Recently, I contributed an article to CustomerThink, covering the kind of stress contact center agents must deal with on a daily basis, and some of the ways to create a better workplace environment.
It's my belief, however, that reducing stress is not enough. While this is the first step in creating a respectful environment, true productivity and collaboration can only be achieved when a more positive set of dynamics are put into place.
Changing attitudes to change behavior
Attitude and behavior are woven into the fabric of daily life, and although everyone will deal with negatively impactful events in their lives (passing of a loved one, separation, etc.), our jobs are one of the pillars that support us throughout our day.
Research has shown that individuals register an immediate and automatic reaction of "good" or "bad" towards everything they encounter in less than a second, even before they are aware of having formed an attitude. Advertisements and other persuasive media messages are all built on the premise that behavior follows attitude, and attitude can be influenced with the right message delivered in the right way.
The fields of social and behavioral psychology have researched the relationship between attitude and behavior extensively.
Changing behavior to influence attitudes
In 1955, clinical psychologist and educator George Kelly introduced his psychology of personal constructs. Kelly's constructs were based on the idea that each individual looks at the world through his or her own unique set of preconceived notions about it (i.e., constructs). These constructs change and adapt as the individual is exposed to new and different situations. At the heart of Kelly's theory is the idea that individuals can seek new experiences and practice and adapt new behaviors in order to change their attitudes (or constructs) towards the world. He recommended that therapists encourage their patients to try out new behaviors and coping strategies; he and others that followed frequently found that patients would adapt these useful new behavior patterns and subsequently change their attitudes.
Being a Positive Influence at Work
It's easy to say you're positive, but can you think of a few ways to influence people in a helpful way?
One step is to separate your work life from your home life. It can be fun to connect with your coworkers about parts of your personal life, but it can also distract you and your coworkers from finishing your tasks, leading to a more stressful end of the workday.
Another step is to listen to your coworkers and offer help when they need it, offering productive ideas and advice. If a coworker says that they're having trouble with some of their work, you can explain what's helped you improve. One day you may find yourself in the same predicament.
You can also be a role model at work. Be a resource for other employees who might need help with tasks and work that fall under your skills. If a coworker sees how you react positively to helping another coworker, they'll know they can come to you for help too. Supervisors will also see that they can trust you with additional responsibilities.
One last method to being a positive influence is building partnerships. Don't limit yourself to just your own team, you can also reach out to other teams or departments to understand your workplace and the larger context within which you contribute to the overall corporate mission.
Case Study in employee engagement: HYATT
The hotel group’s high employee retention and loyalty speaks volumes in an industry known for its high employee turnover. The focus on employee development and promoting from within plays a large part in this. Another interesting practice, connected to development, is how they empower their employees - known as associates - to listen carefully to each other and guests, to be able to solve problems and create new solutions, rather than following scripts of what to do, making the guest feel special and heard.
5 ways to foster team engagement
1. Give positive reinforcement
Always recognize an agent's effort and dedication towards helping customers. And don't limit that recognition to areas where a bad situation was turned around. A good salesperson is not just selling products or services, they are client advisers that will educate your customers and guide them in their purchasing decisions. Recognize those that maintain high ethical conduct while contributing to the organization's bottom line.
2. Show gratitude
Take the opportunity to thank employees and agents in your team when they do something they believe no one noticed; those are the times they will begin to realize that it's not necessary to stand up to be fully appreciated.
3. Motivate others
Bring on the contests for the team at large, the individual encouraging notes, and the monthly get-togethers. Mix it up so no single initiative becomes stale or an expected part of the routine at work.
4. Encourage fun
Make sure that your team is enjoying their work as much as possible.
No one is productive when they are waiting for the hammer to fall. Positive encouragement, transparency, and access to personal goals, as well as current performance scores, are all ways to "gamify" work and add an element of fun.
If you haven't received the memo by now that negative reinforcement went out the window along with secretarial typing pools, let this be your wake-up call.
5. Reward performance
The basics still apply: employees are not going to work hard for zero return. Provide commensurate remuneration, add a bonus, and give a raise when it's called for - and everyone know when a raised is justly earned. Although most recent studies show there are motivating factors at work that rate higher than salary on it's own, none of those lists are missing salary in their top 5.
Think of it in this context: if a competitor were to offer your agents the exact same pay, where would they choose to work?