Mark Ungerman at NICE CXone discusses workforce trends shaping 2022, and explores how the Great Resignation informs agent experience today.
The events of the past couple of years took a strange, unexpected toll on the labour market. During the lockdown, unemployment was high, and workers clung to their jobs. However, now that things are getting (somewhat) back to normal, a significant percentage of American workers have decided not to go back to work.
In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics recently reported that 2.9% of the workforce walked away from their jobs in August of this year; some to take different jobs and some to leave the labour pool altogether. So, not only are people not reentering the workforce, but they’re also actively leaving it.
By now, most of us have experienced the labour shortage as consumers. Employers are also more than likely feeling the pinch of what’s been dubbed the “Great Resignation.” A survey conducted by Fortune and Deloitte revealed that 73% of CEOs believe “a labour/skills shortage is the most likely external issue to disrupt their business in the next 12 months.”
The contact centre industry is used to battling high turnover rates and the struggle of attracting and retaining talented agents. But current labour market conditions promise to create challenges never experienced before.
To weather the storm, a best practice for organizations is to creatively improve the contact centre agent experience and take other measures in order to attract and retain skilled employees.
The Great Resignation Is a Real Phenomenon That May Profoundly Affect Your Contact Centre
This is clearly a job seeker’s market. The labour shortage creates a situation where workers can jump from job to job as they chase higher wages, better benefits, better work/life balance, an employer that’s highly focused on social issues, and other things a person might value in their job environment.
Additionally, the proliferation of remote work has opened up more employment opportunities for workers. Job seekers no longer have to look for an opportunity within a specific radius from their home. Their employer and manager can be located halfway around the world.
These factors mean that in addition to challenges recruiting and keeping agents, contact centres may also experience difficulty with mid-level position turnover, such as supervisors, trainers, and workforce analysts.
In the current job market, mid-level employees may be more likely to job shop, and their positions can be more difficult to fill than those of agents due to a demand for more experience and a more technical or managerial skillset.
Contact centres may also face higher operating costs as they increase wages and benefits to attract and retain employees. 50% of CEOs say their businesses have increased employee pay in an effort to strengthen their appeal as an employer.
Though this is definitely a potential route your contact centre could consider taking, higher wages won’t solve all employee retention problems. If the employee experience is bad, a fatter paycheck won’t keep workers from leaving.
People typically want more from their employer than high wages. They also want things like recognition, a reasonable workload, modern tools, and positive and supportive workplace culture.
It’s in a contact centre leader’s best interest to address persistent causes of frustration that prevent their organization from becoming a job seeker’s first choice and garnering a potentially harmful reputation. Issues such as poor leadership, limited training, antiquated technology, and inflexible work schedules can cause employees to disengage, lose loyalty to the company, and eventually leave.
These persistent issues negatively impact the agent experience and are only compounded by recent worldwide effects.
The labour shortage has existing employees handling larger workloads. Additionally, the pandemic has driven higher interaction volume within the contact centre, stretching the limits of understaffed agent teams.
Constantly overwhelming workloads can quickly lead to agent burnout. According to one study, 74% of call centre agents are at risk of burnout. And 30% of those individuals are at severe risk of burnout.
In addition to causing disengagement and employee attrition, agent burnout can negatively impact customer experience (CX). At a time when CX is a competitive differentiator, businesses can’t afford to have burned-out agents trying (or not trying) to make meaningful, loyalty-building connections with customers.
What Lessons Can Contact Centre Leaders Learn From the Great Resignation?
Microsoft conducted a comprehensive work trends study involving 30,000 workers in 31 countries. They found that 41% of workers considered leaving their employer this year, and employees in general are looking for a change because so many of them are struggling to stay engaged and fulfilled at work.
Let’s take a look at some of the reasons for employee attrition, and some of the ways contact centre management can counter these issues and avoid the impact of the Great Resignation.
1. Contact Centre Agent Burnout
Workers all over the world in all different kinds of industries are feeling the effects of the labour shortage. We’ve already discussed agent burnout and how it affects employee attrition, so let’s now review some ways to make workloads manageable again.
Decreasing the demand for agent assistance should be a top priority right now and self-service is a great way to do it. Contact centres today have plenty of ways to help customers help themselves.
