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Reducing staff turnover in IT and telecommunications

Kim Lewin, VP sales and operations EMEA, WorkForce Software, provides some advice for keeping staff happy

Workforce Strategies for a Happy, Healthy, and Committed Organisation

IT and telecommunications, and particularly call centres, have long been known for higher-than-average employee turnover rates. Especially when an emphasis on 24/7 customer service is core to an organisation’s success, it can be difficult for human resources (HR) to authentically facilitate a culture that supports employee work-life balance without compromising efficiency and productivity. Add duty of care obligations and flexitime requests, and the job of balancing employee needs and employer expectations becomes even more complicated. For many, constructs such as employee surveys and exit interviews help to identify systemic issues. Yet HR can no longer afford to depend on analysis that takes place after attrition rates begin to escalate.

With this issue in mind, we recently had the opportunity to speak with ten of the UK’s top IT and telecommunications executives. A mix of HR Directors, Reward Directors and top-level executives - representing companies that ranged in size from 3,000 employees all the way up to more than 160,000 - participants had much to say about maintaining a happy, healthy and committed organisation in the IT and telecommunications industry where an emphasis on 24/7 customer service often makes it difficult for employers to balance business needs with employee satisfaction. With an eye toward reducing attrition rates in an industry known for high turnover, the following strategies emerged from the discussion.

Identify and celebrate exemplary workers

Recognition and reward programmes are an important part of lowering attrition rates. Yet, as numerous executives indicated, identifying the trends and behaviours you want others to emulate isn’t always straightforward and simple. That’s where concrete labour data can be used to more quickly identify your organisation’s highest producing employees and teams. For instance, employers collect in and out times for hourly employees in order to ensure pay accuracy. Collecting more granular data, such as when call centre employees begin and end calls, can help you identify those workers who process customer requests or concerns most efficiently. Overlay this data with customer satisfaction metrics or data about which calls need to be escalated to supervisors and you have some compelling information about worker productivity and efficiency. This insight can then be used to identify and reward the skills and behaviours that most consistently produce the results you’re looking for. Furthermore, using that data to recognise and celebrate exemplary workers can be a powerful tool in increasing employee satisfaction and retention across entire departments and even the organisation at large.

Give employees a voice

We’ve long recognised that employees who have a say in when and where they work are more engaged. Yet many organisations continue to leave employees out of the rostering process. Leveraging robust rostering software that allows employees to access their schedules from any location via mobile-enabled devices; submit time-off requests; bid on holiday and long-term shifts, jobs and locations; and swap shifts with colleagues allows their input without compromising your ability to ensure adequate staffing at all times. The result, as numerous executives noted, is greater employee engagement and satisfaction - and, quite often, a corresponding uptick in productivity as well.

Equip employees with cross-functional training

Exit interviews can illuminate key opportunities for organisational improvement, such as the need for more relevant or thorough employee training. Leading organisations take a proactive stance by using automated rostering software to pair new employees with experienced workers early in their new hire training. This allows practical, hands-on knowledge to be passed on and also gives newer employees the opportunity expand their skillset with cross-functional training and develop deeper roots within the company - two benefits that contribute to a top-performing workplace culture.

Leverage flexible tools to manage an agile workforce

Particularly with an agile workforce, where ‘hot-desking’ and remote work are common, flexible workforce management tools are essential. Mobile-enabled workforce management applications allow employees to log in and out times and granular labour data from any location, without cluttering their devices with plug-ins, apps or downloads. A solution such as that also allows employees to enter transactions without an internet connection, so payroll is always based on accurate labour data - not estimates or employee recall. This means that your organisation and your employees can be confident that payroll is based on a true accounting of the hours worked.

Identify and address absence patterns proactively

Employers also have a duty of care to their employees, which needs to be upheld for both legal and moral reasons. Yet, multiple executives shared that balancing their duty of care obligations with business needs is an ongoing challenge. There’s no getting around the fact that employee absences can be inconvenient, particularly when they are unexpected or when time-sensitive project deadlines loom and client expectations need to be met. Multiple HR executives in attendance shared that managers frequently report a sense of tension between prioritising projects and putting an employee’s health and well-being first.

Organisations must strike a delicate balance and ensure that employees are empowered to take time off when they are truly sick, without permitting liberties akin to absence abuse. Furthermore, since identifying instances of absence abuse can appear subjective - particularly to the employee - it helps to leverage automated solutions that can illuminate absence trends.

For example, an automated solution that displays absence data on the manager’s dashboard allows management to readily identify and address patterns, such as an employee who repeatedly calls out sick on Fridays or Mondays. Automation allows managers to respond more quickly and consistently, and in accordance with company policy, minimising employee perceptions that a particular manager is being too harsh or that some employees are taken to task while others aren’t. In addition, leveraging clear, objective absence data helps managers initiate the conversation without overstepping duty of care obligations. Best of all, spotting early signs of absence-related indicators can also lead to short-term interventions that actually prevent longer absences and help preserve employee wellness - thus, creating a win-win scenario for the employee and the employer.

Leveraging these strategies, along with the complex labour data available through capable workforce management technologies, can help your organisation be proactive instead of reactive in your effort to retain qualified employees. From allowing workers to have a say in rostering decisions to providing ample training, leveraging mobile technologies and upholding your duty of care obligations to each employee, leading organisations in IT and telecommunications are effectively demonstrating how to use labour data to cultivate meaningful interactions with employees and collaborate on creating a healthier, more satisfying workplace culture.

This was last published in November 2015

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