We share ten ways of reducing new hire attrition, which may also help to increase overall engagement levels in your contact centre.
At a recent event in Bristol, hosted by RED Recruitment, we were part of a roundtable with some of the biggest contact centres in the south-west region.
In our discussions, most contact centres fed back that the majority of their attrition occurred within the first six months of the employee life cycle and that they were having big problems in dealing with the issue.
Early attrition can be incredibly expensive, with one contact centre reporting it cost them as much as £40,000 to replace a single head. This included non-direct costs, such as working out the sales differential in the time that it takes a new advisor to reach a similar level of competence.
So we discussed the various strategies and methods that they have used to help mitigate the problem.
1. Give Part-Time Workers Part-Time Training
Due to the spiky nature of call arrivals in the contact centre, part-time workers are commonplace throughout the industry – but many of us only have one, inflexible, training plan.
Your training plan will likely cater for full-time workers, meaning that part-time staff will have to work full-time hours until their training is completed.
This can be a problem, especially in technical contact centres, when advisors are expected to complete weeks of training to build up a good enough skill set and knowledge to interact with customers.
We may in fact be asking part-time workers with plenty of other responsibilities – such as childcare – to complete seven or eight weeks of full-time work upfront.
So,we may in fact be asking part-time workers with plenty of other responsibilities – such as childcare – to complete seven or eight weeks of full-time work upfront.
When we do this, we will have part-time workers jumping through hoops for us, causing the little things that they may find difficult in training to feel all the more stressful.
We don’t want to be causing such high levels of stress early in the advisor life cycle, so if we can provide a part-time training plan to go alongside our full-time plan, we will likely decrease in-training attrition levels.
2. Start Onboarding Check-Ups
We want new hires to come to us with any issues that they are having settling into a new role, but that can be difficult, especially when they aren’t given any formal opportunities to do so.
As leaders we might say “come and talk to us if you want to discuss anything”, but we are not always working closely with advisors and we may even be working completely different shifts from them.
With this in mind, we cannot expect advisors to feel immediately comfortable in voicing any concerns that they may have with us, so we should be giving them the place to do so. We need to ensure that they are being listened to.
Look to hold two separate onboarding interviews – one after five weeks and one after ten weeks – to uncover issues early.
So, look to hold two separate onboarding interviews – one after five weeks and one after ten weeks – to uncover issues early, nip them in the bud and ensure that they don’t escalate, causing early attrition.
In these interviews, one good question to ask is: are your expectations being met? This is because a dissonance between early expectations and reality is often a key reason for early attrition. Use this check-up as an opportunity to find out more and share any trends in what’s causing this dissonance.
While these check-ups may be time consuming, they will not cost anything like the £40,000 figure highlighted earlier, plus they’ll help you highlight where your recruitment/training plan might be going wrong.
3. Set Clear Expectations in Recruitment
Failing to align candidate expectations with the realities of the role will cause a dissonance that can lead to early attrition. The trouble is, however, that many contact centres haven’t made their expectations clear for themselves.
It is impossible for us to create clear mutual expectations if we have not defined them ourselves. If we cannot clearly express them verbally or in writing, how can we be ready to share them with our employees?
We must therefore be taking charge of the recruitment process, certainly in terms of what is included in the job advertisement.
However, this doesn’t mean that the manager sits down by themselves and lists the job responsibilities. Make sure you come to a democratic decision, involving advisors and leaders in the process.
The trouble is then that in the interview we tend to hire people we like on a personal level. While this is obviously important, we also need to ensure we hire candidates who have skills and values that match the expectations that we’ve set out as a team.
4. Don’t Exaggerate Job Benefits in Recruitment
Due to the lack of talent in the recruitment pool, which can certainly be the case in up-and-coming cities with lots of job competition, we will often exaggerate job benefits to attract as many applicants as possible.
However, if we over-promise and under-deliver, that’s going to cause a disconnect between the new recruits and contact centre leaders, which will increase the chances of early employee turnover.
So, instead of exaggerating benefits, look for other ways to engage with staff early and increase your number of applicants, such as:
- Changing the advisor job title
- Looking for new places to post jobs
- Creating an employee referral programme
While we of course want to focus on the positives, we need to ensure that we aren’t giving advisors any nasty surprises that will damage their trust in us an employers.
For this reason, it is also good to let advisors see the contact centre – where they will sit, who they will work with etc. – before giving them a formal job offer. While this may increase dropouts during recruitment, it will reduce early attrition.
When we visited DPD’s contact centre, we discovered that they do this through holding open days for recruitment in their Birmingham centre. To find out more, read our article: 15 Things You Can Learn From the DPD Contact Centre
5. Guard Against Hiring Advisors Who Have Left Other Roles Quickly
If an advisor has left any previous role as an advisor after less than a year’s employment, we need to pick up on that during recruitment and find out why.
By avoiding this topic, we open ourselves up for history to repeat itself, because if an advisor has left one contact centre job, the likelihood is that they will leave again.
But if we can gain an understanding of why the advisor left, we can more effectively weigh up the chance that they will leave and consider if offering them a role is a risk worth taking.
For example, if the advisor tells you that they left their previous role because there was a lack of progression opportunities, but you also struggle to provide new advisors with a clear path for progression, the risk may be very significant.
So remember, while there is a lot of hype around hiring for behaviours and not qualifications at the moment, and rightly so, we cannot disregard these key danger signs in advisor CVs.