You can revamp your business’s website FAQ page or implement a thorough, searchable knowledge base so customers can easily find answers to their questions. To automate self-service transactions, look at conversational IVRs and AI-powered virtual agents.
81% percent of consumers prefer to try to resolve their own issues before contacting a business for help, so adding effective self-service creates a win-win situation.
- Automate Agent Tasks.
Another good way to reduce workload is to automate part of it. Solutions such as robotic process automation (RPA) lend agents a helping hand by performing some of their simple, routine tasks for them.
Agents definitely won’t miss making address changes in multiple systems or activating new mobile phones, and relieving the stress of performing mundane, repetitive tasks will give them more energy to focus on customer experience.
2. Fear for Personal Safety
Some people have a genuine fear of contracting COVID-19, and justifiably so. As more businesses call for remote workers to return to physical facilities, this can increase stress and cause employees to quit out of concern for their own safety.
Acknowledgment by contact centre management that personal safety is a legitimate concern, especially in an environment where employees often sit shoulder to shoulder, is an important gesture.
They should also adopt effective measures to prevent the spread of illness, such as thorough and frequent cleaning and placing plexiglass barriers between cubicles.
But perhaps the most effective measure contact centres can take to address this concern is to continue using a remote or hybrid workforce model. And this shouldn’t just be available to agents—mid-level employees should also have the option to work from home.
3. Employee Dissatisfaction
“Dissatisfaction” is a broad term and has many root causes, including burnout and fear of contracting COVID-19. As mentioned previously, dissatisfaction also results from poor agent experience. Focusing on improving the agent experience can increase satisfaction, engagement, and ultimately long-term retention.
To enhance the agent experience, contact centres can equip agents with necessary tools and resources, including:
- Helpful, knowledgeable supervisors
- Clear expectations of how their performance impacts business results
- Regular feedback and training
- An attractive, attainable career path
- Modern technology that makes them more successful at their jobs
- Have a say in their work schedules
- Acknowledgement and implementation of agent feedback by management
- Competitive compensation
4. A Shift in Priorities
The lockdowns gave people a lot of time to think and a lot to think about. After all of this contemplation, many workers concluded that they’re more than just their jobs and that they want more work–life balance.
Contact centres that retain valuable, hardworking employees recognize this desire for more balance and take measures to make it possible. This may mean moving a high-performing agent to a less stressful role or letting more employees transition to a part-time or job-share workforce model.
Contact centres can also, if possible, be more flexible with work schedules. And remote work creates more balance in employee lives as it eliminates commutes and allows people to grocery shop or finish household chores on their breaks, as long as they’re accountable for their workload.
This kind of flexibility and freedom is incredibly desirable to workers.
Protecting Your Contact Centre From the Effects of the Great Resignation and Preventing Employee Attrition
The major shift in the labour force will be one of the most significant issues contact centres will grapple with in 2022. The key to success is proactive and disciplined planning. Follow the steps below to mitigate the effects of the Great Resignation.
- Step 1: Understand the Impact of the Problem.
To address a problem requires an understanding of the nature of the problem and its impact. For example, is your contact centre experiencing trouble recruiting employees, retaining them, or both? What is the year-over-year change, and how is the data trending? What are the impacts on your KPIs?
- Step 2: Identify the Root Cause of the Problem.
Once you’ve identified the problem and its scope, it’s time to identify its root cause. If it’s a retention issue, employee exit interviews or surveys are a good way to find out why employees are leaving. Or, ask your current employees to identify existing issues that might cause them to quit.
Once you find that a key driver of employee attrition is low pay, lack of work–life balance, bad work environment, etc., you can develop an actionable plan to address it.
- Step 3: Build a Plan for Change, and Then Carry It Out.
Create and execute a plan to correct the problem, and let employees know that positive changes are coming. Consider implementing some of the solutions we’ve already discussed. For example, if burnout is the root cause of attrition, implementing customer self-service options to alleviate overbearing contact volumes might be the cure.
Your contact centre’s success depends on having a plan to identify and subsequently reduce the impact of the labour shortage, and time is of the essence.
This blog post has been re-published by kind permission of NICE CXone – View the original post
To find out more about NICE CXone, visit their website.
Call Centre Helper is not responsible for the content of these guest blog posts. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect those of Call Centre Helper.