What is employee engagement?
Employee engagement is the process of involving agents in the efficient operation of the contact center, in particular with the WFM process. Done properly, employee engagement creates a win-win culture and reduces staff turnover. It is about giving agents visibility of their shifts and some control over their working times in return for working shifts that are optimized around customer demand and adhering to their schedules.
Why does employee engagement matter?
The most valuable - and costly - resource in your contact center is not the technology, it’s the people. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a rising trend but human agents will not be eliminated from contact centers anytime soon, if ever. Agents who are disengaged will be demotivated and deliver a poor customer experience. They are more likely to have high levels of absenteeism. It’s more probable that they will leave the company, and staff turnover is both disruptive and costly. According to The Society of Workforce Planning Professionals, it costs between $10,000 and $20,000 to replace a typical agent.
How does employee engagement work?
Employee engagement requires a genuine dialog between the agent, management, and the planning team. WFM software acts as an enabler for engagement by providing a range of self-service functions. For example:
- Calendar: Visibility of the agent’s schedules, ideally for several weeks into the future. This predictability is a must-have for good work-life balance.
- Team calendar: Visibility of the schedules of the agent’s team. This helps agents collaborate with colleagues who have expertise in particular areas. And maybe to join them for lunch.
- Shift swaps: The ability to swaps shifts with colleagues, ideally with rapid or automatic approval. This boosts work-life balance for the agent and if proper controls are in place, there is no negative impact for the company.
- Time off: The ability to book time off, ideally with rapid or automatic approval. Agents are often more interested in the days when they are not working than the days they are working. Agents love being able to check vacation balances and make time-off requests on a self-service basis. Time off requests are typically handled as part of the real-time management process.
- Shift bidding: Agents feel more in control of their working lives if they can state their preferences among multiple alternative shifts rather than being presented with shifts without consultation. Shift bidding can boost agent satisfaction, but obviously has implications for the scheduling process.
- Availability preferences: Agents can apply constraints on the hours they will be scheduled to work, for example, to cover a recurring medical appointment or education session. This creates extra administration work for the planning team in validating the requests and in negotiation with the agents and their team leaders.
- Notifications: Agents should receive reminders about upcoming activities, which help them to adhere to their schedules. If the schedules are integrated into the agents’ own calendars, they will receive reminders in the same way they get reminders of personal events, on their mobile devices.
Employee engagement tips
- Each of the self-service features boosts employee engagement but it isn’t necessary to implement all of them.
- The planning team should not introduce an agent self-service function before coming to agreement with all the stakeholders, e.g. contact center management, team leaders, and HR.
- Several of the self-service features have negative consequences for schedule efficiency (workload fit) and some of them require additional effort by the planner. Choosing which to implement requires careful balancing of cost and benefit.
- Realistically, none of the options is viable without a professional WFM application.
Websites versus smartphone apps
Realistically, agent self-service requires software. Typically that means either a website, accessed with a browser, or a smartphone app. There is an app for everything nowadays, but a mobile-friendly web page can provide a similar user experience to an app without agents needing to install and keep updated yet another app on their smartphones.
Engagement versus empowerment
Engagement is not the same thing as empowerment. Empowerment is about giving agents access to the information they need to do a great job - and the autonomy to help customers without having to escalate every non-standard query to management. Both engagement and empowerment are essential to having a satisfied, productive and loyal workforce.
What impact does employee engagement have?
To quote a Tweet by the founder of Virgin Group, Richard Branson:
“If you look after your staff well, they will look after your customers. Simple.”
The reverse is also true. Deploying best practice in employee engagement is an integral part of looking after staff. The result is happy employees and happy customers. It’s also good for the company, since employee engagement reduces costly staff turnover and has the potential to increase revenue.