Increasingly, company culture is one of the most important factors in attracting and retaining employees, boosting agent morale and in promoting higher levels of productivity. In fact, research shows that culture plays a bigger role than salary and perks.
Legendary management consultant Peter Drucker is credited with saying, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” He meant that while crucial, the best strategies in the world mean nothing if a company’s underlying culture isn’t right. And I couldn’t agree more!
The same can be said of technology. Think of it as an iceberg: Above the water you have technology, products, and strategy. Below the water is a company’s culture.
A 2019 Glassdoor study revealed that 77% of people would consider a company’s culture before applying there, and 56% say that culture is more important than salary when it comes to job satisfaction. In other words, if you’re not investing in your company’s culture, you’re probably missing out on top talent.
What is Culture?
A common mistake is to confuse job perks with company culture. Perks like free coffee, lunch and snacks are nice, but may only temporarily raise agent morale. Are they the key to a successful workplace where people are motivated to work their hardest and achieve success? They’re in-line with company values and can certainly enhance employee satisfaction but perks don’t work in isolation.
The best way to motivate people is to give them meaning, purpose, and an understanding of how their work contributes to a company’s overall success. And the key to achieving that is to build a thriving company culture.
Where Do You Begin?
The role of a contact center employee is often stereotyped as monotonous and requiring little skill. Yet, most agents must simultaneously balance using complex computer systems with solving unique problems while delivering excellent customer service.
Contact centers have one of the highest rates of staff turnover when compared to other industries. Low wages, a feeling of being undervalued, and dealing with demanding customers often results in low employee morale. The ongoing costs of recruiting and training can cause a huge financial strain for companies, along with the cost of retaining existing employees by providing them with incentives and commissions.
Companies often use outstanding customer service as a competitive differentiator. Invest in your employees and create a culture change in the contact center environment to ensure longer tenure, greater job satisfaction, and ultimately, happier customers.
Business leaders may think that company culture is simply an internal recruiting tool or a talent retention strategy for current employees. But in a world of increasing focus on values and with greater transparency available through career sites like Glassdoor, the culture inside your company can quickly alter the perception of your organization by those outside the company.
A healthy culture isn’t just about paying people more money, or developing a diversity and inclusion program that ensures equal opportunities for advancement. A thriving company culture is a reflection of your values as a brand – and it’s another way your organization can stand out in a crowded market where your customers have many options.
How to Create Cultural Conditions for Happiness
When it comes to driving cultural change, research shows that you need to look at the underlying emotions. A study by the University of Warwick showed that happy workers are more productive. When Google implemented more employee support, the company saw a 37% increase in employee satisfaction, which led to greater productivity.
It makes sense that if you have a happy and productive workforce, then meaning, purpose and a sense of fulfillment will follow.
But happiness is a difficult thing to measure. And it’s even more difficult to try to create happiness in your workplace. To achieve that, certain conditions need to be met.
1. Mission and Values
Getting the mission of your company right is critically important. You want your company vision to resonate with the personal goals of all employees. A Gallup report puts it like this:
“A business’ mission defines what it stands for — its purpose and the reason for its existence. Mission declares the difference a company seeks to make in the world .… To instill a passion for the company’s purpose, the best leaders in the world hold managers accountable for addressing employees’ basic engagement needs.”
The last part about “addressing employees’ basic engagement needs” is revealing, as this is fundamental to building a strong company culture.
According to the Gallup report, 41% of employees are unclear about their company’s mission. At this stage, you either need to redefine your mission to make it more meaningful or coach your leadership team on the values of the company and how to achieve them.
It’s also critical to ensure that the actions of your company align with your stated mission and values.
2. Flexibility and Diversity
Providing employees with more flexibility will help them feel more engaged, which is shown to be a vital ingredient to success. A Harvard Business Review report stated that disengaged employees have 37% higher absenteeism and made 60% more errors at work.
On the other hand, highly engaged employees drive company growth, with a reported increase in productivity of up to 21%.
There are numerous ways to improve flexibility and to boost employee morale. Working remotely, flex hours, job-sharing, and increased autonomy in decision-making are other ways to increase flexibility.
If everyone in your organization generally fits the same demographic, that should be a red flag in terms of culture. Great companies embrace diversity — in hiring, thought, and in their approach. This should be reflected in the teams and agents you interact with on a daily basis.
3. Health and Wellbeing
According to the Harvard Business Review, if you really want to improve your team’s wellness, then create a values-based culture — a culture that’s driven by collaboration and professionalism.
When you treat employees as people instead of cogs in a machine, and ensure their managers focus on positive interactions, then you can start to say “goodbye” to the toxic stress levels that can have a negative impact on our health.
We live in a world that’s becoming more aware of the correlation between physical and mental health. This transfers to the workplace. If people are physically fit and healthy, they will be more mentally alert and likely to produce better results.
There is ample evidence to illustrate that every dollar invested in corporate wellbeing programs translates to cost savings related to employee absenteeism.
