Managing people of any age brings with it many challenges. If you started in entry level in your call centre then there’s a good chance your colleagues and peers were right around your age, but as staff turned over and you made your way into management, the average agent age demographic may have remained the same. Here are 9 top tips to help you manage a young workforce.
1. Leaving the school uniform behind
You have to remember that you’ve been out in the big bad world for quite a while now and have picked up a great deal of experience, but your staff haven’t. They are new to the workforce and have been operating for the majority of their lives in an education system. Be aware of traits that are learned in education that you can either leverage or get rid of in developing your call centre’s culture.
A young team can be taught anything. They haven’t been in the game long enough to have developed any bad habits that can’t be broken. You should act as a guiding force in the early stage of their career. Well-being and mindfulness spring to mind as a trend that has been around for a while now but it really has been working well in the industry. Teach your agents that they are in the right place. Their actions and performance will reciprocate.
3. Actions don’t always speak louder than words
Sticks and stones may break their bones but words will crush their spirit. Let’s face it, some staff are disinterested even if you have addressed the issue and done all you can to bring them back to life. It’s the team members that have shown a good deal of interest and potential from day 1 that you really need to be careful with when it comes to their feelings. They aspire to perform for you and move up the career ladder, you are where they want to be and for this they look up to you. If you have good feedback to give to them, do it right away. If you have some less than phenomenal news, then communicate it sensitively and sign off on a positive note.
4. Involve them
Give your younger members an opportunity to get involved. The automatic reaction may be to hesitate, like putting up your hand in school first was the “uncool” thing to do, but press the issue, offer the chance to get involved in things like chairing a meeting or taking its minutes or even ordering stock for the floor. The first few who come forward generally end up being team leaders and managers in future due to their willingness to come forward when needed. Use this method to single out top performers from the rest.
5. Handle mistakes well
Young or old, it doesn’t matter, mistakes are going to happen. That’s the bottom line. However, the reaction of a new and nervous intern can be a whole lot different from that of a tried and tested, experienced agent. How you handle these mistakes with your staff member is what really counts. Prevention is the best cure, but aside from that, it really needs to be stressed in detail to the agent exactly what went wrong, how it went wrong, why it went wrong, how to fix the issue, how to prevent the same mistake happening again, and finally that mistakes do happen, they are not the first and they won’t be the last to make them.
6. One-to-one nurturing
Giving young staff a “safe zone” in which they can express themselves to you is key when it comes to building a well-managed team. We all aim to do one-to-ones as much as we can, but sometimes it’s not possible. Prioritise meeting your newer and younger staff members, especially inside their probation period or early employment. Explain that these meetings are where they can bring real issues and concerns and comment freely.
7. Shape them – run a tight ship for their sake
There are certain skills that are picked on the job that don’t just serve you at work. Punctuality being one. It’s not a job skill, it’s a life skill. It may not be in your contract, but as a manager of a very young team, whether you like it or not, you share in the outcome of each of their lives and careers. Move something they enjoy to 9am and they will be more likely to get in on time. Shape them into knowing that the early bird catches the worm. They’ll carry it with them into the future. This creates a sense of consequence.
8. Award them
Affirmation early on is good all round. Awarding your team members does a few different things. It satisfies the award winners’ need for justification of the effort they put in, it motivates other team members to achieve their targets and perform at a higher standard, and finally, it serves the call centre as a collective effort to perform better brings in better results.
9. Set them free
Is the job you had straight out of school or college your current profession? Or are you even still in the same company? Statistically speaking, probably not. So with that in mind, we need to realise that our best and brightest young stars are going to leave us one day. Progression has been on their mind from day one and they’ve been able to achieve it not only because of themselves but because of their experience with you. Always let them leave on a positive note. They may just refer great staff back to you in future.
With thanks to Ronan McDonnell, founder of www.careerwhip.com. He also has blogs on two other niche websites.