3 Ways Contact Centers Can Engage Employees and Create a Happy, Productive Workplace

Despite the desire at many companies for their employees to return to the workplace, people across all industries still want to work remotely. This is understandable. These people say working remotely gives them better work-life balance and more time with family. Plus, they don't have to commute.

But it's also understandable that companies are asking people to come back to the office. It's a way to keep workers connected, not just technologically but emotionally. This is important to employee retention, motivation. and productivity.

Employee engagement, especially for recent hires who might have only ever worked remotely, can be hard to establish if people never come into the office. It can be difficult to develop a rapport with coworkers and managers and foster a feeling of community and belonging if there is never in-person interaction.

A sense of disengagement is especially strong among contact center agents who work remotely, given the conditions that are common in this industry. Agents must patiently connect with customers for a period of time (an average of nine to 15 minutes), all while completing other tasks, such as filling out complaint cards. Unfortunately, in some cases, rather than assist their agents, supervisors have been known to harass them, often because they're driven by internal metrics mandated by their own superiors. This often leads to high turnover, via constructive dismissal or forced resignation, which is when workers voluntarily quit because their employer creates intolerable working conditions. In one recent, particularly egregious case, a call center worker in Wales who was suffering from depression and anxiety after her father died while she gave him CPR was told to get a grip by her boss, who then forced her out of her job.

This is not a good way forward. Given the increased potential for a toxic environment in contact centers, positive employee engagement, not harassment, is key to employee retention, motivation, and productivity.

Here are three ways contact center companies with globally distributed employees can engage with their people and create a happier, more productive workplace:

1). Stay on top of employee sentiment.

It's important to take the pulse of your employees regularly. You can't take a survey of employee sentiment in 2019 and assume that people feel the same way today. The world is radically different now, and so are the wants and needs of your employees. Before the pandemic, for example, our employees wanted more onsite parties and family cookouts. These days, many are still concerned about super-spreader events, so they are telling us they don't want that anymore.

So how do you stay on top of employee sentiment? Formal surveys help. But you also need to follow up on the data you gather from those surveys. It's easy for workers to become frustrated if they're constantly giving feedback and they don't see it bring any change or adjustments. That's why communicating survey results and actions taken is so important. If, for example, 87 percent of employees tell you they loved one of your recent initiatives, send out a company-wide message to let them know that you heard them loud and clear and you plan to launch similar initiatives in the future.

2). Focus on doing good, not just doing well.

Today's Millennial and Gen Z workers are looking for companies that have a commitment to charitable giving and are focused on improving their communities. Why? Because they don't see work simply as a way to earn a paycheck. They also see it as a way to be part of something meaningful that is bigger than themselves. That's why companies should consider launching a philanthropic program that supports local communities where they operate.

At our company, employees choose the local charities they support. In the U.S., we are actively investing in 10 charity outreach programs across the country, including Ronald McDonald House and the Make-a-Wish Foundation. In Pakistan, our local team works with the Citizens Foundation to support its mission of creating low-cost schools. And in Honduras, we support Casa Hogar, a home for marginalized and vulnerable children and youth rescued from the streets.

Our employees also strive to make a difference in the lives of the people closest to them, including friends, family members, and coworkers. Our employees, for example, are there to lend a hand and care for their own when disaster strikes in local communities. Recently, our workers in Pakistan came together to raise money for victims affected by the massive floods in the country.

3). Consider using social media.

Companies can encourage employee engagement in various ways. One innovative way is to use social media apps like Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok and encourage employees to connect with one another in fun and engaging interactions. The use of social apps is especially important for workers who aren't in the same location but who want to be in touch globally.

For instance, we do TikTok dance challenges and reward the winning teams with gift cards to local restaurants. And every Friday we have trivia contests in which teams across six countries can participate and win cool prizes. We also do a Manic Monday challenge that invites employees to upload images expressing exactly how they feel today, with the best entries taking home a prize. It's amazing the sense of connection we're able to foster through these initiatives.

Employee engagement is very important to the success of any business because happy people do the best work. In fact, one recent study found that happy workers aren't just more fun to be around, they're also 12 percent more productive. When employees are satisfied and engaged, they do better work. They believe in your company goals and strive to achieve them every day. That's good for them, and it's good for you.

Paul Inson is chief people officer of IBEX Global Solutions, a provider of contact center services and other business process outsourcing solutions.