There are two basic ingredients that make it imperative for any business, and in particular for a call center, to maintain a low employee turnover - time and money. When people leave, new people have to be hired and trained. The hiring and training process takes time and resources away from other critical functions. This is especially true, if the learning curve is steep or if it takes a considerable period of time to train new employees to a point where they are of value to the business. Therefore, if turnover can be kept small, the call center benefits. The question that companies must answer, then, is how best to keep turnover small and a stable, trained workforce in place.
A recent study took a look at several hundred call centers and identified factors that seemed to be key to high turnover call centers with a turnover rate of just under 50% or more annually. This study also looked at he factors that were characteristic of low turnover call centers where the turnover rate was significantly less. The aim of the study was to profile those factors, in terms of both call center operations and work culture that could be identified with low turnover call centers.
Out of ten operational issues examined, two seemed to be most indicative of the differences between high and low turnover rates. Those were the amount of training provided and the size of the center. The researchers concluded that larger call centers were prone to a cold and impersonal atmosphere where employees were likely to feel isolated. High turnover also seems to be associated with those call centers that offer less on-the-job training. The researchers theorized that lack of training can potentially result in representatives having less confidence and therefore less comfort in their own job performance. Feeling either isolated or uncomfortable in job performance, they concluded, leaves call center employees feeling vulnerable and more likely to quit.
The same research identified seven aspects of call center work cultures that were likely to differentiate between high and low turnover call centers: support from management, team performance, stressful atmosphere, repetitiveness of tasks, rule orientation, burnout, and close supervision. As expected, supportive supervision, a team approach, varied work activities, flexible rules and procedures, and low stress rates were indicative of the low turnover call centers. Conversely, high stress, highly repetitive work, a highly rule oriented organization, little emphasis on team performance, and little support from management, characterized the high turnover call centers.
This research seems to suggest that there are definite trends in terms of the characteristics that identify high and low turnover rates in call centers. Management, in an effort to keep turnover rates low, should be cognizant of the support levels, teamwork approaches, low stress requirements, and varied work environments that keep employees interested in their jobs and feeling satisfied with their own job performances. Moreover, it is important that these attributes are shared across the entire organization, permeating the values and preferences that underlie company, management and operational practices.