The wide-scale adoption of work-at-home in the CX and BPO industry is causing a negative ripple effect within the talent pool.
Companies are promising flexibility and a better work-life balance, but failing to deliver on employee needs and expectations, leading many people to leave their jobs with a deep mistrust of the industry.
When ex-BPO employees join Activus Connect, they usually arrive with their guard up, hesitant to believe what we’re offering. Several Ambassadors have told us their ex-employers expected the world from them and gave very little in return, even going so far as to take disciplinary action if someone didn’t bend to last-minute schedule changes.
Now that the transition to work-at-home is essentially complete, BPOs have a responsibility to provide better employee experiences to virtual workers for the greater good of the industry. Here are a few examples of what’s been working for Activus Connect.
Flexibility: Set Clear Expectations from the Outset
When people join Activus, it takes a few weeks for them to believe what we tell them in the interview—that the word “flexibility” is a two-way street.
In the new normal, some BPOs and CX providers will often change shift schedules and expect employees to accept these changes without question, rather than making an effort to work around their personal lives or giving people flexible options. Flexible options should not be confused with “perfect options”, but there’s a way to strike a balance, both personally and professionally.
At Activus, while we expect and require all Ambassadors to work the schedules they commit to at the time of hire, we also offer overtime opportunities periodically to meet business needs, as well as offering scheduling flexibility and time off during certain periods. For example, due to the types of clients we support during the holiday season, we actively encourage the use of personal time off instead of imposing blackout periods.
During our hiring phase, we are crystal clear about confirming peoples’ window of availability, and only agreeing on schedule changes within those boundaries. We don’t force people to work outside of their allotted window of availability. On top of that, we always outline appropriate expectations with new hires and ask them to hold us accountable if we fail to respect or live up to them—it’s an agreement that keeps us in check and builds a strong foundation of trust.
Own Mistakes and Fix Them Immediately
Let’s admit it now: perfection is impossible in any industry. Every company makes mistakes; that’s just part of doing business. Even so, it’s vital to fix those mistakes before they do irreparable damage to employee trust.
I’ll put my hand up and say that we occasionally mess up payroll or scheduling—it’s virtually unavoidable for most businesses. However, instead of making our employees wait for a resolution, we acknowledge our hiccups immediately and proactively move to fix them.
Our Ambassadors who come from a BPO background have spent years receiving back pay in the next paycheck, so they’re often surprised when we send an immediate electronic payment or offer a slice of their next paycheck in advance. This approach shows that people will be taken care of and the company cares about them on a personal level, which goes a long way towards improving loyalty, trust, and—as a result—customer experience.
Drop Unnecessary Old Habits and Adapt
Many brick-and-mortar BPOs have specific, drawn-out processes that don’t translate to a virtual environment, but without making necessary changes and updates to those procedures, they run the risk of alienating their employees.
For instance, contact center workers generally have to jump through hoops to engage with HR. They need to schedule time off the phone, book time with the HR team, and maybe sit around waiting to talk with them. Some of our Ambassadors have told us that several BPOs are still using these dated procedures, despite now operating in a virtual setting.
With the right technology, employees can simply click a button and they’re chatting with the right person instantly, boosting the efficiency and job satisfaction of everyone involved. The act of typing out a conversation also increases an employee’s level of engagement because people are more comfortable explaining things in detail over text.
Bottom line, BPOs need to take a look at their old procedures and start updating them—if they were designed for in-center, they’re unlikely to work in a remote setting, leading employees to become frustrated and demotivated by their employer’s lack of adaptation.
Don’t Ignore the Importance of Personal Interactions
One of the most overlooked aspects of virtual work is the human need for personal conversation and rapport building. Without a certain level of interaction with colleagues, people quickly become distant and resentful of their employer, especially if “company culture” was a selling point in the recruitment phase.
Everything that occurs in-center usually involves some face-to-face interaction and a chance to get to know each other. In a virtual environment, many companies are foregoing this and getting straight down to business in their meetings, which is damaging camaraderie and increasing the feeling of isolation that some virtual employees may feel.
A few personal questions go a very long way at the start of a video meeting, so make an effort to learn more about your employees and strengthen your teams. Work-at-home employees may be physically detached, but there’s a greater sense of camaraderie when everyone is communicating with each other on a human level. People feel included and part of something bigger, which is extremely beneficial towards low attrition and high retention.
Speaking from experience, these small changes can greatly strengthen the trust that BPO workers have in our industry—I urge you to ask any of our Ambassadors if they agree.