John D. Rockefeller, the American business magnate and philanthropist active at the turn of the 20th Century, once said, “Good management consists in showing average people how to do the work of superior people.”
The way to do that, of course, is to capture the imagination of your employees and engage them. A recent Gallup study showed that this is overwhelmingly dependent on managers. They account for as much as 70 percent of the variance seen in employee engagement, no matter the industry.
Contact centers are most certainly among those workplaces where managers need to take an active role in engaging employees. And most have some sort of analytics solution in place to provide insight into agent performance and customer behavior. However, the true potential of these insights is often poorly understood or not leveraged well across the enterprise.
In order to get the most out of what is known as “analytics for the masses,” managers and supervisors need to get agent-specific analytics information, at the right time, and with the right tools to use it effectively. This can mean an alert about a specific employee triggered by metrics such as “high level of nonproductive activity”, “recurring shift change requests”, “not pursuing career advancement”, service level decline, and the like. It may also include feedback from an analytics application tracking the actual effect on performance of specific coaching or training sessions.
The most timely and highly targeted insights are the product of adaptive workforce analytics, which individualizes expectations and motivational recommendations. Adaptive technologies are a powerful tool to help managers and supervisors focus on each employee’s needs and strengths, engage them in their own progress, and optimize overall processes.
Don’t Just Spot Top Performers – Create Them
Adaptive workforce optimization encourages several basic shifts in the managerial or supervisory role, such as:
- Finding the right employee for the job: Generally, an employee personalization map consists of three elements: objective metrics; personality attributes; and personal preferences. Managers who understand this map of relative strengths and weaknesses, as well as what most engages each employee, can assign them tasks at which they are most likely to succeed. With adaptive workforce management tools, this has never been easier. For example, you could be automatically prompted when an agent most suited for a specific event is available for assignment (such as a high-pressure Black Friday night shift and the like). In another scenario, you may want to search for an agent on an ad-hoc basis for unplanned events that are likely to affect shift volume (such as a product recall, a natural emergency, etc.). Yet another example of the many applications of adaptive technologies is the capability to identify which agents among your top performers are most suited to train others and which can exert a positive influence by being rewarded.
- Real-time evaluations and feedback: The dreaded annual performance review is giving way to more real-time alternatives. This is evident in the multitude of companies competing to provide real-time performance review solutions, as well as a recent series of large capital investments in the industry. There is a rapidly growing understanding that annual reviews are often dated and needlessly stressful, while the technology for immediate feedback is becoming more accessible. Such real-time performance metrics and reviews are at the heart of adaptive workforce optimization, providing the raw material from which an employee personalization map is built. Effective workforce management decisions are then driven by the employee’s map, which in turn drives better performance by the specific employee and by the enterprise as a whole – a win all around.
- Recognize and promote success: Along with frequent feedback on their performance, employees generally enjoy recognition of their successes. Specifically, people often want such recognition to be awarded, or rewarded, systematically and publicly. On the other hand, different employees have different ideas of what is an appropriate reward and what would best motivate them. Therefore, while information about such rewards should be shared in a common digital meeting space, the rewards offered for success can be diversified and reflect different employee preferences. Using adaptive technology to identify, celebrate and tailor rewards for successful employees adds a positive element to the company culture and improves long-term performance.
- Automate your talent mobility: The 2014 Global Workforce Study by Towers Watson found that career advancement opportunities are among the top driving forces for employees. That is, investing in an employee’s professional growth increases their engagement in their current position and improves retention probabilities. But there is a catch: the best investment includes providing training that is most suitable to each employee. Adaptive technologies identify which training method best suits which employee, so that the results are the best they can be for the organization and to meet the specific employee’s personal professional goals. An adaptive workforce optimization plan, therefore, includes empowering employees with clearly identified paths of advancement within the company.
The flip side of adaptive responses to employee engagement challenges is an attrition rate that ends up being very costly. According to a Frost and Sullivan report, the indirect cost of agent attrition is between $15,000 to $20,000 per employee lost. For a contact center with 1,000 agents, that could quickly add up to $7 million.
With adaptive workforce optimization, however, organizations are equipped to increase employee retention rates due to greater engagement. That’s because you can more easily see your staff’s potential - and so can they.
And that, Mr. Rockefeller, is how to turn average people into superior employees in the 21st Century.