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How to reduce staff turnover in IT and telecommunications

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11th Nov 2015
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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 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. Employee surveys, exit interviews and the like can help to identify systemic issues but HR can’t really afford to depend on analysis that takes place after attrition rates begin to escalate.

With this issue in mind, we canvassed opinion from our guests at a recent gathering for senior HR executives in some of the UK’s top IT and telecommunications organisations.

A mix of HR and reward directors - representing companies that ranged in size from 3,000 employees all the way up to more than 160,000 – they 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 themes and possible strategies emerged from the discussion.

Identify and celebrate exemplary workers

During our discussions it was widely appreciated that recognition and reward programmes are an important part of lowering attrition rates.

Yet, our guests also agreed that identifying the trends and behaviours you want others to emulate isn’t always straightforward; though they concurred that was where concrete labour data can be used to more quickly identify an organisation’s highest producing employees and teams.

For instance, they discussed the fact that employers could collect in and out times for hourly employees in order to ensure pay accuracy and that collecting more granular data, such as when call centre employees begin and end calls, can help 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 they envisaged that you would 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, it was agreed that 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 of the organisations represented continue to leave employees out of the rostering process. Our respondents discussed the advantages of 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 their organisation’s ability to ensure adequate staffing at all times.

The result, as many of our guests noted, should be greater employee engagement and satisfaction - and, hopefully, a corresponding rise in productivity as well.

Equip employees with cross-functional training

Many of our guests present utilised exit interviews in order to illuminate key opportunities for organisational improvement, such as the need for more relevant or thorough employee training.

Several of them were taking a more proactive stance by using automated rostering software to pair new employees with experienced workers early in their new hire training.

This was enabling practical, hands-on knowledge to be passed on and also gave 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 were considered by our guests as of particular interest.

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.

Our respondents also appreciated that a solution such as that would also allow employees to enter transactions without an internet connection, so payroll is always based on accurate labour data and not estimates or employee recall.

This means that the organisation and its 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 our respondents all agreed that balancing their duty of care obligations with business needs is an ongoing challenge for them. 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.

Many of the HR directors present confided that managers frequently report a sense of tension between prioritising projects and putting an employee’s health and well-being first.

They discussed how 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 explore automated solutions that can illuminate absence trends.

For example, our respondents agreed that an automated solution that displays absence data on the manager’s dashboard would enable management to readily identify and address patterns; such as an employee who repeatedly calls out sick on Fridays or Mondays.

Automation in this area would allow 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, it was discussed how exploiting clear, objective absence data can help managers initiate the conversation without overstepping duty of care obligations.

Finally, and best of all, it was widely acknowledged how 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.

Through examining these issues and the potential strategies to address them – alongside the effective analysis of complex labour data available through capable workforce management technologies - our guests discussed how best they could help their organisations be proactive instead of reactive in their efforts to retain qualified employees.

From allowing workers to have a say in rostering decisions to providing ample training, exploiting mobile technologies and upholding 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. 

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