The call centre industry employs over half a million people in the UK, and many of these are of the Generation Y era. But what does this mean for call centre employers? No one can deny that Generation Y’s are the driving force behind the call centre industry, yet this generation is by far the most difficult to engage with, manage and retain.
[Editor’s note – Generation Y a term used to refer to people born between 1980 and 2000 – as opposed to the baby boomers (born 1945- 1965), Generation X (born 1965 – 1980)].
This phenomenon may be a direct result of the often monotonous nature of the job role, but it may also be due to the lack of understanding amongst call centre employers about how young people born into this generation work, and how their needs and career wishes can differ from the rest of the workforce.
Do they expect too much?
Some companies have expressed concern that Generation Y employees expect too much from the workplace, and want to shape their jobs to fit their lives, rather than adapt their lives to the workplace. To better understand this mindset, some companies have even taken steps to study this behaviour, and to devise programmes that aim to help older employees understand their Generation Y colleagues – and vice versa.
Retaining this generation has become a pressing priority, because many Generation Y employees are most likely to change their jobs regularly. With the economic downturn now beginning to ease, employee retention will become increasingly important as more and more young people begin to look around for new jobs and get back on the milk-round.
However, many of this generation will be looking for jobs in the call centre industry. If managed carefully, this trend could prove hugely beneficial for the contact centre industry; an influx of employees combined with a conscious effort to retain this workforce will give this sector a real boost, as highly qualified GenYers will no doubt help to revitalise the industry.
Looking for different employment packages
The ability to listen to these employees will be essential, however, as Generation Y employees will want to have a say in their employment packages, and it’s no wonder: with their fresh attitude, awareness of new technologies, aptitude for learning, and willingness to work, this group can offer many benefits to an employer. As such, it will be in the employer’s interest to establish a two-way relationship that is beneficial for both sides.
Of course, employers and managers should not assume to know what motivates every Generation Y employee: it is not possible to base complex recruitment and retention strategies on trends and generalisations alone. However, there are a number of tools that can help with these assessments, such as engagement surveys, comment boxes, focus groups and round-table discussions. All of these tools can be implemented easily, and can help garner an in-depth knowledge of what Generation Y employees are happy and unhappy about, what they would like to change, and how the company can best address these needs.
Plus, when the feedback from these programmes is analysed over time, employers may be surprised to find that surprisingly small steps will actually help to increase engagement amongst the existing workforce, whilst also making recruitment easier. For example, studies have already shown that Generation Y employees have a strong desire for taking on additional responsibility, and often yearn for a larger role in decision making.
They have become accustomed to regular feedback
Generation Y employees also tend to be very demanding when it comes to receiving feedback. This is perhaps a direct result of the way in which they have been taught in school and university, as they have become accustomed to regular feedback in the form of reports and grades. Managers therefore need to make it clear that there is a career path in which additional responsibilities can be earned, and where hard work is both acknowledged and rewarded.
Money is not the main motivator
Despite the widespread acceptance of these generalisations, many employers have still been hesitant to give too much credence to the value of Generation Y in the workplace. It is essential, however, that call-centre employers try to understand this particular generation in as much detail as possible. When it comes to their careers, Generation Y employees have been shown to value other considerations – such as motivation and career benefits – much more than money. Employers therefore need to work with their recruitment and benefits partners to engage with Generation Y in order to understand them, incentivise them, and – as a result – reap the rewards in the long run.
Flexible benefit packages
As such, benefit packages should be tailored to be more relevant to Generation Y, and therefore be different from other age brackets of employees. For example, pensions and childcare vouchers may not be as much in demand as travel allowances, low-interest loans, gym memberships or even retail vouchers. All of these benefits are likely to be more attractive to Generation Y employees, and will feature highly on their “wish list” when they search for jobs.
An effective way of providing these incentives would be to implement a flexible benefits scheme for the company, as this approach allows the employees to take more responsibility over their remuneration packages, and therefore provides a feeling of greater empowerment.
Used to fast-paced technology
Employers and managers will also need to consider interpersonal skills, technology support, and training in order to engage Generation Y effectively. Businesses must remember that Generation Y employees are used to the fast-paced nature of the technology-driven consumer environment; they are quick to adapt and enjoy learning and exploring new avenues for success.
Do not want to feel patronised
As such, Generation Y employees want to have detailed, attractively packaged career training, and yet do not want to feel patronised. They also want the opportunity to learn transferable skills that they can take with them in their career as it moves forward.
Take pride in processes
Generation Y workers should be encouraged to take pride in processes like “closed cases” and customer satisfaction surveys, and should be taught that answering a query successfully and helping to deliver good customer service can be extremely rewarding.
Generation Y employees are forward thinking, quick to learn, and will be vital to call centres in the future. Call centre employers will therefore need to ensure that the company’s ethos appears attractive to them and actively encourages employee engagement.
Most importantly, employers must remember that the priorities of Generation Y may be very different from other generations of employees. They must take this into account when devising schemes to incentivise their workforce, and must be sure to consider how the Generation Y graduate can be motivated to both perform well and stay loyal to the company.
Kevin Harrington is the Director, Sodexo Motivation Solutions