Even with the tremendous success being felt in the call centre industry, call centres in the UK are battling a tough challenge of the high employee turnover that they have been experiencing. Staff turnover is used to refer to the ratio of workers having to be replaced as opposed to the number of workers in a company over a given time (Taylor, 2002: 16-18).
Replacement in this case is done when the employees leave the organization for one reason or another. Employee turnover has been on the rise in the UK call centres as many employees either leave their current employees for better paying call centres or to other professions (Rose, 2004: 282-286). Reasons for leaving apart from remuneration have also been blamed on poor working conditions at the call centres that have left employees with few options but to leave the organizations.
Turnover has had detrimental effects on the organizations as the have to keep replacing their employees and this has greatly impacted on their productivity. Rose (2004: 282) notes that the UK call centres are at a danger of losing to India if they are not careful with their operations since Indian call centres are offering better privileges to employees.
The managers in the call centres has no choice now but to establish and provide for solutions to curb the high rates of turnover presently estimated at 28% above other sectors of the economy. They must realize that in order to reduce turnover, issues leading to the exit of employees must be addressed. This paper aims at identifying these issues and giving solutions to the rising turnover rates in the UK call centres.
A brief analysis as to why employees may want to leave an organization will introduce a good discussion ground for this topic. Employees are happy when they work in conducive environments (Kirkpatrick, 2006: 89-96). A conducive environment in this case refers to the situation at the workplace. The turnover of employees in call centres in UK has partly been attributed to the fact that the rate at which the industry is expanding is not the same as how the organisations involved are employing more staff.
The result of under-staffing has been overworking of the existing employees who in turn have led to employees leaving the organizations (Taylor: 2002: 60-62). Staff in the call centres has had to tolerate unfavorable conditions such as poor facilities, heavy workload, poor salary packages and undue pressure from their managers (Taylor, 2002: 63-68; O’Heron, 2003). Majority of staff have reported being mistreated by their managers sometimes even going without lunch breaks and toilet breaks in an attempt to meet deadlines.
In the event that these breaks are given, they are short, far between and are strictly monitored to ensure they do not exceed the set time for any given reason. The employees are said to work in extreme monitoring such as timing of toilet breaks and recording of calls to ensure they do not take a long time on a call or fail to follow the set script.
The levels of stress and resulting health effects such as hearing problems, loss of voice as well as migraines have been on the rise yet these problems have not yet been addressed (Boyd, 2003: 132-139). This has led to staff leaving the call centres in search of better working conditions, opportunities and benefits offered elsewhere.
Other major reasons for employee leaving jobs include poor facilities and working environment, poor management, stress caused by excessive workload, lack of motivation, poor training and unfair development procedures. The fact that the job involved in the call centres is usually monotonous causes boredom and employees tend to quit in search of more diverse careers.
One core reason why there is a pressing need for employers to reduce turnover is the high costs that are associated with recruitment and replacement of employees (Harrisson, 2000: 212-221). A lot of resources in terms of time and money which could have been used elsewhere are spent on recruiting and selecting new employees (Bruce and Pepitone, 1998: 78-82).
The new employees also take time to master the job and therefore they are not as productive yet they receive the usual salary. Training has to take considerable time and therefore the company will lose many manpower hours. With a shrinking workforce the jobs in most cases are reassigned to those who are present thus increasing their workload.
The company may also take the option of increasing the number of overtime hours which not only increases pressure on employees but also costs the company more in salaries (Bruce and Pepitone, 1998: 92-96). All these cannot fail to impact on the productivity and profitability of the company and to further extents lead to closing down of the centres. HSBC for example announced the winding up of its Leamington Spa centre rendering 280 employees redundant. HSBC closed its Livingston call centre last year due to cost related problems (CCF, 2009).
Organizations must realise that by retaining and treating their employees well, they stand to gain a lot as opposed to when they have to keep replacing them. The failure of any organization to have strategies aimed at retaining employees will only amount to de-motivated staff and consequently high rates of staff turnover (Boyd, 2003: 134-135). Satisfied employees will work better and this is what the call centre organizations’ management must focus on in order to deal with the high rates of turnover.
