An Advice Column Only for
Contact Center Managers
The question selected from our readers this month is:
Q: Our morale in our contact center has been on the decline for the past two years. What is the fastest, most effective way to turn it around?
(Gregg Gregory, Author of One Team, One Dream, Founder of TeamsRock.com)
Morale did not decline overnight, in fact your question says over the past two years; this means that it will take at least that long to rebuild the morale and modify the culture of the organization. With that being said, there are several things that can be done on a variety of levels and, quite honestly, it needs to come from the top and permeate through the organization.
Before beginning anything, I would exam to see if any trigger pops up as to why the morale began to decrease. Was there a layoff? Did a very well respected leader retire or change jobs? Is the company going through a merger or acquisition, or possibly a takeover? You mentioned that it is a contact center team – and, in which case, have they been burdened with excessive workloads for an extended period of time? If the time frame can be isolated, and then from there isolate a cause of the decline, the senior management team has place to begin.
One the easiest ways to start is for ALL of MANAGEMENT to recognize that behavior rewarded equals behavior repeated. That also means that behaviors must be modeled by everyone if there is any hope it will permeate the existing culture. When employees see behaviors in managers that are incongruent with the values of the organization or even their own personal values, employee engagement dissipates quickly and a decline in morale follows. The good news is that if this behavior is turned around, then there is likely a quicker turnaround for everyone.
The senior management team needs to identify where the problem stems and then work with that person or persons to change and if they are not willing to change then they more than likely should be removed from their position. As Jim Collins said in Chapter 3 of his book Good to Great, and I am paraphrasing here, “get the right people on the bus, get them in the right seats and be sure to get the wrong ones off the bus.”
In many cases the best way to increase morale begins with a clear understanding of what happened and when. This is then followed up by modifying behavior. This can sometimes be done from within, although by removing the center of familiarity and bringing in an outside consultant to stimulate the management team, and then the call center team directly can work wonders much more quickly than trying to do it all alone.
A: (Dina Vance, Ulysses Learning)
I agree with Gregg’s comments and appreciate his perspective. I’ll add a few thoughts here for you to consider. I have found that when team morale starts to decline, it’s due, in large part, to the lack of day-to-day staff support and feedback from team leadership. We keep learning this lesson over and over again: happy employees start with engaged, happy leaders.
While experience has shown that one of the most assured ways to get your contact center back on track is to first invest in your leadership team (and all levels of leaders), as an industry we typically do the opposite. Usually what you’ll find is a tendency to focus time and dollars on efforts to reward, motivate, and recognize frontline reps, while overlooking investments in frontline leadership. Frontline leadership grows up from within the ranks with little training, mentoring, and recognition for jobs well done. This tendency can contribute significantly to issues with morale and its decline over time.
I also think the training you provide to leaders needs to be very specific…and very, very thoughtful. The contact center environment demands it. I’ve found it’s not enough to identify, evaluate, and train your people on leadership competencies. You need that…and more. You need to define and train staff on core leadership competencies, especially coaching competencies, and go beyond that to actually showyour leaders how to perform specific, concrete behaviors to accomplish those coaching competencies. And then provide them plenty of support and reinforcement. These are not easy skills to learn!
To assist with this, I would look into a coaching or master coach training and certification process for your leaders that develops their coaching skills and EQ or emotional intelligence so they can confidently, consistently and expertly apply good judgment in all their interactions. For decades, scientists have differentiated “EQ” or Emotional Intelligence from other forms of intelligence and credit EQ as being absolutely essential for those critical skills needed to perform well in any endeavor where people work with people.
You also want a process that is rigorous and has a built-in system for monitoring and measuring coaching results. I really do believe if you go down the path of investing in your leaders you’re ultimately creating a team of contact center champions. Champions who will learn to own your contact center performance, coach staff, communicate to staff more effectively, inspire others, and expertly reward and recognize excellence in your contact center. When you build up your leaders it amplifies all your targeted results, while raising the energy of your representatives. While it won’t happen overnight, you will notice a positive culture shift right from the start and a momentum shift that is palpable and exciting. Best of all, the chances are good that your culture of excellence will be sustainable overtime.
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Gregg Gregory is a Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) with more than 25 years working at all levels in corporate America, including work with contact center executives. His expertise and articles have appeared in 100s of business and trade publications, including SellingPower.com and Boardroom Magazine, as well as appearing on Blog Talk Radio. Gregg’s client list of over 400 companies, non-profit associations, and government agencies includes New York Life Insurance, the Defense Logistics Agency, and the Club Managers Association of America, as well as over 300 of the Fortune 500 companies. Gregg can be reached at (301) 564-0908. Visit www.TeamsRock.com for more info. Gregg’s newest book One Team, One Dream is now available on Amazon. CEO, Bill Marriott talks about Gregg and an inspiring story. click here
Dina Vance is Senior Vice President, Managing Director North America, for Ulysses Learning. She is a widely-respected thought leader on developing and leading contact center staff and a pioneer in improving performance of contact centers. Dina was responsible for the ground-level startup of two contact centers before she moved into a consulting role where she also managed the call center division for an international consulting and training organization. She has worked with Fortune 100 companies to optimize their contact center performance through focus on results, people, and process. Dina can be reached at Dvance@ulysseslearning.com; for more details on Ulysses Learning visit www.ulysseslearning.com.
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