• February 13, 2024
  • By Donna Fluss, president, DMG Consulting

Cultivating Employee Satisfaction and Engagement

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Employee satisfaction/engagement has decreased tremendously in the past few years. Many recent employee job satisfaction studies reflect a growing level of unhappiness among the U.S. workforce. In general, the research shows that the “number of US workers who say they are angry, stressed, and disengaged is climbing, according to Gallup’s 2023 workplace report,” according to a report late last year by the Wall Stree Journal.

However, other reports show U.S. job satisfaction is up. The Conference Board’s 2023 job satisfaction study of U.S. workers found they were more satisfied than ever before. The research showed that “overall, 62.3 percent of US workers were satisfied in 2022—up from 60.2 percent in 2021.” The difference between results is due to the research’s details and orientation (or “bias,” as it’s almost impossible to eliminate it from these types of studies). The Conference Board’s study of findings highlighted three critical factors that executives and contact center leaders should pay close attention to, specifically:

  1. Women are much less satisfied with their jobs than men.
  2. Support for hybrid work environments increases job satisfaction.
  3. Work experience and culture make a difference.

These insights are very relevant to contact centers, and they help explain the extremely high levels of dissatisfaction in these operations today in the U.S. and many other countries. Significantly more women than men work in contact centers, with the exception of IT and other high-tech environments. (To make matters worse, the majority-male tech-oriented contact centers generally pay more than other customer service and sales environments.)

Contact center agents care where they work. The hybrid option, where agents spend three to four days at home and one to two in the office, is becoming increasingly common. Prior to the pandemic, approximately 95 percent of contact centers required their agents to work solely in the office. Contact center managers felt strongly that working onsite was necessary to keep agent productivity and quality high. As it turns out, these departments perform extremely well and effectively regardless of whether agents are onsite or remote. This is due to the commitment level of the staff, along with outstanding agent oversight and analytics tools used in contact centers. While a large percentage of executives and managers would like their contact center staff to return to the office on a full-time basis, agents don’t want to lose this important benefit.

Lastly, since agent turnover in contact centers is often very high (from 35 percent to over 100 percent), it’s difficult to build and maintain a positive work culture, one where employees are recognized and rewarded for delivering great service and helping each other. Reducing attrition rates is necessary to develop an engaging, empowering, and rewarding environment where people feel positive about working.

While job satisfaction studies in the U.S. show mixed results, even the one cited here that reflects a more satisfied workforce, done by the Conference Board, points out common factors that drive job disappointment and frustration that are generally found in contact centers. It is possible to build and run a contact center that is considered a great place to work, but this will only happen if company, contact center, and human resources executives and managers make a concerted effort to reverse the factors that drive agent dissatisfaction. Improving the culture by building a satisfied agent workforce will make the job more rewarding and appealing for managers and supervisors as well. But it will do more than that: Every percentage decrease in agent attrition will drive a similar reduction in agent expense (when both hard and soft costs are taken into consideration). It won’t be easy, but it can be done, and it’s worth the effort.

Donna Fluss, founder and president of DMG Consulting, provides a unique and unparalleled understanding of the people, processes, and technology that drive the strategic direction of the dynamic and rapidly transforming contact center and back-office markets. Fluss can be reached at donna.fluss@dmgconsult.com.

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