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Hiring People – Getting it Right the First Time (All the Time!)

  





Agent attrition has always been a huge issue in the contact center industry. High turnover plagues BPO’s around the world for various reasons – high burnout, a stressful environment, abusive customers, lack of training, low pay, inflexible schedules… 

In response, the industry bends over backwards to offer incentives and remediate workplace issues to entice people to stay. Companies repeatedly offer flexibility, pay attention to employee engagement, and prioritize employee “happiness.” They invoke mantras like “the best attitude is gratitude” and keep compensation (including benefits) current.  

But even with competitive pay, bespoke mentoring, perks, game rooms, outings, and free meals, a low attrition rate eludes us.

So, should companies just live with this never-ending revolving door? Or simply accept that perhaps, the customer experience and service industry is doomed to chase this endless cycle?

The loud answer is … NO.

Think about the endless cycle from the perspective of your recruiting engine being the same as being on a treadmill all day long. Imagine that you’re dealing with a monthly attrition rate of 5% (crank up that treadmill to 5 MPH). You can handle that for awhile, but going all day, eventually that pace is going to be unsustainable, painful, and arduous. What if you were able to bring that down to 4% (a little less huffing and puffing)…then 3% (now we’re talking)…and like we’ve been able to do in some cases…all the way down to 1.6%. 

What happens then? 

All of a sudden, your recruiting team isn’t scurrying just to frantically fill classes. Maybe for a change, they can be extra picky about who they hire. Maybe that means you need fewer training classes and trainers. Maybe your first 90 day performance degradation isn’t the KPI killer like it is today. Ohhh what a crazy world that would be!

And while reducing attrition isn’t anything new…I think that was the first KPI in the first caveman call center…it certainly hasn’t been mastered nor regularly achieved by most companies. 

At CXperts, we’ve written a great deal about the importance of instilling an excellent employee engagement strategy. That strategy, and building a strong culture, begins at the front door.

Imagine what you would do if you could be truly picky about who you hired. I know, I know…everyone has minimum thresholds, English language proficiency testing, etc. and no one gets through the process without meeting certain criteria. That’s great…but is that getting you the agents, the culture, the environment that you’re after?

What if you brought other criteria into focus? What if you also hired based on culture and values-alignment? A wise man once told me decisions should be made “based on attitude, not aptitude.” I would argue that if you don’t use culture as a factor in your hiring decisions, then every person you hire further dilutes your culture.

 The rest, shall we say, is a cakewalk.

Aptitude and hard skills can always be taught. You can train, coach, and educate processes, the ins and outs of a CRM system, technical protocol, and the like. But you can’t teach passion, resourcefulness, being caring, driven, or results-driven.

It’s the proverbial difference between a mountain and a molehill.  

Think about it.

If we dedicate time and resources to recruiting the right individuals (meaning, the candidates aligned with company values) rather than jumping hoops trying to outdo the company next door in benefits, nobody has to work on overdrive.

Hire trainable and culturally aligned employees

It’s no secret formula. Ask any recruitment officer and they’d tell you the same thing.

But while having to hire and nest in the shortest possible time, and considering the resources dedicated to recruitment, over time call center qualifications were downgraded to simply “years of experience,” “English proficiency,” “typing skills,” and any other client-specific requirements. 

This isn’t to say that these parameters aren’t essential. But those are table stakes. And when you’ve solved the attrition problem, now you can add an extra dimension to your hiring process. 

But that’s the dilemma, isn’t it? The chicken or the egg? Hire the right people, and you can reduce your attrition. Reduce your attrition, and you can hire the right people.

It’s a vicious cycle. But if you build it, they will come.

At CXperts, what we built is a web-based recruiting tool called NIA (Nearsol Intelligence Automation) to help us assess our employees on the basis of values-alignment and getting “the right person in the right seat.” Check it out here.

This automated recruitment process does away with the nitty-gritty of recruitment (sifting through applications sent, classifying skill-sets, scheduling the first interview to specific HR officers, initial assessments…). It brings more efficacy in terms of screening by giving our recruitment team more time to process more candidates and spend less time screening via phone. And in turn, more time is spent in evaluating applicants on the basis of fit.

It thus gives your recruitment team more elbow room to find THE ONE.  

NIA personalizes the recruitment process so that we can take a closer look at the candidate.  Does this person fit the profile of a CXperts employee? Will he or she stay? Is he or she likely to go the extra mile for all our stakeholders? Will this candidate blend well with the rest of the team?

No canned emails with NIA. Our process meets candidates where they are.

Oh, and we do this for all our hubs – the US, Guatemala, the Philippines, Colombia, and Honduras. We’re talking thousands of applicants at any given time.  

Did we notice a difference in the quality of applicants using NIA?

YES.  

Have we reduced the number of applicants we need to obtain a particular batch size?

YES.  

Did we gain an acceptable attrition rate since?

YES. Ours has been a consistently low 3.5% monthly average, if not lower.

Since applicants are classified and “weeded” out (based on completion of the application and submission of a video), we are now free to do a fair cultural assessment.

Our hire/show rate is achieved faster and targets are met (consistently at 100% since NIA was launched).

What’s even more important is that this is self-sustaining. Success begets success. 

In some markets, up to 85% of our new employees come by way of employee referral.

Wouldn’t it be great if all you had to do was go find those other 15% of new hires that your employees didn’t already find for you? That only happens when you’ve built a strong culture full of people wanting other like-minded people to come work with them.

There will always be employees who will turn out to be a poor match. And that’s ok.  

Employee turnover can’t and shouldn’t be zero. Not everyone is a match. And there are the occasional bad apples or people you take a flyer on. And people will always leave, whether for a career change, a job nearer to their home, or other life changes.

But if we hire right, then we lose people for inevitable reasons and don’t get stuck on the out-of-control recruiting treadmill.

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