This is part one in a multi-part series discussing how to drive, foster and encourage engagement in contact centers.
The management of employee engagement is critical to all organizations, especially operations organizations such as contact centers. Leaders must know what engagement is and why it is important, the impacts of engagement in a contact center environment, what drives engagement, and how they can foster increased engagement within their center. The impacts of low levels of engagement are many and severe, ultimately affecting the survivability of the contact center. Steps can be taken to increase the level of engagement in the contact center, but improvement can be slow as those employees that are really at the heart of the problem, the actively disengaged, are the most resistant to change. This series will define engagement and explain its importance, identify key points for engagement relevant to the contact center, and provide a recommended set of actions to foster improved engagement.
What is engagement and why is it important?
The Gallup company ran the largest study to date on employee engagement and found that employees fall into one of three categories with respect to engagement; engaged, indifferent, and actively disengaged. Engaged employees believe in the organization and deliver positive interactions with customers, are more productive, less likely to leave the organization, and contribute positively to the profitability of the organization. The engaged employee is less likely to call in sick and more likely to adhere to their assigned schedule. The actively disengaged employee is detrimental to the organization, actively seeking to move the employees in the indifferent category to their category. They are frequently tardy or absent, frequently out of adherence to their schedule, are less productive and negatively impact the profitability of the center.
Gallup developed an engagement ratio as a macro-level indicator of the health of an organization and found that in average organizations, the ratio of engaged to actively disengaged employees is less than 2 to 1. This level of active disengagement has a huge cost, estimated by Gallup to be more than $300 billion per year in lost productivity alone.
In the contact center, where each customer interaction represents a moment that can either build or destroy a brand opportunity, having a world-class level of engagement is critical. A satisfied and engaged employee has a much better chance of satisfying a customer during an interaction than a dissatisfied and disengaged employee. Indeed, an actively disengaged employee is more likely to have a dissatisfied interaction than a neutral or satisfied interaction.
An actively disengaged employee will not only have lower productivity themselves, but will lower the productivity of those around them, as well as lower the productivity of the supervisor who must spend more time and energy coaching or counseling an actively disengaged employee.
Lower productivity means more cost. A dissatisfied customer means lost revenue or service penalties. Actively disengaged employees therefore keep the average contact center just that, average.
World-class organizations, however, have a ratio of engaged to actively disengaged employees of over 9 to 1. Such a high ratio means the actively disengaged employees are less likely to affect the productivity of other employees, and are less likely to move indifferent employees to their position. Engaged organizations are therefore more likely to provide quality customer interactions, and are more productive in their interactions, and hence drive organizational profitability. Indeed, Gallup found that engaged organizations have almost 4 times the earning per share (EPS) growth rate compared to organizations with lower engagement in their same industry. And, Best Buy found that for every 10th of a point improvement in employee engagement scores, its stores saw a $100,000 increase in operating income. Organizations operating in the ratio of 8 to 1 were found by Gallup to have a sustainable model, in other words critical engagement mass.
So now we know why we need it, but how do we drive engagement? Find out in Part 2.