Employee Engagement Will Improve, But Attrition Will Remain High

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The Talkdesk report delves into employee engagement in contact centers as they return to offices, and how it impacts performance with customers

As employers and employees navigate a work environment that is anything but “business as usual,” leaders in every area are discovering more questions than clear answers. And the contact center is no exception. With a formal “return to the office” still up in the air, today’s CX leaders are struggling to create stability in an increasingly complex and dynamic global environment. One thing that has become abundantly clear, however, is that employees have little interest in returning to traditional ways of working, even when a return to the office is safe.

Talkdesk released a report about The Future Of Workforce Engagement In Contact Center based on a quantitative online survey research was conducted in July 2021 among qualified customer experience professionals across 10 different global markets including: US and Canada (North America); Australia and Singapore (Asia-Pacific); France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and the U.K. (Europe); and Brazil (Latin America).

The challenge for CX leaders in the coming months and years will be determining which workforce model, tools and engagement strategies will yield the highest levels of employee engagement and retention, which will in turn drive positive customer outcomes and loyalty.

While many uncertainties remain in determining the future of workforce engagement, it is safe to expect that those organizations prioritizing employee experience have much to gain, both in bottom-line results and an enhanced CX.

Finding the best fit

Based on Talkdesk Research, a hybrid workforce model, which involves both on-site and remote work arrangements, appears to be the “best fit” for a majority (61%) of contact centers. Further, 45% of contact centers plan to implement flexible shifts, through which employees may work varying hours and days each week. While these flex options help to satisfy employees’ desire for autonomy and worklife balance, they also call for technology solutions that foster collaboration and communication across both remote and in-office environments.

The popularity of the hybrid workforce model increases with the size of organizations, as 70% of large businesses (5,000+ employees) report a plan to use this approach, relative to 55% of small organizations (200- 999 employees). In contrast, the percentage of organizations planning to resume fully on-site employee operations declines as firm size increases. Organizations of all sizes, however, appear reluctant to maintain a fully remote workforce once a return to the office is deemed safe.

The most frequent measure of engagement in the contact center is employee productivity (53%,) followed by attendance metrics (51%). While perhaps unsurprising, this data reflects a more traditional, performance-based view of engagement in general. In fact, less than half (42%) of organizations currently track Employee Satisfaction (ESAT) scores in the contact center. It’s widely observed that enhanced productivity is a key outcome of employee engagement; however, CX leaders may be prioritizing these transactional metrics above more immediate—and more “humancentric”-measures that drive engagement, such as Employee Satisfaction (ESAT) scores. 2 Robison, Vipula Gandhi and Jennifer. “The ‘Great Resignation’ Is Really the ‘Great Discontent’.” Gallup. 2021. www.gallup.com/workplace/351545/great-resignation-really-great-discontent.aspx. And leaders would be wise to heed the importance of employee engagement in driving business outcomes. Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace: 2021 Report cites an employee engagement rate of just 20%-34% in the U.S. and Canada, which it estimates costs employers approximately 18% of annual employee salaries.

High levels of engagement may not translate to employee retention in the contact center, as 54% of CX professionals expect average levels of agent attrition over the next three years to be 20% or more.

Top drivers of employee engagement

There is a broad consensus on the top drivers of engagement in the contact center; however, some disconnects between agents and supervisors can be observed. Both agents and supervisors agree that manager recognition is a key driver of engagement in the contact center. This element can be more difficult to achieve in a remote or hybrid work environment, yet it may be even more critical to the individual employee. Contact center supervisors significantly overestimate the importance of career development opportunities (44% rank it as a top engagement driver vs. 29% of agents), training and development opportunities, and public recognition or acknowledgment. Leaders also underestimate scheduling flexibility and 1-on-1 coaching / mentoring as key drivers of employee engagement