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Why Ditching Your Diaper Genie Culture Will Reduce Turnover

You don’t need us to tell you that of any industry in the world, call centers’ retention rates are among the lowest. You know turnover is your Achilles heel. The question is, what can you do about it?

In our 25 years experience working in and with call centers around the world, one of the biggest retention-related mistakes we’ve seen leaders make in those centers is failing to address the phenomenon we call “Diaper Genie Drama.”

Diaper Genie Culture

Now, Diaper Genies are fabulous inventions. If you’re a parent, or even if you just watch TV, you know that Diaper Genies hide the stink of poopie diapers and exponentially increase the interval between trash take-outs. The problem is, it’s only a reprieve. At some point, you’ve still got to deal with the stink.

Same thing happens in workplaces. Stinky issues get smothered with spin, sandwiched feedback, and carefully crafted PowerPoints. But just as every Diaper Genie has a capacity for poop that eventually gets met, so does your culture. Eventually, the unresolved problems piling up will break the surface; perhaps through an embarrassing series of customer complaints, an operational breakdown, or -- most damagingly – staff turnover. This is what we call Diaper Genie Drama.

So, what happens when you ditch your Diaper Genie culture by “taking out the trash” more consistently? Together, you and your people increase engagement and reduce turnover. Here’s why:

1. You turn your “poop” into fertilizer. People begin to “own the ugly.” Instead of treating your team’s problems like radioactive biohazard, people bring them out into the open for creative problem solving. Your meetings become discussions, instead of one-way information dumps. People ask questions to probe, genuinely understand the issues, and learn how they can contribute to resolving them. You begin to hear less “business as usual” reporting and more discussion around people’s worries, fears, and concerns about where they may be falling short in meeting customer expectations…or, more typically, where the tools they’ve been provided fall short. When you reach this level of transparency, then you’re gaining traction in your war on attrition.

2. You regain the time spent covering the stink. Do you and your people spend more time crafting a tough conversation than having it? When you shift from worrying about font sizes to actually fixing problems, you save a ton of time – time that can be spent improving the employee experience in your organization. According to the 2015/2016 edition of ContactBabel’s Contact Centre HR & Operational Benchmarking Report, down time is at an 11-year low for call center employees. Imagine what you gain when you liberate your people’s precious discretionary time from spinning and covering up their frustrations.

3.  “Poop” is no longer a four-letter word. Too many of the centers we’ve supported have bosses running around that react poorly to bad news. When leaders stop treating “poop” like a four-letter word, they teach their people it’s okay to be human and to make mistakes. When people feel it’s okay to express the challenging parts of their humanity, they more readily tap into their positive aspects: humor, empathy, compassion, and curiosity. When people begin showing up as whole people, your center wins: 92% of consumers say a call center agent’s perceived happiness affects their personal customer experience.

4. Every day is trash day. You know that gunk that sticks to the bottom of your trashcan (or, if you’re a seasoned parent, your Diaper Genie) because you only take the trash out once a week? Every week you remind yourself to clean it out, but somehow you never quite get around to it. But, what would happen if every day were trash day? You’d get so sick of looking at the gunk that you’d get down on your hands and knees and scrub it out, right? Same thing with the Diaper Genies hiding inside your culture. The more regularly you pay attention to them, the more likely you are to get to the root cause of the issues hiding in there, once and for all. When frustrating issues get “band aids,” it takes down morale and causes people to disengage. Solving those issues invites re-engagement.

5. People take pride in taking out their own trash. We’ve worked with countless companies where “don’t ask, don’t tell” is the norm. There’s a fundamental absolution of responsibility. When you ditch your Diaper Genie Drama and create a discipline of surfacing and solving even the most frustrating issues, cultural transformation can occur. People understand that if they’ve got an issue with something – anything – it’s their responsibility to bring it out in the open. In our experience, people thrive under this form of accountability. They’re empowered and actually get excited about solving problems as they arise. It becomes a sort of game – the opposite of the gaming the score environment they’d previously struggled under.

It takes time to divest of your Diaper Genies, especially if your culture is filled with them. The best place to start is in your own office. Lift the lid, and empty the trash. This first purge will grease the skids. For more about managing Diaper Genie Drama, check out this video.

Bonus assignment: We're currently reading Karin & David's book, Winning Well, for the ICMI book club. Join us and mark your calendars for a live Twitter Q&A on March 24th!