Motivation, improvement of working conditions and a balance between work, health, safety and personal life for call centre employees is the only way out of this problem (Snow, 2005: 526-528). According to the Abraham Maslow’s motivation theory, human beings apart from acquiring basic needs such as food, water, clothing and shelter seek to satisfy other needs. Needs such as security which includes financial and health security come in the second ladder of his hierarchy of needs.
According to Maslow, people need to feel financially secure so as to be assured that they can provide for their needs. Recognition and a sense of contribution and belonging is also an important need for all human beings. Maslow notes that all human beings are social animals and self- esteem which signifies respect for one-self and respect from others determines their interaction with others in the society. In the absence of these, human beings are likely to suffer from psychological disorders such as depression and anxiety (Maslow, 1946: 370-393). The next section of the paper suggests the various steps that call centre organizations should use to ensure a motivated and efficient workforce.
Fair compensation: Rewards and remuneration are the basic tools that the management can use to influence employee performance. Employees should get a competitive share of the fruits obtained by the company resulting from their labour input (Harrison, 2000: 35-42). Victor Vroom in trying to validate his expectancy theory of motivation notes that human beings will work best when they are expecting to get something at the end of the job (Kirkpatrick, 2006: 86-88).
Employees are more productive when they get rewards that match the job they are doing without feeling as if they are being oppressed. Motivation through compensation according to Carter and McMahon (2005: 79) gives employees a reason to come to work every morning and not desire to quit or leave the organization for another one. Employees who are not satisfied with their pay cannot be productive and therefore the management of call centres should therefore improve on benefits and salary packages of their employees.
Give benefit packages: Benefit packages such as insurance, health schemes, retirement schemes and vacations highly improve employee motivation. As stated earlier from Maslow’s theory, security in one’s future and knowing that you can sustain yourself even in sickness and old age gives employees motivation to keep working for the company (Maslow, 1946: 379). Employee loans such as mortgages and car loans usually given at lower interest rates can keep employees working for an organisation as they leap a benefit from it.
Enhancing career development programs: This ensures that the employees have the right skills to handle the jobs at the call centres. Employees who have benefited from education opportunities from their employers either fully or partially paid have exhibited loyalty towards their employers and have the desire to be more productive besides adding more skills to the business (Boyd, 2003: 132-135). Employees are delighted to work in an environment that supports them in developing them both professionally and career wise.
Appreciation and recognition of employees: Every employee has a need for recognition and will work better if he or she knows that the employer recognizes his or her presence, achievements and contributions within the organization (Rose, 2004: 120-127). Even where compensation is not so much, employees who receive constant praise and encouragement from the management will work better. The managers should always appreciate their employee’s efforts and where possible reward them with gifts. Such gifts can include performance certificates, employee of the year awards and bonuses. This naturally boosts employee morale as it is the nature of human beings to want to feel appreciated and have a sense of belonging.
Creating a supportive environment: A workplace that is fun to work in is motivating and records lower turnover than where the managers create tension among the employees. Giving employees substantial breaks to help them relax in between their sessions will ensure that stress levels are managed and at the same time improve their concentration. Interactive sessions and team building session should be set aside to improve employee relations.
Avoid Overworking Employees: Tired employees cannot perform as expected and this reduces the quality of work done. Employees who are constantly overworked dread to come to work and may finally end up quitting (Rose, 2004: 131-132). The management should allow employees breaks to relax from work to ensure effective performance.
Flexibility and involvement of staff in decision making: When call centre representatives have to go a specific script, they may end up not meeting the needs of the client which may result to hostility and abuse. Employees should be given the freedom to make some decisions on their own when the need arises (Boyd, 2003: 132).
Training managers to handle employees well: Harrison (2000: 69-73) suggests that employees should be treated like human beings and not just like statistics. It feels good when the manager appreciates you than when he orders you around without considering your feelings. The issue of very close monitoring aimed at following the employee’s every move can be very demotivating and employees almost feel like prisoners in their workplaces. Constant reprimanding from the line managers only goes on to increase their stress level and this may cause them to leave the organization.
Proper employee selection and job placement: Employees perform best where they are best endowed in terms of knowledge and skills. An employee who is wrongly placed or who is given a duty that he cannot perform will not only do it in a shoddy manner but will also not have interest in the job. Being unable to meet job requirements from time to time discourages employees who then end up leaving the organisation. The company should therefore select the best during the recruitment exercise to ensure only those who can do the job are taken.