Staff retention and absenteeism are two of the biggest issues that all callcentres face, whether they’re telemarketing or customer service floors. Whatever callcentre you run, you’ve probably discovered that it’s a tough job to not only recruit, but retain and build your centre team.
Thankfully, many people have been through this, leading to some great ideas and tips that’ll help you get the team you require! Here are some top tips from our boffins at Blue Telecoms, discovered over our shared history of working with telesales and customer service centres large and small.
First of all, a quick tick list to work through
- Check your current employee policies – Sometimes, policies can left for years at a time without being adequately trained on or updated. Now is the perfect time for a spring clean of your staff handbook, ensuring that every member of staff is on the same page.
- Learn from your managers/supervisors – As the “front line” staff dealing with agent issues on a daily basis, there really is nobody better to ask how your current policies work and where things could be improved.
- Provide support where needed – It’s important that your supervisory and management staff know exactly where to signpost agents when they have a query/issue.
- Good reporting – It’s vital to introduce clear reporting for human resourcing and team leaders. Typical reports like absence levels, emergency leave, maternity etc etc all help to build a good view of what’s happening.
- Look back on “back to work reviews” – Often, you can discover common themes that occur time and again – leading to changes in policy that may help agents attend work more often.
Special events might cause a spike in absenteeism
Always ensure that your contact centre team is aware of any large events that may cause a spike in absenteeism. Depending on the average age/demographic of your centre, this can include sports events, festivals or Bank Holidays.
Many years ago, one member of our team received an email from the director of human resources whilst working in a previous role:
“I know a lot of you are going to the festival and I hope you have a really good time and get home safely. The holiday allocation for Monday is now full.
I just want to let you know that anyone who calls in sick on Monday will be doing their return to work with me when they get back.”
A slightly frightening way of dealing with the issue; however, it did yield results!
Manage holidays in terms of hours, rather than complete days
By managing your staff holidays and absence in terms of hours, you can provide a more granular approach to allowing time off whilst managing the business needs. The easiest way to see this in action, is to think about times that staff take a morning/afternoon off – especially true of things like medical appointments or childcare.
The benefit of this, is that you may be able to atleast partially approve days off for your staff – even if a full day is stretching agent availability.
By doing this, you can help your agents book the time that they genuinely need, whilst minimising the holidays available at later times of the year – a win win for everyone!
Split the contact centre into smaller teams
By splitting your callcentre into smaller groups, you can help foster a sense of team spirit amongst your agents. You may also find that this reduces absenteeism due to the fact that your staff feel more sense of a duty to turn up and help their colleagues/friends.
You don’t have to split your agents by department either, by simply having Team A, Team B and Team C in your centre all carrying out the same role – you can achieve the same effect.
Often, staff members take time off purely down to the pressures of their role. This then increases the workload on the remaining team members, leading to further absenteeism – it’s a vicious and compounding cycle to get into.
The best way to combat this, is to literally ask your agents during any survey or meeting “what’s the part of your role that causes the most stress”. The answers you get may surprise you, leading to changes in policy that will have a huge long term effect on your staff retention, productivity and wellbeing.
There’s an old adage in human resourcing that says “employees leave poor managers, not jobs”. With this in mind, it’s always worth cross referencing high levels of stress with particular managers. No callcentre owner willingly promotes bad managers into senior roles; however, sometimes a star agent isn’t always suitable for a promotion where leadership and charisma may be required.
For many callcentres, your best staff aren’t young people just starting out in their careers, but slightly older ones who are now starting families. It’s for this reason, that our next suggestion is a really good one! If a child falls ill, or childcare arrangements break down – there’s often little a parent can do other than call in sick. There’s also the issue that childcare can become a huge percentage of the household budget if both parents work.
To help alleviate this issue, callcentres can offer childcare vouchers that can help pay for the care their child needs.
Leadership and ownership
There’s nothing worse for a callcentre agent, than the feeling that they’re “all alone” on the centre floor. Quickly, they’ll feel overworked, overstressed and eventually become disengaged with their role. From here, absenteeism and retention become use issues.
A quick way to combat this, is to utilise your best performers as coaches for your staff. They can help with common issues and provide support when agents have to tackle difficult work. This offers another positive impact too, as your team leaders and managers become more free to think about overall ways to improve moral and support.
For staff members who are habitually late and/or absent, it’s important to document everything properly. Far too many callcentres offer “perks” to agents who might be highly liked by team leaders/supervisors – so it’s vital to ensure that the same rules on absenteeism apply to every team member.
By creating a solid documentation program, you’ll ensure that every agent is treated in the same fair way.
Tie incentives to attendance
By looking to add an attendance part to your achievement bonuses, you can offer perks for team members who routinely come to work on time every day. This can have two positive outcomes:
- Team members who are frequently late/absent may decide to make the effort to attend properly.
- Those who do attend, will feel rightly rewarded for being conscious employees.
Try not to create too strict an attendance policy
There’s a huge difference between gently improving absenteeism rates and clamping down too hard. In practice, the later may actually have the effect of increasing staff turnover, as potentially great hires decide that they just can’t/don’t want to meet your high standards of attendance.
To help with this, offer some room to cope with unintended absences. It’s also a great idea not to deploy the full force of your policy for staff members who make the occasional mistake, or have a genuine emergency situation. Offering shift swaps and being lenient in cases of extreme weather will also help avoid bringing stress on team members who generally turn up on time, every day.
Hire the correct staff first time
Hiring the wrong staff can cause all types of problems within your callcentre, including retention and absenteeism. To help with this, you can use pre-employment screening and good recruitment practice to help onboard the right staff for the role you need to fill. We’ve seen and heard horror stories of male owned callcentres that only hire attractive young ladies, whilst others tend to attract extremely poor quality employees overall – leading to a centre that has no diversity and a pack mentality that causes all kinds of human resource issues!
We suggest trying to hire agents from all walks of life, young and old. You’ll find that younger members of staff will look up to older ones, and that some demographics will “behave themselves” when in the company of another – it’s a great way to create a happy and harmonious callcentre floor!
To get started with employee screening is easy and there are plenty of free/paid questionnaires and tests that you can deploy straight away.