Recruitment and retention must go hand in hand at call centres

first_img Previous Article Next Article Recruitment and retention must go hand in hand at call centresOn 4 Sep 2001 in Personnel Today Related posts:No related photos. Comments are closed. Employeeturnover in the call centre industry has nearly doubled as dissatisfied staffleave companies. And as almost half the firms in the sector do not haveretention policies, Ben Willmott asks what steps they should be taking to keepthe right people on boardManagementtraining and recruitment procedures among call centres must improve ifspiralling staff turnover in the sector is to be tackled.Theseare two of the main conclusions of the annual benchmarking report by callcentre specialist Merchants, which reveals that staff turnover in the industryhas nearly doubled over the past two years.Thereport, based on a survey of 352 contact centres in 30 countries and fivecontinents, indicates that the industry experienced a turnover rate of 32 percent in 2000 compared with 22 per cent in 1999.CherylClifford, HR director at Merchants, said too many call centres focus only onrecruiting staff and not on retaining them, and also neglect managementtraining.Thesurvey shows that 90 per cent of organisations have staff recruitmentstrategies in place but only 55 per cent have retention plans.Cliffordsaid the study reveals that the industry shortcuts recruitment and selectiontechniques and managers do not bother to align staff with business goals oragree performance objectives.Thestudy highlights a failure by call centre managers to use more sophisticatedand time-consuming recruitment techniques, such as group interviews, assessmentcentres and psychometrics, when choosing staff. It reveals that only half ofcall centre employers check references.”Ourexperience at Merchants has been that a carefully designed and conductedrecruitment campaign saves effort and money later by reducing attrition due toincorrect appointment,” Clifford said in the report.”Thesuccess or failure of business to attract and retain the appropriate calibreand volume of people will ultimately affect their ability to deliverorganisational goals.”Currentestimates by the CIPD and the Blue Sky Consultancy are that to replace eachcall centre employee costs between £5,000 and £30,000. The figure depends onwhether the fall in performance among those about to leave and the cost ofmanaging the learning curve of new starters are included.TheCIPD agrees that recruitment and retention strategies must be developed hand inhand if the UK’s 10,500 call centres are to begin to curb increases in staffturnover.TheCIPD’s training and development adviser, Mike Cannell, said, “There is nopoint in just thinking about a recruitment strategy. It is essential to thinkabout retention in the same way.”Cannellsaid organisations should take a longer-term view when they hire staff toensure the recruits are matched to the demands of the job.”Itcosts a lot of money to advertise for someone and then train them,” hesaid. “Ifthey are going to leave after six months because they are unhappy, thensomething has gone wrong.”Thereport recommends that organisations make it a priority to engage their callcentre staff with the aims of the business.Cliffordsaid part of the reason for high staff turnover is that too many organisationstreat their call centres like an annexe to the main business.Sheemphasised that call centre staff must be aligned with the business strategy ifthey are to feel they play a valuable role in the organisation.TheCIPD says it is in employers’ best interests to involve call centre staff withthe business, not just to keep them, but also because they often have the mostdirect contact with customers.”Theyknow what customers are saying, and it is important they get an opportunity tofeed that back to management,” said Cannell.ColinMackay, head of quality and standards for the CCA, the representative body forthe call centre industry, said it had produced a best practice framework tohelp its members recruit and retain staff.”Ifyou recruit the right people in the first place, train them properly and givethem career development opportunities, there is no reason for there to be highstaff turnover,” he said.Accordingto the Merchants study, another reason that attrition rates continue to rise inthe sector – which employs 400,000 people in the UK – is that salaries foragents have remained fairly static at the 1998 level of £12-£14,000 a year.Itfinds that this reluctance of companies to improve pay has contributed to thesituation the industry now faces.”Lowpay is an emotive phrase,” said Mackay. “What is not taken intoaccount is the benefits which contact centre staff often receive, such asnon-contributory pensions and facilities they can use if they are part of alarge group. “Whatis important for employers is that if you do offer benefits you tell your staffabout them.”Althoughrewards are important, the report claims that high staff turnover in callcentres can only be addressed if HR plays a more active role in peoplemanagement.Cliffordsaid, “Agents who work in the repetitive, processing environments needsupportive leadership and HR to provide more individual attention. “Inaddition, if tasks can be made more varied and interesting, they will be moreinterested in the work and their contribution.”www.merchants.co.ukPaypushed up by competitionCallcentre pay for managers and skilled staff is rising, according to a survey bythe Hay Group consultancy.Thesalaries of managers at the UK’s larger call centres have increased by morethan 20 per cent in the past 12 months from £59,245 on average to £71,586.Teamleaders’ salaries have risen by an average of 11 per cent from £21,408 to£23,698.Thereport also reveals that increasing competition for high-quality staff haspushed up remuneration levels for skilled call handlers.Atypical employee handling inbound calls, which require detailed technicalknowledge, now earns on average £21,317, which is 7.38 per cent higher thanlast year.Thesurvey shows that organisations are stepping up their efforts to make theworking day for call centre staff less stressful and less monotonous, with 74per cent of respondents allowing short breaks during the day.HayGroup consultant Anthony McNulty said, “We are witnessing among callcentres a shift of emphasis away from basic call handling to provision ofsophisticated services to customers. Call centres are trying to shed theirsweatshop image and remodel themselves as contact centres, providinghigh-level, technical advice to customers.”Thefindings in the Hay Group 2001 Call Centre Report are drawn from 91 UKorganisations that run call centres. www.haygroup.comlast_img read more

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