According to the Society for Human Resource Management's Talent Management Survey Report, the number one challenge for organisations today is building a deeper reservoir of successors at every level. This long view of talent management is especially true for call centres and is most relevant when considering successors for the multiple levels of leadership talent in a centre. When attempting to attract, identify and retain outstanding leadership talent, call centres must remain highly focussed on the knowledge, skills, abilities and "fit" of candidates. More than any other measurable asset, it is critical that all four of these -- knowledge, skill, ability and fit -- align with job and organisational requirements.|
Because so many call centres extract leadership talent from within the ranks of their individual contributor population, the focus on specific leadership knowledge, skills and abilities tends to get lost. Over time, organisational fit is demonstrated it has been easily observed. And in many centres, this information alone leads to high-performing individual contributors getting promoted to supervisory positions, often with little or no real evaluation of their capacity to lead others. The advancement rationale seems to be that individuals who are skilled and have excelled in one area will also be skilled and likely to excel in other areas, but of course this isn't a reliable assumption. Growing talent from within constitutes an excellent practice, but failing to match candidates' knowledge, skills and abilities with the job requirements, particularly in the leadership domain, is certain to have devastating effects in the near and long term.
Within great call centres, it is typical for HR to create and implement sophisticated tools and processes that enable internal client groups to do a better job executing talent acquisition. The use of technology to help call centres source and screen talent is becoming more prevalent. Candidates can now visit an organisation's website, be directed to their career portal, and click on a link to watch video of the CEO or Call centre Director delivering a dynamic and compelling recruiting message that both educates and inspires.
After experiencing such a powerful introduction to the organisation, the candidate has the option to select from a menu of available positions for which to apply. Candidates can then be presented with a brief "realistic job preview", after which they can self-select themselves out of the process prior to entering any identifying personal data. If they decide to continue, they enter some brief identification data and are then presented with a series of questions designed to determine if they are minimally qualified for the position. If they are deemed minimally qualified, they advance to a "work preferences" section where they respond to specific elements of the position, such as "You will be required to travel 60 per cent of the time. Are you still interested in this position? Click 'Yes' or 'No'". A candidate who (A) has entered their identification information, (B) has not been â€śknocked-outâ€ť for failing to meet the minimum qualifications, and (C) has not "self-selected" out because they are not interested in the position, then advances to a series of questions designed to capture their education and work experience. The last section of this kind of technology based sourcing and screening system may also include small simulations of parts of the job that assess a candidate's job-related skills. As an example, this kind of simulation could be as simple as a short "mock-up" of a frustrated customer call where the candidate must use his or her judgment to select an effective response. These responses are also scored within a scoring algorithm, resulting in powerful overall "readiness" data that can be used to differentiate one candidate from another.
From a call centre's standpoint, the deployment of a technology based system that accomplishes the steps described above results in a number of organisational benefits most centres work hard to achieve, such as reduced turnover, low costs-per-hire, short times-to-fill and an overall higher quality of hire. Couple all this with the positive branding elements associated with an engaging introduction, with the legal defensibility associated in using a standard protocol to determine minimum qualifications and with the reduced risk of adverse impact associated with this process and the overall power of an application process like this is enormously enhanced.
All call centre leaders must assume ultimate responsibility for acquiring talent. After all, they are the most knowledgeable about the culture of the organisation and the personality of their teams; they understand the work that needs to be executed; and they know the results that are required from the team members they manage. They are in the very best position to recruit and select the right people for their teams. Unfortunately, it is not an uncommon trend in call centres to develop processes and procedures for "relieving" leaders of this responsibility. But being relieved of primary accountability for the acquisition of talent ultimately creates bigger, more pervasive human capital issues over the long term. In order to achieve the big organisational benefits -- reduced turnover, improved productivity and quality, greater achievement of team and organisational goals, it is absolutely critical that call centre leaders assume the ultimate responsibility for talent leadership. That responsibility embraces the four foundational areas discussed earlier in this Series: talent acquisition and deployment, talent development, talent benchmarking, and affirmation and differentiation. HR's role is a support role. They are the coaches, not the players. HR's job is to provide the tools, processes, and systems that enable call centre leaders to execute the four foundational elements of Talent Leadership at the very highest levels.
A three-part definition of Talent Deployment could be:
Accurately measuring, through assessment, a candidateâ€™s deep-rooted skills, abilities, interests, and personality factors.
Accurately matching a candidate's skills, abilities, interests, and personality factors to those positions and culture for which there is a high probability of their being successful and staying longer.
Implementing the steps above at each level and position within the organisation so that deployment decisions around both external and internal candidates are efficient and effective and, ultimately, drive individual and operational success. Inferior deployment decisions, unfortunately, are com-monplace in many call centres.
The three most troubling deployment mistakes are:
(1)"Quick quits" (i.e., employees who voluntarily leave within six months)
(2) "Fast fires" (i.e., employees who are involuntarily terminated within six months of their being hired)
(3)"Bad hires" (i.e., people who are hired or promoted but do not excel).
According to Spherion's Emerging Workforce Study, the average cost to replace an individual contributor in the US is one and a half times their base salary. Those are just the direct costs. Indirect costs, which are associated with decreases in productivity, team morale and customer satisfaction and retention, are estimated, to be three to five times direct costs. Clearly, deployment decisions are of critical importance. The solution to this problem could be early elimination from the selection process those job candidates who would likely burn-out or under perform because they were not suited to the work and/or call centre environment and hiring only those candidates who clearly demonstrate (throughout the screening and selection process) that they have the skills, motivation and personality characteristics to excel in these roles now and into the future (as a means to combating the "bad hire" issue).
It is very clear that no significant progress can be made, by any organisation, in creating a strong talent leadership mindset or in the execution of the four critical foundation elements, without laser-focussed attention to continuous measurement of their people's capabilities within their corresponding position requirements. The place for any executive team to start improvement efforts in their call centres is with a careful reflection of their personal commitments and beliefs, and then with a subsequent honest assessment of the relative "health" of their talent leadership beliefs and practices within the organisation itself.
-- By Dr Cabot Jaffee
The author is chairman, Global Talent Metrics, a talent technology company and an HR thought leader.