THE BLOG

Retaining Employees and Their Sanity!

02/14/2015 05:29 pm ET | Updated Apr 16, 2015

The Deloitte CallCenter in Nashville, TN, invited me to spend an afternoon recently with their contact center management talking about daily success in a call center environment. We spent a good deal of that time comparing the similarities between call centers and my original background of radio stations - the calls, the customers, the crazy questions, the repetitive questions, being tethered to the desk, having to be 'on' every day no matter what your mood, being on time, doing the same thing every day, etc.

"One doesn't normally make the correlation between call centers and radio stations," observed Sarah Stealey Reed, CallCenter Sr. Manager for Deloitte. "But the truth is, our business is not that unusual. A radio station is not that weird. Nor is a computer manufacturer. Or a cell phone company. We just have a tendency, like most industry leaders, to get caught up in our day-to-day business and not take advantage of the best practices and new ideas that are everywhere around us."

One of the only differences discussed during my presentation was retention - most radio personalities want to stay but high turnover, usually due to ratings and revenue, is a mainstay of radio station management actions. Whereas call centers are constantly looking for a way to retain employees as well as help employees retain their sanity.

Tenacity, a retention solution for call centers that attacks multiple causes of 'churn' in the industry, has not only created a cloud-based platform to solve the problem but also put together a list of employee retention tips for call centers. These tips could apply to just about any business looking to retain employees in a competitive and 'churning' market:

Your employees need opportunities to grow. Encourage employees to set and reach personal goals. If career promotion is impossible, make employees feel more empowered by supporting their personal development outside of work.

Build and curate a positive community of team players. Lack of appreciation and belonging are among the top drivers of turnover. For many employees the social aspect of their work is just as important as what they do. Hire for fit and help new employees integrate into the work social network faster by directly connecting them to more experienced employees for mentorship.

Teach your employees to manage stress. Your employees are more likely to quit if they have been enduring stressful working conditions over prolonged periods of time. Introducing and practicing simple stress management techniques, such as meditation and deep breathing or exercises, can make a big difference.

Create a culture of personal accountability. Set peer accountability partners, create interdependencies that will help your employees understand where and when they need to improve. Then, give them the tools to do it.

Don't tell your employees that you care about them: show it! Most employees can read your true intentions.

More often than not, we all overthink success when simple daily actions could solve many of our success obstacles - such as helping employees set realistic goals, like taking a walk during lunchtime or learning to do a few breathing exercises after a stressful call; offering private break rooms and/or meditation areas, and; rewarding employees for achievements met.

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"At Deloitte, we've found that desk sharing, or 'hoteling', overcomes many of the success obstacles," says Stealey Reed. "Hoteling naturally encourages collaboration and accountability due to its open environment, but it also invites introductions to new people, new teams, and new ideas. With hoteling, you are never certain who will be sitting next to you. You just might learn something fabulous from a department that has nothing to do with yours!"

Tenacity has recently launched its first pilot with a Fortune 100 client to measure the impact of its program on retention. The launch was met with surprising enthusiasm among employees, resulting in a 50% program uptake in the first three days and growing. This is several times higher than with similar programming in the past.

"Call centers run on tight budgets so it is hard for managers to find the space and time to create the kind of caring environment that makes a workplace fun and engaging. Fortunately, technology makes this easier. Just like existing products have improved managers' ability to route calls and track employee productivity, Tenacity empowers bosses to efficiently create a better work environment." Tenacity CEO Ron Davis added, " It taps into existing social capital just waiting to be unleashed and actually improves employees' lives. And since turnover is so expensive and so prevalent, this is a huge boost to the bottom line. It's a real win/win, a too-rare opportunity for managers to do well by doing good."

Bottom line: the simple act of investing in employees by getting them to invest in themselves and each other could be the difference between doing business and doing business successfully.

Dayna Steele is often called The Daily Success Expert. Her simple yet 'ridiculously sane' advice is shared daily on YourDailySuccessTip.com. She is the author of Rock to the Top: What I Learned about Success from the World's Greatest Rock Stars and the 101 Ways to Rock Your World book series as well as a rock radio Hall of Famer. Follow her on Twitter @daynasteele.