"We've lost six customer service representatives (CSRs) in about six weeks. These employees operate in a call center environment, there's a lot of call volume, a lot pressure, and not a lot of appreciation. Turnover's always been a concern, but this recent trend can't continue. HR did exit interviews with the employees and a common story was that the employees feel overworked, underpaid, and unappreciated. This wasn't too surprising given that the engagement survey we did last year told the same story. The CSRs feel all they do is stand and deliver all day long, no one cares, and they're tired of it. Any suggestions for how we can get a handle on this?"
You describe a troubling situation. If employees are leaving your company in these trying economic times, where the national unemployment rate has exceeded 8 percent for more than 40 months, what happens when the economy gets back on track and more employers start hiring? You might have to install a turnstile out front, so you can keep track of all the employees coming and going!
I'm being facetious, of course. In my opinion, you need to you get a handle on this matter, sooner rather than later. In this column, I'll offer some suggestions for doing so within the context of a human capital management (HCM) perspective. HCM is an approach to managing the "people practices" of an organization that is predicated on the idea that the people an organization employs are its most precious assets ((i.e., human capital).
Organizations that practice HCM believe people drive the bottom line, rather than drain it. They believe that employees are not the "cost center" of the organization, but rather the "vital core." They believe that the current value of employees can be measured. They further believe that future gains can be made and future value demonstrated by investing employee development on an ongoing basis.
Organizations that pursue HCM provide employees with clearly defined roles and responsibilities. Leaders in such organizations are "performance catalysts" who link and align individual and collective performance in order for employees to meet their goals (i.e., "pebbles"), teams and work areas to meet their goals (i.e., "rocks"), and the organization to meets its goals (i.e., "boulders").
In brief, HCM is a paradigm by which an environment of peak performance can be built and sustained. From my point of view, it is a methodology that is very germane to the circumstances most organizations confront today in which resources are tight and the competition is fierce. Customer satisfaction has become a "disease" that the organization must catch so as to make sure the expectations of customers/constituents/stakeholders are exceeded in each and every transaction or exchange. A key question from an HCM perspective is, "What is the organization doing to create a "peak performance culture?"
In June 2012, I had the privilege of addressing the meeting of the International Public Management Association-Human Resources (IPMA-HR) in St. Louis to offer a presentation on the topic, "Building a Peak Performance Workplace." The presentation was very warmly received, so much so that I had to think long and hard about when one of my presentations had ever resonated so strongly with a group. And, remember, this was the public sector HR association, not the group you would normally associate with leading edge practices when it comes to workplace performance.
Why do I share this story? Because this meeting was further evidence that organizations from all employment sectors are confronting today's brutal reality of performance management: We employ our people to do our work to meet the needs of our constituents/stakeholders. How is that going?
There is no great secret here. The recipe for answering that simple question is found in this simple answer, "We hire the right people, put them in the right place, give them the right tools, make sure they carry out their work the right way, and monitor and calibrate our approach on an ongoing basis." Cast in the context of a "balanced scorecard" framework, the answer is, "We hire the best people, deploy them within the best processes, so that customers are well satisfied, so as to produce a favorable financial return."
So, in order to meet this performance challenge by pursuing the HCM methodology, employers must get "ARMED" relative to the people practices aspect of the organizational success equation. They must make a commitment to building and deploying a structured, systematic, and systemic model of "people practices" encompassing these key functions:
With the adage, "What gets measured, gets done," in mind, by identifying key performance indicators (KPIs) for each activity outlined above, a "people practices scorecard" can be built that can be synthesized with other metrics or indicators utilized by the organization.
In the final analysis, my overriding suggestion, relative to the situation you outlined, is to work in concert with HR (and other key stakeholders) to begin to build a HCM approach to your employment practices. In doing so, you will be able to add some "walk" to your "talk" that your people are your most important assets.
If you want to be an "employer of choice" or a "best place to work," then you need to build and deploy a human resources methodology with that end in mind.
Pursuing HCM is the place to get started.
Daniel A. Schroeder, Ph.D. is president of Brookfield-based Organization Development Consultants, Inc. (www.OD-Consultants.com). He can be reached at (262) 827-1901 or Dan.Schroeder@OD-Consultants.com