes
a good representation of your center. Have the team brainstorm scheduling constraints
(e.g., service goals, operating hours, team sizes and required staff by intervals,
day of weeks, etc.), agent desires (e.g., daycare, school, traffic) and schedule
options (consecutive days on/ off, 4x10 vs. 5x8 shifts, rotating weeks, weekend
coverage, flexible or part-time shifts, etc.).
Practical Pointer: The schedule focus team should come up with a fair process
for matching shifts to employees. "Team members can also serve as the Schedule Champion
for their areas, a peer who agents can go to when they need to discuss schedule
issues," LaReau says.
In centers that suffer from high absenteeism, you typically will find disengaged
supervisors. Like agents, supervisors who are performing the same coaching tasks
day in and day out can get into a rut. Disengaged supervisors can quickly infect
a high-performing team by dispensing repetitive, mechanical feedback that makes
agents feel that their efforts are not valued. Using a standardized process that
requires supervisors to give feedback routinely often makes the situation worse.
Practical Pointer: Jay Blasing, managing partner for consulting firm BetterCore,
LLC, suggests that managers make coaching seem less like a monotonous task by giving
frontline supervisors a new goal to focus on each week. For instance, ask them to
find three examples of a great call one week, or focus on customers who call with
specific issues. "It gives supervisors targeted content to listen for, and they
become re-engaged with their agents," he says.
Use Daily Rewards to
Drive Desired Behavior
Incentives can be a valuable tool for reinforcing the right behaviors in your staff.
The key to using incentives properly is to ensure continuous positive reinforcement
and random intermittent reinforcement, says Snowfly Representative and Advisor Robert
Cowen. Rewarding appropriate behavior on an ongoing basis makes that behavior more
likely to occur in the future, and the randomness of the reward further reinforces
the achievement while injecting excitement into the accomplishment. Immediacy of
the reward is also key. The chance to win daily and weekly rewards has a stronger
impact than attendance programs that only pay out for quarterly or annual achievements.
Practical Pointer: Cowen advises breaking down long-term goals into smaller
components—or micro-goals—and reward them as they occur. For example,
"rather than an award for a monthly perfect attendance, offer rewards for daily
attendance and a bonus for five consecutive days of attendance," Cowen explains.
"Micro-goals fulfill the needs of Gen X and Y for constant feedback, as well as
prevent the erosion of hope (e.g., ‘why over-exert myself if I won't be rewarded'),
which is fatal to many incentive programs."
Create Status around
Programs that offer honor and prestige for top performance not only inspire employees
to reach for higher goals, they help to create a positive workplace environment
that attracts quality candidates.
At SWBC, a diversified financial services company headquartered in San Antonio,
schedule performance is one component of a robust recognition program called "Top
Performer," which carries a great deal of status within the company. Because of
the prestige that management has built around being a top performer, it's a designation
that agents active strive for. The company also has a separate recognition program
that rewards agents who achieve perfect attendance with an additional bonus. Importantly,
the frontline agents were the ones who defined the criteria for the program.
Practical Pointer: Getting agents involved in setting the goals for attendance
and removing the obstacles is an effective way to get their ongoing buy in.
Inside View: The Beryl Companies
Frontline staff are the heart and soul of any contact center. They hold the power
to make or break customer relationships, brand reputation and the bottom line. Yet,
in tough times, companies often forget about their most important asset and focus
on cost-cutting tactics, generally slashing headcount, training, benefits, incentives
and pay. The Beryl Companies has taken a different approach. The company's Circle
of Growth philosophy is simple: If you invest in your employees, they take care
of your customers and the organization thrives. It seems to work. The health care
call center services provider's unique corporate culture pays solid dividends—the
firm's ability to engage employees has made it four to six times more profitable
than its typical competitor.
Read the full story here. (PDF)