Recruiting and Keeping the Best Call Centre Agents


Recruiting the right people for your call centre revolves around so much more than placing a small ad in the local paper and hoping for some good candidates to come calling.

Here, Paul Sharpe reveals how to change the call centre staffing cycle for good.

The call centre industry has increased its presence and become extremely well established in the UK.

Under the increasing pressure of offshoring and outsourcing, the demand upon service quality, staff retention and best practice has changed the call centre environment from what was a service-based principle into an ever more complex delivery method.

In certain cases this has led to increasing job vacancies and a highly competitive landscape for call centres as local employers. To many, high staff turnover is down to potential candidates not being suitable or realistically aware of, or prepared for, the working environment they are entering. However, maintaining staff in callcentres is not all about getting people that fit, but aboutunderstanding the local job market and, more importantly, ensuring organisations adopt recruiting processes to fit these markets.

Start by building a profile

The heart of any company is rooted in its culture, values and business strategy. By being clear on what these are, an HR manager can build up a picture of the company and type of employee

Key pointers for reducing call centre staff attrition

  • Understand the local job market.
  • Use multiple routes to market when advertising positions.
  • Use an online tool to narrow down suitable candidates.
  • Use assessment tools to consistently evaluate candidates.
  • Know what a ‘good’ and ‘bad’ candidate feels like.
  • Look at the management and leadership structure – are there any personality problems that are causing attrition issues?
  • Match training and development to the needs of the workforce.
  • Bring consistency to the recruitment process across selection, training and management.

needed to help it deliver its services. This helps the recruiter to sell the company to potential candidates while building up an understanding of the right type of person for the job. For example, if a company is sales and reward driven, an introvert person – one who doesn’t like working in a focused sales environment – may not be an ideal candidate. An HR manager has to understand what they are looking for and why if they are to find suitable candidates who will stay in the job.

However, such an exercise is not solely inward-looking. HR mangers have to understand the local job market from which candidates can be drawn
in order to tailor positions and make them attractive to prospective employees.

Call centres are often grouped together in regional hubs and competition between sites for staff can be high. By understanding the demographics of an area, a recruiter has a base indicator from which to compare themselves on things like staff turnover rates. It also provides a starting point from which to work out what steps are needed to bring prospects through the door. For example, if the demographics of the local population show a potential workforce of part-time mothers, shift patterns from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. are simply not going to attract candidates.

The final area of the company profile is understanding what current
employees think. Although many companies do this through exit polls,
this is arguably too late. Regular monitoring of what attracts people
to positions, what retains them in their role, how they view their
relationship with their line manager, and factors influencing why they
may resign, all enable HR managers to analyse and understand the role
better. This can help them to highlight the positive aspects of the
role when recruiting employees. It also provides the company with added
value information on their business practices and how to improve staff
retention.

Persuasive attraction – selling jobs to the public

Once a clear understanding of the job market and company has been
identified, the positions have to be ‘sold’ to the public. With UK
employment levels currently at a record high, filling vacancies can be
difficult. Gone are the days of placing an advert in the local paper
and waiting for people to walk through the door. Call centres often
have large numbers of positions to fill in one go, perhaps for seasonal
surges in demand, or they require a continuous stream of candidates. As
such, an HR manager needs to adopt multiple communications routes – for
example, word-of-mouth, using a specialist agency and the local media.
These methods increase the reach of the vacancies message with the aim
of raising the potential pool of candidates, but also building
awareness about the call centre.

Word-of-mouth is always vital. When Adecco conducted its Call Centre
Census at the end of 2004, it revealed that 46% of staff found out
about their current job through word-of-mouth – from family and friends
within the local community. A call centre with a good reputation will
find it easier to attract better candidates while a negative image will
have the reverse effect.

One method of boosting word-of-mouth is to use the local media.
Editorial coverage about the call centre and its recruitment process
highlights what the site is doing while allowing it to differentiate
itself from the competition. Nearly 30% of employees in the Census
heard about their job through the local media.

A good reputation is one thing, but to get candidates to register their
details, use of the Internet in the application process is crucial.
Using an online application system is now the most popular method when
applying for a job. Such technology allows candidates to be matched to
job specifications easily, as well as keeping their details on file if
something more suitable appears later.

The power of consistent assessment

There are a variety of different assessment methods used to select
candidates for call centres, including personality and skills testing
to determine whether candidates are suitable for the call centre
environment.

However, metrics and assessment tools are not used nearly widely enough
in call centre recruitment. Ideally an assessment for a call centre
candidate should be made up of personality testing, general ability
testing and benchmarking against what works for the company and the
regional area when it comes to staff.

Using such procedures creates consistency across the recruitment
process, ensuring that all staff can be assessed against the same
criteria. And having such measures also allows the selection process to
be evaluated. For example, companies can ask themselves why staff are
failing the general ability test. Is it being set too high for the job
market being targeted? Are they excluding the right sort of candidates
as a result? This kind of information enables a recruiter to know what
a ‘good’ and ‘bad’ candidate looks and feels like when placed in the
context of the job market they are recruiting from.

However, recruiters must also remember that employees need to have
the right attitude. In the call centre industry, if the correct
training packages are in place, a candidate doesn’t necessarily need
the right experience. If he or she has the right attitude and they want
to develop, they are often more likely to stay longer because they feel
valued.

Beyond the selection process

Although it might feel like a recruiter’s job is done once staff are
through the door, the induction, training and progress of people is
actually as critical to successful recruitment and attrition prevention
as anything else.

Again, this comes back to an understanding of the organisation and the
job market it is hiring from. Training and induction programmes
have to fit in with the lifestyles of the workforce. If a worker’s
shifts are in the evening, but they have to attend a training session
in the day, which they can’t do, the effort put in to recruiting that
person has been wasted. Small aspects of business management, which can
be picked up through regular feedback, allow appropriate processes to
be developed.

In truth, one of the biggest challenges in retaining staff is during
the induction and probation period. A successful method to overcome
this is through the use of mentors. Coming on to a call centre floor
where you don’t know the people or the culture can be a daunting
prospect. Mentors give employees a focus, allowing them to acclimatise
and be introduced to the team. They can also be used to provide
on-the-job development training and deal with any questions new
recruits may have.

In summary, then, the key to successful call centre recruitment is
knowing the market and developing your recruitment process to meet
changing needs. Only by understanding staff will sites be able to
recruit and retain employees. Most call centre jobs are similar in
nature. As such, it is easy for individuals to move and do a similar
job somewhere else. By making the call centre different for the right
reasons and ensuring staff are given the opportunity to prosper in a
suitable environment, centres will be able to manage their personnel
resources more effectively.


Paul Sharpe is account director at Adecco Managed Services
Tel: +44 20 8307 6473
Website: www.adecco.co.uk

Published On: 25th Apr 2006 - Last modified: 23rd May 2017
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