6. Offer New Advisors the Chance to Make an Impact Early
To engage with new advisors early, we want to fill them with a purpose and we can better do this by ensuring they know their contribution to the success of our business.
The problem is, when they first come into the role, advisors don’t feel like they are contributing very much, so they can become a little disillusioned by the end of the first couple of weeks.
If we give new starters a little project, something that’s relevant to the business and will make an impact, we can engage them much better.
However, if we give new starters a little project, something that’s relevant to the business and will make an impact, we can engage them much better.
To really see the full benefits of the project, it is good for it to also involve communication with the wider team – so we engage new starters with a number of different people, giving them something to focus together on, to make introductions a little easier.
After all, to create a positive culture, we want to ensure that there is a “buzz” between different members of the team. So if we can engineer positive introductions between team members, we can remove any initial awkwardness.
7. Give Advisors Time With the Same People
If advisors are constantly surrounded by new people in each of their shifts, it becomes difficult to form strong relationships that make work more enjoyable.
Instead of looking at schedules from an efficiency perspective only, we should be utilizing them as an engagement opportunity.
So, instead of looking at schedules from an efficiency perspective only, we should be utilizing them as an engagement opportunity – offering the team flexibility, so they have more of a choice of which shifts they work and therefore who they work with.
While your recruitment findings may suggest that new hires prefer fixed shifts, remember that fixed schedules are what attracts employees; they only usually care about flexibility once they are in the job.
With this in mind, we need to be doing things like making shift-swaps easy, introducing advisor preferences and giving advisors more notice of when they’ll be working.
If we can also ensure new advisors are constantly working with the same leader, you give them the space to create a better working relationship, so the advisor receives better support in their early life cycle.
8. Look for Peaks in Attrition in the Early Life Cycle
Contact centres quite often calculate new employee attrition as its own metric to track how effective their changes to the training/introduction programme have been.
While this is a good practice, don’t stop there! You can also take attrition down to a macro-level and pinpoint where on their “journey” new employees are leaving. This will help to identify where people are leaving in the induction process.
To do this, define the period of time that you want to assess, highlighting any key moments within the induction process, and look for trends. It is important to do this so you don’t come to the wrong conclusions.
Then, as Dougie Cameron, COO at The Centre for the Moving Image and the Edinburgh International Film Festival, says in our article, “How to Calculate Attrition“:
“Look at the drop-out at every stage – form filling on arrival, day one at the training office, when they’re in the classroom, when they start taking supervised calls, when they are introduced to their team leader and when they are left on their own.”
“What is the data pointing towards for further investigation? Is recruitment giving the wrong impression of the company/role? Is classroom training uninspiring? Are the trainers good enough? Are advisors being left unsupervised too quickly?”
9. Show Immediate Recognition of Good Performance
We want advisors to be confident and to have a positive energy when taking customer contacts, and we can encourage this through instant recognition of good performance in training.
Advisors need regular encouragement to feel fully prepared for life on the contact centre floor, so when they do something right, show your appreciation.
While this may seem obvious, recent research by RED Recruitment found that 39% of candidates leave because they are not trained well enough, feel unprepared to handle certain call types, and become stressed and overwhelmed.
In fact, this made training the number one reason why advisors leave the contact centre, highlighting the value in instilling advisors with confidence during training and showing recognition.
If you can take this beyond training and ask leaders to schedule time into their diary every day to say “well done” and show their appreciation for good work, you can safeguard your organization. It will also help to improve advisor–leader communication.
10. Talk to Advisors About Their Hobbies and Find Out How You Can Incorporate Them
If we can find ways to provide advisors with the opportunity to exercise their hobbies at work, we can increase their happiness and engagement in role.
Also, hobbies bring people together. So, even by just sitting people next to others with similar hobbies as part of some sort of “mix-up” day, you can foster new friendships, and when people have more friends at work, they are more likely to stay.
Another benefit is that hobbies reveal hidden skills. Maybe one advisor likes to organize charity events outside of work. With their experience they could help you to organize work-related events, which they’ll enjoy, leaving you to focus on other matters.
So, we want to find out what our new employees like to do outside of the contact centre, something we can gather through either informal conversations or employee questionnaires.
To better support the hobbies of your staff, you can develop a tailored reward scheme, plan social events and create special projects.
Sky’s contact centre add a “skills matrix” to their questionnaires to discover the hobbies of their team. To find out more, read our article: 14 Fresh Ideas from the Sky Contact Centre
Bonus Tip: Avoid Using Candidate Portals During the Recruitment Process
While the above is all about preventing new hires leaving, we do have one more tip that we picked up from the roundtable for preventing potential candidates from dropping off during the recruitment process.
In terms of the candidate journey, avoid investing in candidate portals to scan through CVs and send automated alerts. Instead send personalized emails to candidates soon after they apply to engage them early. Don’t wait until the job deadline has passed.
In fact, one contact centre reported that they now only use their portal for storing CVs, as they have now gone back to using spreadsheets for tracking the candidate journey.
One contact centre did, however, find success in using gamification in their application process, much more so than using psychometrics to determine whether or not candidates should move on to the next stage of employment.
According to this organization, gamification helped them to obtain more honest insights into candidates and weed out the people who click ‘Apply now’ without looking through the job criteria, and they found it easy to evaluate performance.
Once it was time for the phone interview and the final face-to-face/meet-the-team interview, candidates were better prepared and reportedly more enthusiastic about the role.
For more advice on reducing turnover in the contact centre, read our articles: