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The Value of Democratizing Your Company’s Career Progression Process

on the steps Contact center leaders often look to technological innovation to bring about improved performance, but a non-traditional approach for career progression and learning often can be a less expensive and more effective path to organizational improvement. A non-traditional career path model can bring out the best in people and unlock their discretionary effort in ways few other initiatives can.

What does this model look like? Here are the main foundations of this model:

Focuses on a generalist model, where all team members can learn and contribute to all work assignments.

Team models do not “graduate” out of previous work learned, but they may have less of that work as they also complete work in a new learned path.

Requires demonstrated mastery in the new path before formalizing promotions.

If quality standards are not maintained, team members can regress to prior stages of the career path.

Pitfalls to the traditional approach

In the traditional approach to development and advancement, most of a team’s human resources are assigned to large volumes of commonly received work. The repetitive nature of this work may cause increased error rates and fail to challenge and engage team members. This can lead to increased turnover, particularly if a path to more engaging work is unclear.

Also problematic is relying on promoting a select few of the workforce to manage specialized assignments of less frequent, more challenging work. Often, these redirected human resources leave serving the primary customer behind, causing a disconnect between their work and the organization’s service vision. The use of specialists will increase customer effort to resolution by creating the need to pass work from generalist resources to specialists.

In a specialist model, leaders unintentionally reinforce the idea that work further away from customer interactions is valued more. Promoting specialists as the primary means of career progression also splinters the team’s total pool of resources, decreasing effectiveness and making consistent achievement of responsiveness targets difficult.

A better way forward

With a changed, updated career path approach, organizations may benefit from improved engagement, increased effectiveness, and greater chance of effortless customer experiences. Generalist-centric models of career advancement and learning ultimately can reduce waste in the process of customer support by reducing the need to transfer customers to specialist care. Avoiding waste builds more efficient, effective teams, and can increase customer satisfaction, as the first person the customer connects with is prepared to manage the interaction from start to finish.

There are, of course, potential obstacles to this approach, regardless of the chosen approach, including that leaders must prepare to deliver more training content regularly. Also, there must be documented, consistent methods for managing team members who don’t meet expectations as they progress in their careers. Overall, however, the potential gains for teams, companies, and customers very well may outweigh the pitfalls.


  • 12: The Elements of Great Managing (2006, Wagner, R. and Harter, J.K.)
  • Call Center Management on Fast Forward (2012, Cleveland, B.)
  • The Effortless Experience (2013, Dixon, Toman, Delisi)
  • The Lean Way
  • Photo courtesy of _willpower_ via Nappy
    Topics: Career Development, Coaching And Quality Management, Strategy