A culture of prioritizing health and wellness can counteract health issues — physically and mentally — and prevent burnout.
The Millennial workforce is very aware of the importance of health and wellness. In fact, 54% of Millennials say that a good company wellness program is very important when choosing a workplace.
Open forums on mental health or access to counseling services can be a big help in relieving employee stress. Talk therapy has also been shown to relieve stress and reduce time off work, especially for those in positions with significant responsibility.
A Stanford University study demonstrated the benefits of collaborative work. Employees who worked in teams stayed with a task 64% longer than those who worked solo. The study also showed collaboration led to a marked increase in focus and stamina, as well as success rates. It’s important for employees to share knowledge and collaborate, as this positively feeds company culture. Make it easy for your agents to share best practices.
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5. Transparency and Autonomy
Mutual trust — built on honest and open relationships — is needed for organizations to thrive. This part of a company’s culture ties in with the collaborative approach previously mentioned. But it also places an emphasis on transparency and honesty.
All too often, transparency (and collaboration) is lost in an organization’s competitive atmosphere.
A good way to foster transparent and authentic relationships in your company is by:
- Making information freely available – especially important in the era of remote work
- Allowing people to take responsibility – delegate authority to other leaders and allow them to make autonomous decisions, when appropriate
- Encouraging open communication – set aside times and forums for people to openly communicate
- Leading by example – make sure your word is your bond and that you honor commitments
As employers consider the future of work, hybrid teams and remote work, it often triggers thoughts about employee autonomy. Autonomy can lead to a high level of job satisfaction, but some leaders may struggle to give up control. Autonomy enables employees to trust and grow with your organization. When employees feel like they’re more than just a number and understand how they contribute to the company’s overall success, they’re more likely to have job satisfaction. A sense of autonomy is commonly cited as a vital ingredient in a happy workspace.
Think about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs as it relates to employees. To get to the highest part of the hierarchy (self-actualization), where employees can maximize their truest potential, employees must have esteem. Esteem dictates that employees feel appreciated and valued in their work, and that starts with autonomy.
6. Experts Not Employees
People typically enjoy the things they’re good at. Start on the right foot by ensuring that your people know what “good” looks like from the outset. Think creatively about how you attract, train, and retain the different generations in your contact center.
Gen Z learners prefer more independence in learning than many development programs offer. While nearly half of Gen Z respondents prefer a fully self-directed and independent approach to learning, only 20% of human resource and learning and development leaders reported that they plan to offer Gen Z employees this level of self-direction.
Reward the right behavior, progress and achievement, and encourage your employees to be the best versions of themselves. The use of both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation are required here. If possible, recognize employees in front of their peers. This doesn’t have to be done in-person as there are many tools to help with recognizing your team members online.
As digital natives, Gen Z is used to fast-moving technology and instant gratification. Your organization may want to invest in micro-learning programs known for quickly closing skill and knowledge gaps.
The final piece in the company culture puzzle is empowerment.
Feeling empowered, is by its very nature, powerful. The results you get from a team of empowered agents far exceed those of a team that lacks motivation, feels stifled or oppressed. Empowered employees are more inclined to go the extra mile for customers, rather than shying away because they’re unsure of what they’re saying.
You could say that empowerment is actually a result of the first six conditions discussed in this post. But there are some proactive steps you can take to encourage employees to feel even more empowered.
One way is by encouraging accountability at all levels. Once roles have been defined and objectives set, make sure everyone knows what they’re responsible for. Encourage your agents to be self-led, to track and share their progress in real-time, and ensure they know that they’re accountable for their own success.
Remember to publicly recognize your team. This isn’t always about rewarding top performers, but about celebrating progress and personal bests. Along with increasing employee morale, this can encourage and drive desired behaviors.
Empowerment comes from good leadership. In fact, at companies deemed to have strong and successful company cultures, 90% of staff say they have full confidence in their leadership team.
Challenges with Company Culture
Inevitably, there will be obstacles when you attempt to change your company’s culture.
People are often resistant to change so getting all employees on board may be a big challenge. When this occurs, it’s important to have a strong company vision and mission, and to keep referring back to them when you meet resistance. This will de-personalize the introduction of a new culture and make it about the success of your team, the organization, and your customers.
Stay focused on your goals for changing the culture and remember why it matters:
- To attract and retain the best talent
- To achieve higher levels of productivity
- To increase brand equity
- To improve employee engagement and loyalty
- To improve employee job satisfaction, wellbeing, and happiness
- To expand and grow your business in a competitive economy
- To fulfil the company’s mission and live its core values
Millennials are a driving force behind workplace culture. When deciding where to work, this generation looks for a strong company culture. If yours is lacking, your organization risks missing out on top talent.
The power of company culture can’t be dismissed. It’s been shown to be more important to overall job satisfaction than pay and other incentives. And companies with strong cultures see a four-fold increase in revenue. If you want to ensure longer agent tenure, greater job satisfaction, and ultimately, happier customers, it starts with investing in the culture of your contact center.