29 Strategies to Tackle Agent Absence and Attrition


Our readers share their tips on keeping agents healthy, motivated, and happy at work.

1. Show agents their future with you

We have a big variety of roles, and this presents a clear career path that motivates agents. The challenge is to be creative with roles and to communicate with staff directly.

With thanks to Giota

2. Give staff notice of their shifts

Our scheduling goes out to staff 3 to 6 weeks in advance. The agents can trade shifts with anyone in their team.

With thanks to Nicola

3. Mix up agent duties

Agents need variety! A lot of people can get bored being on the phones or social media all day. We try to get staff involved in other things going on in the business so they feel valued, get to voice their opinions, and see their suggestions come to life.

With thanks to Emma

4. Educate managers on mental health issues

We’ve started providing training to managers around mental health so they have more effective conversations with agents who might be suffering from stress, depression or anxiety. They’re not therapists but they provide a practical support network, and signpost the employee assistance programme or private medical plan if appropriate.

With thanks to Katie

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5. Consolidate learning

After one month on the phones, a class reunion is scheduled for our new hires with key members of our leadership team, including HR.

We gather feedback on their experience, including recruiting, training, and integration to the phones. Many processes have been improved over time with feedback from our class reunions.

With thanks to Vikram

6. Give new starters the broad view

We get new starters to sit with various departments and in different areas of the contact centre to understand how they would link into their role.

With thanks to Emma

7. Spend time on training

We have a 6-week classroom-based training programme for process and system. We have a buddy system for 2-3 weeks and a floor walker before the new agent goes live. We then have ongoing monitoring and coaching.

With thanks to Nicola

8. Make feedback a two-way street

Continuous feedback really helps retention – people feel their opinions matter, and it also helps them to raise any development or training needs. Also, annual appraisals are a thing of the past; regular 1-2-1 sessions are a much better way of managing staff and agreeing development plans.

With thanks to Sean

9. Gamify your targets

We have a contest separate from the monthly bonus where agents score marks. They get a quarterly incentive where good attendance carries some marks as well as other factors like first contact resolution (FCR) and customer satisfaction (CSAT).

With thanks to Vikram

10. Encourage a social environment

A key factor in people staying in a job is whether they have a best friend at work. The more friends they have at work, the less likely they are to leave.

With thanks to Jonty

11. Lead by example

If your staff see you ‘just doing your job’ and not getting involved or understanding the pressures they have, they are going to be demotivated and disengaged.

With thanks to Emma

Good leaders generate staff that want to perform and feel bad if they don’t. This includes absenteeism. Also, if you tie their development goals to an attendance target, this can help motivate.

With thanks to Glendon

12. Be thoughtful around the holidays

We ensure that every agent is allocated at least one day off of their choice over the Christmas period, so long as they have the holiday available. This always goes down positively.

With thanks to Grace

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We give people the option to request to work over Christmas or New Year. As the rest of the company have Christmas off and we have to come in, we get concessionary days to take off at another time.

This always seems to work well as people usually have a preference and we can normally accommodate them with no problems.

With thanks to Emma

13. Exit interviews are key

If you’re not doing exit interviews, do them – they provide some of the most honest feedback you’ll receive as an organisation, which can be incorporated into your retention strategy.

With thanks to Sean

14. Support staff progression

We have aspiring manager programmes which encourage talented individuals to consider sideways career moves and not just look to climb the management pole!

With thanks to Katie

15. Encourage agents to cooperate

We make the team members talk to each other, and decide who wants to take X quota of their leave in a week. The team leaders ensure that they keep 2 or 3 days leave separate from this quota for emergencies.

With thanks to Vikram

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16. Support team bonding

Having a proper lunch break is important. If you allow a whole team to go off for lunch together this can increase cohesiveness and reduce stress. You need to have enough teams to cover.

With thanks to Jonty

17. Create a safety net for staff

We have a well-being committee and occupational health team who deal with various issues such as mental health and stress awareness.

This is a personal meeting between a counsellor and an agent.

With thanks to Nicola

18. Use creative recognition schemes

Loyalty bonuses work, but an experience-based banding structure (such as the NHS has) is more effective motivator and doesn’t seem as much like bribing people to stay.

With thanks to Sean

19. Target your attendance trouble spots

We have themed Fridays and a budget for incentives like food and drink. This has reduced absence on a Friday by 30%.

With thanks to Sean

20. Make work fun

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We do a lot of activity days – dress-downs, charity days, supporting saints’ days, quizzes, etc. – anything to encourage the staff to have fun and keep their stress levels down so they enjoy coming to work.

With thanks to Emma

21. Help staff understand the office structure

A transparent organogram (a chart of the company structure) helps promote the culture of internal progression. I’ve made everyone’s job descriptions and training plans accessible so anyone can see what competencies they need to progress towards their ideal career. As such they can take more ownership in organising training.

With thanks to Sean

22. Don’t incentivise damaging behaviours

It’s important not to treat people negatively for genuine sickness. You don’t want to drive sick people into work to spread germs.

With thanks to Glendon

23. Address absence quickly

I find return-to-work interviews after any period of absence are an effective way of helping to reduce someone’s absence levels in the future. I put a lot of emphasis on making the person feel missed when they are not here.

With thanks to Adam

24. Recognise the causes of low morale

I think punitive measures or linking absenteeism to scorecards are what turn people off. If you treat them like adults and create a sense of community, people want to be in work and won’t use a sick day to fuel their low motivation.

If you have high absence you’ll generally find there are factors in your environment feeding this. Most high absence rates can be addressed if you look inward.

With thanks to Andy

25. Reward high performance and attendance

We have a monthly incentive; to be in the running to get it you need 92% attendance. Sick leave supported by a doctor’s certificate is not counted as absence. This is to target agents clocking in late or not showing up for their shifts.

With thanks to Mea

26. Teach agents the impact of absence

Our agents go through a WFM session once every 3 or 4 months.

They’re educated in the importance of being available, the role agents play in supporting WFM and running the entire centre.

This really helps in controlling not just attendance but adherence too.

With thanks to Vikram

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27. Try to pre-empt staff stressors

Support manager capability so they can understand and identify early signs of stress and offer proactive support. This could help prevent absences in the first place.

With thanks to Katie

28. Make morale someone’s job

We have a designated team within the team called the Blues Busters. We use these guys to boost morale within the office. We also operate a scorecard and there is a personal aspect to this, i.e. if you have no absence you get a bonus.

With thanks to Nicola

29. Employ clear protocols

We accept only direct phone calls to report illness, and not SMS or email.

With thanks to Giota

Read our article on the Top 20 Ways to Reduce Attrition in Your Contact Centre

What have you tried to reduce absence and attrition in your contact centre?

Published On: 16th Mar 2016 - Last modified: 13th Oct 2017
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