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Want to Reduce Turnover? Develop to Retain

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Contact Centers are notorious for having a high turnover of staff. Why? Well, many people still view contact center work as an entry-level position with little room for growth.  Since turnover is costly, as Steven Covey instructs in his The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, we should begin with the end in mind and ask ourselves "How do we retain staff?"

In our contact center, we knew that if we wanted to retain staff, we'd need to intentionally address two key areas: career path opportunities and agent development. Those are two biggies, right? Well, they are significant for a reason…they take resources and buy-in from senior management to invest those resources, and they also have a tremendous impact on staff retention.

Develop to retain

So what did we do? For career pathing, we took a look at our structure and determined that there was a better way to set ourselves up for success and we created three tiers. As you move through the tiers (based on performance and need), you earn a promotion. With each promotion, our agent receives additional learning, additional responsibility, extra pay…and they commit to spending additional time in the department. This set-up was quite a departure from how we had been structured, but the reason of "this is how it's always been done" is something we threw out a long time ago.

From a development perspective, the goal was to keep agents engaged. One advantage of the tiered structure is that employees are continually learning new information and skills. As agents move through the tiers, they become a trained mentor, learning how to walk alongside new employees and help them learn and grow. They develop the ability to take more complex calls. They have the opportunity to obtain Series 6 and 63 licensing. They can spend time in other departments through our Employee Learning Circuit program, strengthening their knowledge of the entire organization while learning how what they do impacts others and vice versa.

Through our ability to forecast accurately and staff appropriately, we've also been able to leverage a time board function in the workforce management application we use. Each morning, our Workforce Optimization team reviews our stats and our projected call volumes against our staffing levels. When we see that there are intervals where we have more staff than needed to cover the incoming calls, we will allow staff to sign up for development time off the phones. This could be time spent taking a web-based course that interests them, time to work on a project they're involved with, or even time listening to calls and learning from others. Agents know that we appreciate them and want to aid in their development, and they show their appreciation to us by staying in our department.

When agents reach our third tier, they're eligible for our leadership development program. To keep our senior staff engaged, and to help establish a leadership pipeline, our Tier 3 agents can be nominated to take part in this opportunity to develop leadership skills and be at the top of the list when it comes to filling team lead and management roles as they come available. As part of this group, agents can assist with strategic planning initiatives, represent our department in committees and on cross-departmental projects, and partner with new employees as career mentors.  When assessing our current management staff, all but two of the team leads or managers hired since the creation of this program were part of this development opportunity.

When is the last time you stepped back and assessed how you could better retain staff? Is there a way you could structure your department to build in more development and career path opportunities? Does your team believe that you are invested in helping them grow their knowledge and skill sets? Ask yourself these questions, and you will find ways to increase your retention.

Looking for more help engaging and retaining your team? ICMI's expert trainers and consultants can help! Learn more about our Engaging and Retaining course.