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Transitioning Call Center Supervisors to Leadership Positions

Frontline supervisors are valuable assets of any call center. They have their fingers on the pulse of what’s going on with the center, overseeing how the agents are interacting with the customers and listening to what those customers are saying. As they have direct experience working with agents (and were often agents themselves at one point), they can offer experience that those outside the company might not have. So, when a leadership position opens up, the organization should look at its roster of supervisors; they can be ideal candidates for assuming higher-level roles – in the call center and beyond.

But transitioning supervisors into management positions is not always an easy thing to do. It all depends on choosing the right supervisors to promote and ensuring that they receive the proper training.

Joan Scazzaro, Director of Customer Service, Inside Sales and Retail Sales for Bright House Networks, is very familiar with the process of moving supervisors into management positions. And she fully appreciates the background that supervisors have and can bring to a new in-house position over external candidates.

“The benefits of promoting internal employees to management is the job knowledge they bring with them to the leadership role,” Scazzaro says. “Our business is very complex and it can take external hires much longer to get up to speed on our policies and procedures than an internal hire.”

Selecting the Right Candidates for Advancement

But in order to move a supervisor into a new position, you must first have a strong pool of candidates to choose from. One of the ways to ensure this is to continually provide supervisors with performance feedback, development opportunities, and training.

Scazzaro says her organization has an internal “university,” allowing employees to receive supplemental training throughout the year. Additionally, she suggests those supervisors that show interest in pursuing a management role, or who demonstrate the necessary strengths, be given the opportunity to practice some of the skills and responsibilities that would be required in a leadership role.

Such activities can provide management with insight as to which supervisors would be ideal candidates for advancement – and which ones aren’t. “Individuals that were promoted to a management role and struggled were not developed to obtain the skills they would need to be a successful manager,” Scazzaro says. “Some individuals want the promotion without having the skills necessary to be successful out of the gate, and that is when challenges arise.”

New Position, New Challenges

As long as the company has good training and development programs in place, the transition from supervisor to management should go smoothly. However, as with anyone taking on a new role, they might meet some challenges along the way.

According to Scazzaro, some of the more common challenges include dealing with difficult employee conversations, practicing situational leadership and maintaining good time management. Another difficulty they may face is having an increased disciplinarian role over agents who could have been their friends on the call center floor.

Scazzaro advises that such conversations with peers be kept objective and based on the individual’s performance, rather that personal. She says, “Most of these conversations revolve around skill sets and behaviors that affect performance. If the conversation can be structured with this in mind, it can be less challenging to have conversations with employees that were peers in the past.”

Ongoing Training and Development

Another potential difficulty is making sure that the training supervisors receive when taking on the new role stays with them throughout their tenure. Scazzaro suggests the key to this is proper follow-up. Continued training, observation and soliciting feedback are all methods for ensuring that employees maintain the skills and knowledge they learned during their transition.

It’s also important to make sure that the learning never stops. This can be accomplished by having ongoing discussions with each employee about the areas they’d like to develop and any areas that their managers think could be improved.

“It’s critical to obtain the employee’s feedback on areas they would like to develop in their current role and discuss what skills they may need if they’d like to progress to a higher-level position,” Scazzaro says.

Of course, it’s also important to make sure that the supervisors know the career paths available to them. While not all will be able to transition into management, just knowing that there are opportunities for advancement can be a boost to morale for everyone in the call center.