7 steps supervisors must take to manage agents working in a hybrid environment
by Anastasia Micic | Published On April 28, 2023
Since the pandemic many organizations have opted to implement a hybrid work environment where employees have the flexibility to choose when they work in the office. Here are some tips to ensure your contact center is operating efficiently and that your agents feel supported!
These past few years, organizations and individuals have been forced to adapt to changing work conditions, from operating in-office to shifting to a strict work-from-home (WFH) structure and now with most organizations operating in a hybrid work environment. There is a growing concern that company culture and leadership are suffering as a result of the hybrid workforce (Gartner).
For contact centers, a hybrid work environment offers many benefits, including increased flexibility and a boost in agent productivity. That is not to say that this work environment doesn’t come with its own set of concerns. Gartner has outlined three challenges associated with the hybrid workforce:
Adjusting current culture to support a hybrid workforce
Enabling managers to manage a hybrid workforce
Upskilling leaders to lead in a hybrid environment
Here are 7 steps to take as a supervisor to combat Gartner’s top 3 challenges
1. Ensure open communication between you and your team
It is important to ensure that you and your agents establish open communication with one another. Allow your agents the opportunity to raise any questions or concerns they have regarding new policies, what health and safety measures are available, and more.
It is essential for you and your agents to communicate with one another about upcoming vacations, scheduled appointments or simply giving someone a heads-up that you will be away from your desk for a long period of time. As a leader, you want to avoid the guessing game. Not knowing if or why an agent is offline for a long period of time is concerning and can impact how you assign your agents to different queues. Make sure, as a supervisor, you also communicate with your team accordingly by providing a clear outline of what you expect of your agents.
2. Schedule regular meetings with your team
Whether you meet with your agents weekly, quarterly, or with some other frequency is up to you and your team. Regular meetings provide an opportunity for everyone to raise any questions they have or discuss how they are managing their current workload. Meetings are also an opportunity to set performance goals for your agents. Here are some tips to ensure successful meetings:
Create an agenda that outlines all the topics you wish to focus on – this will help you stay on track throughout the meeting.
Leave some time at the end of the meeting for employees to ask questions or provide any updates on their end.
3. Gather employee feedback
Employee feedback is key to running a successful contact center. Your employees can tell you what is working for them and the areas for improvement that need to be addressed in the short term and long run. This can be done by conducting one-on-one conversations with each agent. For those who wish to remain anonymous, a survey, questionnaire, or suggestion box are alternative options. Anonymity ensures your employees feel safe to share their honest opinion. Gathering feedback from your team eliminates the guesswork of determining whether your agents are happy with their job or if they're experiencing extreme levels of stress. Unhappy employees tend to lead to lowered productivity levels and high turnover rates.
4. Recognize success
As important as it is to gather employee feedback, it is also essential to recognize individual accomplishments. Employees value positive feedback; it helps to increase morale and makes them more effective in their role. According to McKinsey, agents who don’t receive recognition are more likely to leave their role. In fact, a study conducted on employee retention found that factors such as wages or job security, promotions, and benefits are among the most valued within contact centers (McKinsey).
5. Track agent performance in real time
As a supervisor, you can use iceMonitor to observe how your agents are performing in real time or create customizable alerts to track their performance. In real time you can view how your agents are doing, who is on a call, and who is on a break. You can configure iceMonitor to provide information on grade of service (GOS), the average time in queue, the average call duration, and more! Tracking key performance indicators (KPIs) are essential to understanding operational efficiency. For example, if you see that the number of customers in queue is resulting in your critical threshold being met, this may lead to the possibility of changing your current thresholds to meet those goals.
6. Implement one mandatory in-office day
Most individuals working in a hybrid work environment choose to come into the office on certain days of the week as it aligns best with their schedule, whether this means coming in on specific days due to certain meetings or because of other commitments outside of work. Conduct a survey among your contact center employees asking which day of the week people would prefer to make the mandatory in-office day.
Implementing one mandatory in-office day of the week fosters greater productivity due to increased collaboration, an increase in morale, and the ability to separate work and home. When your agents come into the office and leave at the end of the day, they are “able to mentally switch off from work” which in turn contributes to lowered levels of stress. Here at ComputerTalk, we have introduced “Workday Wednesdays” as the one day of the week when all staff must be in the office. Our Chief of Staff, Blair Ferguson, introduced the idea at the start of 2023 stating, “we absolutely need to increase our collaboration and the organic innovation that happens when we are all together!”
7. Make time for fun!
It's time to bring back old office traditions or start new ones with your employees! It seems we have forgotten the importance of connecting with our colleagues on a personal level. Potlucks, trivia nights, holiday parties, or other after-work activities are great ways to increase socialization within your organization. Make sure that these events and activities are also inclusive of those operating remotely by offering an option to join virtually!
If you have agents that are fully remote, learn how you can continue to support them as well!