The real truth about employee engagement

the truth about employee engagement in call centres

Whilst all the technology around us evolves a break-neck speed, my observations seem to point towards “getting back to basics” and employee engagement in call centres is high amongst the list.

Quality coaching, genuine staff engagement activities and employing quality leaders are all critical attributes of a high-performing call centre.

Asides from the reductions in staff turnover and the associated cost benefits, the link between high employee engagement and customer satisfaction has never been stronger.

So much so it even has its own acronym, CEX.

Or maybe I made that up?

Either way, here are some home truths about employee engagement in call centres.

The real truth about employee engagement in call centres

I just wrapped up a certification course in Leadership & Engagement for Team Leaders and as usual, there were some interesting conversations amongst the call centre participants.

Despite the prevalence of the topic of engagement, within HR functions and management boardrooms, clarity and appropriate practices around engagement don’t often travel successfully down the line to call centre Team Leaders.

The heavy hand of engagement

One participant in the course shared this experience about her former employer, a very large call centre in Singapore.

Employee engagement was taken seriously.

Very seriously.

Slaves rowing in a boat


Employee engagement KPIs had been built into the overall Team Leader ‘basket’ of KPIs and measured things like how many hours of bonding time a Team Leader spent…well…erm…bonding.

“And what about Team Leaders?” she asked.

 Aren’t we also supposed to feel engaged at work?  

Won’t we be better at helping with staff engagement if we ourselves understand what it’s like to be engaged?

Her question was a fair one – should Team Leaders have KPIs for engagement?

And (in the same vein) shouldn’t Team Leaders themselves be engaged too?



Engagement is not what you do to someone


patient at chiropractor


At the heart of the discussion was the role of engagement.

It’s about the types of things that the organisation does, or sets itself up to do, to help employees feel valued and involved.

And based on successful engagement efforts on the part of the organisation – the employee, in turn, would choose to give more ‘discretionary effort’ at work in what is seen as an exchange – or 2-way street.

Employee engagement on the part of the organisation includes things like training, development and career pathing – important in the service world but often absent or given lip service once essential product knowledge & soft skills have been addressed.

And the importance of the call centre line manager in all this is clear – strong effective line management has a proven role in establishing an environment where engagement can flourish.

But very few organisations set up a developmental curriculum for call centre Team Leaders – leaving them to sink (some do), swim (some do) or tread water (many do for many years).


Underwater swimming in a pool

In partial answer to her inquiry on Team Leader KPIs – while line management is a key component in the engagement mix – line managers themselves do not hold all the cards necessary to produce a winning hand.

I’ve always found the best indicator(s) of Team Leader performance to be the productivity (of the Team), the quality (of the Team) and the attitudes (of the Team) that are in play.

If there are challenges with one or more of these aspects, a bit of good old root cause analysis does the trick.

If you’re going to target employee engagement – then teach it

While certification isn’t a necessary mechanism for every learning intervention, it can be a powerful tool with Team Leader development.

Ask yourself:

  • Can my Team Leader correctly define employee engagement and their role in it?
  • Can my Team Leader delineate the differences and relationships between employee engagement, employee motivation and employee satisfaction?
  • Does my Team Leader know – amongst the many options out there – what the top 3 – 5 actions Team Leaders take to improve the odds of engagement in the service world?

If they can’t (and in my experience without solid training they can’t), then it’s a bit tough to ask them to ‘drive’ (what a terrible word) engagement in others.

An excerpt by one of my favourite writers – Liz Ryan

One of my favourite writers out there is Liz Ryan (follow her on LinkedIn!) – and I share an excerpt from an article she wrote entitled, “What does employee engagement mean?”

“The term “employee engagement” is still around, and it still makes no sense.

Why do employees have to be engaged with the company mission? They may have their own mission.

They may be working to save money for a house, or to get enough great resume fodder to move to Iceland and start a business there. That’s their passion.

They couldn’t care less about the company’s mission, and really, why should they?  The job is a means to an end for them. That’s okay! Let’s be honest —paying people to come to work is a means to an end for the company, too.

Some people use the term “Employee Engagement” more loosely than just the employee’s’ engagement with the organisation’s mission. These folks say “if employees are happy and busy, they’re engaged.”

I’m okay with that definition.

When folks can plug into their own power source at work, they can race forward unimpeded.

Recommended further learnings:

About Daniel Ord 18 Articles

Founder and Director of OmniTouch International, Dan is engaged by global, regional and country super brands to help build or expand competencies around their Contact Centres, Customer Service delivery and Customer Experience know-how.

Daniel is also one of just 15 CXPA Recognised Training Providers in the world for the delivery of CX management training as well as a global Contact Centre expert.

Born in the USA and now based in Germany, over the past 20 years, Dan has engaged with more than 1,500 organisations, across 40 countries and with more than 50,000 participants in workshops & speaking engagements.

Daniel provides a range of training courses in Australia and across Asia Pacific - Search CX Skills to find his upcoming courses.

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