Hot tips to improve staff retention

tug of war

This week we look at two call centres who have got a handle on staff retention.  Both Granby Marketing and SHL Group have managed to reduce their staff churn to less than one person per year. We asked these two call centres what their secrets are…The very nature of contact centre work and the projects that they undertake has resulted in the industry being given the often undeserved reputation of having a very poor staff retention rate.
This may be the case with some larger contact centres, but see a number of smaller call centres bucking this trend.

Take pride in your work
The first thing to remember when improving staff retention is that it can often be attributed to staff taking great pride in their work. When staff take pride in their work, they care much more about their output and do a better job as a result.

Create a community
Involving your staff in all aspects of the business creates more of a family community.  For example, if you are thinking of implementing a new initiative then you should always involve staff during the consultation period. This is incredibly important as staff in large contact centres do not always ever have the opportunity to do this, and therefore often feel as if their contributions and opinions do not matter.

Contact centre employees are commonly seen as an expendable, and ever-expandable workforce that doesn’t seek promotion.

Watch the management speak
It is important that a workplace doesn’t thrive on managerial buzzwords, motivational clichés and unrealistic targets.

The Bradford Factor
We use a technique called the Bradford Factor to monitor the progress of our staff.  It is a monitoring tool we find to be extremely effective, and it is becoming a common measure in call centres.  It enables us to distinguish between agents showing positive and negative progress.  So, for example we can ensure that we don’t penalise staff that are away for justifiable reasons, such as a long-term illness, but can identify constant lateness and absence for no reason.  It allows us to spot any potential problems at their earliest stages, meaning that we can iron them out and resolve them with the employee as quickly as possible, making sure that both parties are content and comfortable in their working environment.   We actually are using the Bradford Factor more and more to monitor positive progress rather than negative in order to help staff develop in their career, which ultimately is what staff retention is all about.
The bottom line is that people should want to work in call centres because of the career opportunities offered to them, not because they want a quick route to casual employment. We believe that the environment in our contact centre should be enjoyable and rewarding, and this should really be the case in any business.


Stewart Oxley

Staff retention can only really be successful when internal development and promotional policy are central to the culture of a contact centre. And now, more importantly than ever, employers need to ensure they never underestimate the capability of their staff.

Stewart Oxley is Sales & Marketing Director of Granby Marketing Services, an award-winning response management and fulfilment agency offering multichannel solutions across telephone, mail, SMS and e-mail.

Contact 01254 604103 or

Keep your employees happy
Keeping your employees happy will yield real dividends and will reduce agent attrition.  All of the time that you would normally spend on recruitment could be better used on keeping your employees happy.

Introduce team lunches
In a call centre it is rare that the whole team gets some time off to bond together.  We introduced team lunches.  We flow calls to another team for 1 hour to allow the team to have a lunch together during working hours.  We don’t buy the lunch for them but the gesture is much appreciated.

Run a lot of incentives
We run an employee of the month scheme, a Top Dog Trophy where each employee in a team is nominated by their manager and is given a small gift and presented with a cuddly toy dog to say you have been “Top Dog” last month.  We have also run Pizza Days, Bollywood Evenings, as well as lots of social events and a monthly night out. We have an events committee at SHL who organise fun events for employees

Profile potential employees
We use psychometric testing to profile our employees.  This should not be too much of a surprise as this is the cornerstone of our business, but we find it highly effective to find the correct employees first time. Most of the tools are online nowadays. It is a fast and efficient process, with various types of psychometric and ability tests, so we can make sure the people we recruit are suited to the contact centre environment.

Looking for ideal call centre agents

The key areas that we look for in our call centre staff are:

  • Caring – do people like caring about others i.e. team members/ customers?  Of vital importance as caring employees care for their customers
  • Conscientiousness – do people like getting things done and finish them once started?  Highly important as SLAs are key in our contact centre and customers are always looking for the query to be dealt with first time and correctly.
  • Achieving – do people like being ambitious? are these people the future managers or team leaders? do they have the mindset of a leader? If they do, they will tend to be more career oriented and stay with SHL.
  • Persuasive – do people like negotiating with people? Contact Centres are moving more and more to a selling environment at the same time as providing excellent customer service! Do these employees enjoy that and are they comfortable persuading people?
  • Affiliative – do they like working on their own or in teams? Contact centres are all about working in teams, being part of a team, so people should enjoy interacting with people all the time

Listen to employees
Listening to employees is quite critical to keeping your employees happy.  And you have to do more than just listen.  You have to provide both feedback and interaction.  For example, as a result of recent employee feedback we changed one of our shifts from a midnight finish to 10pm so people had more flexibility with transportation home, which went down really well and still meant we could open 24 hours and not lose key staff

Make better use of technology
We use hosted technology supplied by New Voice Media.  This meant that when we had the snowstorms earlier in the year we were able to switch calls to the agents’ and managers’ homes.  We were able to provide callers with a reasonable service level, while keeping our agents safe and warm.

Have clear employee development plans

Jag Tucker

Jag Tucker

We feel that all employees should have a development plan. We use the call centre as a stepping stone for the rest of the organisation. In the last few years we have promoted many members of staff to team leaders, managers and other roles within other SHL departments

Jag Tucker is Global Front Office Manger at SHL Group

Author: Jo Robinson

Published On: 3rd Jun 2009 - Last modified: 26th Oct 2022
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  • good article. Shows keep it simple and treat people like you would like to be treated…. and surprise surprise you retain people.

    Well done guys, far too many times in our industry we forget to do this.

    brian harness 4 Jun at 15:00
  • We have thought about using Psychometrics before but my boss has always been dubious, but as stated above it looks as if they really work. I will send this article to my boss.

    Beth Anderson 4 Jun at 15:44
  • Definitely agree with all the above. I manage a call centre of 50 seats and once we introduced ability testing and profiling our turnover reduced by 20 percent.

    Jason 4 Jun at 19:41
  • Well done Jag! Still doing the business i see, not surpprised at all reading your article and you’re still top of your game and doing well. How many years has it been since we last worked together. I’ll ring you.

    John Taylor 4 Jun at 21:22
  • that was a good thing i read

    Arafat 25 Jun at 15:06
  • Good day,

    How do you manage to do social events with call centre staff who work around the clock?

    Maintaining unity has been such a challenge at our company.

    jasmin 8 Jan at 16:02