Putting yourself in your best suit, going to the office in a traffic jam and working from 9 to 5 has been declining in popularity for years. The pandemic is speeding things up a little bit more and forcing companies to function as a hybrid organization. One half of the week you work at home and the other half at the office, which makes you extremely flexible.
But such a hybrid work form can feel chaotic, as agents need to have two workstations and keep track of where they ‘need’ to be and when. Keeping home-based agents engaged is therefore one of the biggest challenges in the hybrid work model.
In 2020, we just sent our agents home quickly without a long-term plan. At the moment we see that a part has returned to the office, but another part is still working at home or a combination of the two. The hybrid work model is here to stay as the enjoyment of working from home is number 2 on the list of factors for a high Employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS).
Many contact centers are seeking help exploring this new territory and looking for a strategy to keep working-from-home agents engaged.
Agents involved: facts & figures
That involvement is important. Research shows that involved agents:
- Stay 5x earlier than leave within a year
- Stay 4x earlier than dissatisfied colleagues
- Recommend friends to join the company 16x more often
- 3x more likely to feel that they can solve problems well
Employee engagement can have a major impact on your bottom line and customer loyalty. Are you looking for a way to get your working from home agents more involved? Then it is wise to start with the six pillars for committed employees, which we list below.
Pillar 1: company culture
A good company culture is critical to agent engagement — no matter what business model you operate — because it’s the reason many people wanted to work for a company in the first place. Even before corona, contact centers struggled to establish a strong and consistent culture due to employee turnover .
So you can imagine that it will be even more difficult to establish a strong company culture with home workers.
A strong corporate culture has a number of elements: purpose, ownership, group feeling and recognition.
How can you incorporate those elements into your engagement strategy?
People want to be part of something bigger than themselves. That’s why it’s important that you help them connect with the impact of their work.
In addition, it is important that you allow agents to grow into other roles within the contact center. You can foster a culture of growth by having regular open conversations about future plans in interests. Also make sure you offer training courses to accommodate this.
Weekly or monthly training to improve hard and soft skills and career growth lessons gives your agents the feeling that they are progressing and growing. This may seem difficult with working from home agents, but we have video calls and that will get you a long way.
- Hard skills, also known as learnable skills, can range from technical prowess in products/services to learning to code.
- Soft skills can range from leadership training, communication techniques, time management, and empathy training. Soft skills have to do with how you interact with people, solve problems and manage time.
From the agent’s perspective, career opportunities in the contact center may be limited, but they don’t have to be. It is important for managers to have conversations with agents about leadership positions or promotions, pay increases or an in-house career switch.
When agents know that their manager is investing in their growth and wants them to stay, they become more engaged.
Things like this also show that your management team is interested in its employees, even if they don’t speak to each other every day. When you put the time and energy into your agents, you show that you care about them. JW Marriott once said, “If you take care of your employees, they take care of your customers, and your company takes care of itself.”
If you give agents ownership and autonomy, they feel empowered to actively and enthusiastically commit themselves to their work. You can promote ownership by:
- Involve employees in goal setting
- Give agents access to dashboards of data that matter to them
- Delegate authority, not just work
- Encouraging agents to solve their own problems
- Recognize agents who go the extra mile
A sense of community can be anything from sending birthday wishes, in-house skills training, or virtual meetups. Whatever you do, make sure your employees feel connected and cared for.
Celebrate the wins!
If you don’t create any kind of excitement, working in a contact center can quickly feel mundane and boring. So celebrate your wins!
With working from home agents, a tool such as wallboards can be useful for giving recognition. You can display them on an agent’s desktop and on screens in the office.
Pillar 2: Goal Setting and Tracking
In a hybrid field, if you don’t set clear goals, it’s easy for agents to drift away. After all, they don’t have a physical supervisor who constantly reminds them of a task.
Goal setting with rewards makes working in a contact center more positive. Whether your agents are working from home or in the office, individual dashboards with real-time data give them a great sense of confidence and satisfaction.
In addition to personal goals, company goals are also important, they give agents the feeling that they belong. Give your agents access to company KPIs and you will find that they feel embraced by your company.
Pillar 3: a rewards and recognition program
According to a study by ICMI, rewards and recognition are the most important factor for agent satisfaction.
There are many ways to get your employees more engaged. In a hybrid way of working, it makes sense to have an automated strategy that consistently reaches both your office and home-based agents.
The use of gamification can help with this, for example. There are companies that give their agents virtual coins when they earn a 100 on the Quality Score. The coins won can be exchanged by agents for rewards in the marketplace. Some ideas of rewards are:
- Extra paid leave (days or hours)
- Subscription to a streaming service for three months
- 30 minutes mentorship from the CEO
- Promotional gifts
- Cinema tickets
- Seasonal products (barbecue, cool box, or kayak)
- Game consoles such as Xbox or PlayStation
- Gift cards
- Toys or stuffed animals for children
Pillar 4: Employee feedback
Agents want to be heard. Even if it’s a simple request, such as a new tea flavor or taking the trouble to ask about a weekend, as long as they can tell their story.
Send out employee surveys regularly and do something with the feedback you get, because it boosts morale. Also make sure your supervisors have the tools to send these surveys across their team. Not sure what kind of investigations you can send out? Here are some ideas:
- Job satisfaction survey
- Agent Engagement Survey
- Mental health survey
- Manager evaluation survey
- Psychographic Survey
- Survey after an event
Each survey gives you insight into specific areas for improvement. In a hybrid work environment, it can be difficult to identify all problems immediately and regular research reveals things that you would otherwise miss.
Pillar 5: team building activities
Team building activities are a great way to keep morale up among your working from home agents. Don’t hold endless meetings with boring presentations, but be creative.
Break up into new groups every week so that your agents talk to different people and don’t end up in a bubble. Hold these meetings with a combination of agents working from home and agents who are in the office. Some ideas:
- First Recall Mission: Ask a quick question that needs an immediate answer to get to know each other better
- Murder Mystery: Divide your agents into small teams and give them clues to solve a murder mystery. Give a small prize to the team that wins
- Virtual Happy Hour: send each employee a small drink package and have a virtual drink on Friday afternoon. You can guide this with a virtual pub quiz
Pillar 6: consistent communication
An important key to satisfied employees is consistent internal communication. Building trust can seem impossible when everyone says something different and follows contrary processes. You need to ensure that the same message is spread across all platforms so that your agents trust the leadership and feel safe in their work environment.
Here are some things you can do to keep communication consistent:
- Regular one-on-one conversations
- Have an open door policy
- Schedule a manager to be physically in the office every day to meet people who come to the office
- Schedule scheduled times for team conversations where agents can reach managers
- Managers can create a schedule to speak to everyone individually
- Communicate the big picture goals regularly and share regular updates on smaller goals
- Teach new employees the professional and company jargon and ensure good onboarding
- Send company-wide announcements to everyone in the company
Motivating agents working from home: start with the basics
Applying these key engagement pillars can lead to better employee morale, less turnover, better performance, and greater customer satisfaction.
The hybrid working method will not disappear any time soon. Agents love the flexibility and comfort it offers. But like anything, it comes with its own unique challenges when trying to keep your employees engaged in their role. If you’re not sure where to start, the six pillars listed above are a good place to start.