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Develop Your Leadership Pipeline

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"How many of you started your career as agents?" I posed that question to 350 contact center vice presidents, directors and managers during one of my recent speeches. Most people in the room raised their hand. Contact centers are unique in that employees can start on the front lines and work their way all the way up to executive levels.

Leadership pipeline

Does your contact center have a formal career path for agents? For example: from agent to quality assurance analyst, to team leader, to manager? Having a well-defined path allows agents to map out their career progress. It also gives you the guidance you need to identify and groom high performers for their next role.

Why is this important? Imagine losing one of your managers. Do you have several potential candidates waiting in the wings? How many of your team leaders are ready to move up to a manager's role? If your bench is empty, you may have to follow the time consuming process of recruiting a manager externally and waiting for them to ramp up on your contact center operation.

You can avoid that problem by grooming multiple successors at every level.

The first step is to identify top performers. Work with your human resources and legal departments to ensure your selection process follows company guidelines, union regulations and all municipal, state and federal laws.

Once you have identified high performers who match a particular role, you can arrange for them to job shadow a team member who is already in that position. For instance, if someone's next career move is from team leader to manager, let them shadow a manager for a day. This gives them exposure to the role and broadens their perspective.

Temporary assignments are another way to groom candidates. This can include acting supervisor roles, temporary loan outs to the training department, or working on special projects. There are two benefits to this approach: your employee learns if another role is a suitable fit for them and the company discovers whether or not they can perform the role.

Of course, having a high service level that enables you to spare these employees offline in the first place predicates your ability to carry out these techniques. But, what if you do not have the resources to take agents off the phone for a day? How else can you groom your frontline team members?

You can still develop their leadership skills by asking them to give a short presentation at your next team meeting. If they are an agent who wants to become a team leader, have them present a ten minute "Best customer service tips" segment at a meeting. Or, ask them to lead a 10-minute team huddle once, so they develop a feel for running a short team meeting. If they want to become a quality assurance analyst, ask them to grade one of their own calls to see if their scoring matches the QA coach's remarks. If their next move is to be a manager, invite that team leader to work on a special project. Team members can also leverage internal online training tool s to develop their skills. Just be sure to give them an opportunity to apply their new knowledge after the course.

Use these techniques to develop a leadership pipeline in your contact center. This will give you the bench strength to quickly fill positions and keep your contact center running smoothly.  

How does your contact center approach career paths? Share your comments below.