Associations cannot prove, on their own, a cause-and-effect relationship. For instance, while we may observe a rooster crowing while the sun is rising, we can all agree that the rooster does not cause the sun to come up.
While the scope, methods, and channels of communication have often been linked to employee engagement, published research has rarely focused on the causality between transparency and engagement at work.
With that in mind, I decided to look into scientific or academic research that proves there is more than an observational opinion on the connection between these themes - and I was not surprised when I located a dissertation that takes on this topic: according to an academic study entitled Internal communication in organizations and employee engagement (credit: Lynn Kalani Terumi Hayase, University of Nevada, Las Vegas), results indicated that there is a positive relationship between factors of internal communication and factors of employee engagement.
The referenced research found that internal communication is linked to commitment, discretionary effort, and meaningful work; all factors of engagement. In addition, results also indicated that communication channel satisfaction and channel combinations were linked to employee engagement.
"One goal in the current study was to examine whether a relationship exists between communication and engagement, as well as if the quality of communication also produces a relationship with engagement. This study found that positive relationships exist between several communication and engagement factors. ... "
The top 5 effective communication channels/methods that contributed to employee engagement are:
- Pre-Shift Updates
- Corporate Intranet
- Senior Management updates
- Employee Recognition and Awards ceremonies
- Internal Email
In a relatively recent poll of companies declared as best places to work, among the top employee engagement drivers were:
- Trust in leadership course of action
- Belief that the organization will grow and increase their level of success
- Trust that senior management is working to ensure the success of every contributing employee in the organization
~ Source: Quantum Workplace 2015 Employee Engagement Trends Report
Putting Transparency into Practice
Now that we have established a strong link between a strong culture of communication and employee engagement, we should be fairly certain that revisiting our own internal communication policies will help increase engagement and motivation in the workplace.
One of my first jobs out of college was at a company that included the following in their corporate values: "Straight Talk". While that expression might sound a little "direct" for today's more subtle approach to open communication policies, the intent was right on target. And it permeated to every department and employee. We felt comfortable communicating, always with respect, naturally, even in the most potentially stressful of situations, such as a one-on-one with our managers, or a confidential exchange with HR. You could "feel" it throughout the organization, across hierarchies and functions.
Let's examine how we can apply transparency to a contact center department, and incorporate the associated values within the daily operations across agents, managers, and supervisors.
5 ways to be more transparent in the Contact Center
Let agents know where they stand: How about this for a leading cause of work-related stress - waiting for your annual performance review to find out how you are doing. on top of creating a lot of anxiety for both agents and their supervisors, trust can easily erode when employees are simply unsure of where they stand. There are so many causes for the kind of cognitive dissonance that can lead to misunderstandings along the way that it's simply not worth sticking to the old-fashioned performance review model. Establish a scorecard or project milestone process, and if at all possible, ease the burden for yourself in managing the entire effort by leveraging technology. Performance optimization solutions are available with feedback provided directly to agents, on a daily basis. Keep it simple, and measure on top 3-5 metrics, while maintaining purvey on softer skill assessments like attitude and collaboration. (note: nGAGEMENT offers blended metrics in order to incorporate combined factors into a single KPI. Find out more...)
Democratize contests: Although the 9-5 work schedule has not disappeared as quickly as some had predicted, but the realities of today's workforce are pointing in that direction. As the shift in corporate values that has coincided with the Millennial majority - now at 36% of the North American labor force, and predicted at 75% by 2025 - there is a growing emphasis on work-life balance. We know that contests are a driving force in rallying the troops around a cause, like a sales goal or CSAT score. But with agents and managers alike scattered across locations, or working from home, it's becoming increasingly difficult to get everyone together for a contest or group event. Take a cue from Facebook, and manage your contests and events online in a central app that everyone can access in real-time. Give the contest a chat topic so everyone can get into the spirit... (you use internal chat at work, right? If not, keep the buzz going on the posts themselves).
Accompany feedback with solutions: Metrics dipping across the board? Are specific team members losing some momentum? There's a solution for that. And you probably have ideas to rectify the situation. all that's required is some advance notice, in order to plan your approach - which could be a motivational outing, additional training, a change in shift, or a change in tasks. Whatever the solution, that's where your experience comes into play. The more difficult part is spotting a behavioral trend, or finding performance issues through analytics and reports. The only way to ensure appropriate feedback is to create an path for improvement that empowers agents to improve through their own efforts, with appropriate guidance.
Coaching is a 2-way street, and is an activity, as well as a strategic initiative, that is inherently transparent, as it involves a continuous conversation around employees and their aspirations. Sharing your knowledge, and sometimes even more importantly, your experience getting through rough patches, is the best way to build trust and confidence. Nothing makes an employee feel more appreciated than getting one-on-one time with a mentor.
Share department objectives. Department success is derived from Manager success, and the foundation for both is built on team success. Following the overall corporate mission statement and set of values, the contact center should enact a set of objectives that is plainly stated, and relies on the KPIs and metrics that each agent is held to; a standard of performance that reflects the overall perception of the contact center as a vital part of the machine that keeps the company on track. Keep agents apprised of any changes on those objectives, as far ahead as possible. You have nothing to lose, and so much to gain.