“Your first and foremost job as a leader is to take charge of your own energy and then help to orchestrate the energy of those around you”
Peter. F. Drucker, The US Business Hall of Fame
As a manager, you have tested different schedules, attendance policies, incentives for your agents. Does it work? If so, there is no need to read this article. If it doesn’t you find the irresistible and proven ways to solve the tardiness, lateness, and absenteeism issues, using workforce management and useful tips.
Even great companies with excellent agents sometimes experience this trouble. Most of all, this occurs in the most challenging situations, when agents must be in their places.
How to eliminate absenteeism and lateness in your call center? How to anticipate which agents are likely to present at the precise time and when they will quit? Managers will find in this article useful and accurate tips for managing and forecasting call center attendance.
Identify A Call Center Attendance Policy
Attendance policy is the internal document or set of rules in a call center, designed with the purpose – to maximize the presence and performance of agents while reducing tardiness, lateness, and absenteeism to the minimum.
It also includes planned and unplanned absences and lateness of agents in order to manage the working shift.
How To Properly Create A Workable Attendance Policy?
The good news is that it’s possible to reduce absenteeism in your call center. All you need is to create the proper and doable call center attendance policy template that counts your agent’s and company’s interests. And it’s so easy to do that. In creating an attendance policy, just be consistent and eliminate jumping through crucial steps. Here’s how you do it.
Clear Vision And Expectations
I wish that my employees work at least 8 hours a day, without any single side steps. Plus, they must show the best performance during these hours. Do you think that way? Well, in the real world it does not always work that way. And here’s why.
Understand the basics of management - “People are the most valuable assets of the company”, so when you are an experienced manager, you know that expectations must come with a clear vision of resources, goals, and tools for its implementation.
For instance, you work in the banking and insurance niche. And agents must be present from 8 A.M. to 5 P.M, for conversations with consumers. Earlier or later than this period of time is not appropriate. Because consumers are never waiting. If they aren’t present, you’ll start to lose your money, and fast.
The other example. You work in the sales business and you need to launch telemarketing campaigns, process inbound calls, and your work is not limited to 8 A.M and 5 P.M. You can launch your campaign from 10 A.M. to 12 P.M, or whenever you need. Thus you can pivot the schedule, if necessary. In this case, it’s wiser to make agents present in the precise period, while other times are not important. The clear vision of manager grounded on:
- Firstly. Understand how many agents you really have. If you have enough agents with a surplus, your company is capable of overcoming the tardiness, lateness, and absenteeism of some percentage of your staff. These additional agents just occupy an empty seat, and there is nothing lost from your side.
These days, call centers with a surplus of gents are really a rare situation due to staff costs.
However, when you have the exact number of agents for the processing of calls in a call center, every agent is valuable. If you lose one of the agents in the workplace it will increase queue and on-hold times.
- Secondly. The performance and experience count. Experienced agents are capable of processing more calls with the challenging issues that can take an average employee.
Perhaps, they can overcome high calling picks, when some seats are empty and their motivation will be on the edge due to experience.
This situation changes when you have inexperienced or newbie agents, which need to carry additional calling picks. They quickly lose performance and motivation, burn out, and quit.
- Thirdly. The proficiency, or experience of a manager. The proficient or experienced manager understands in advance what kind of calling capacity present staff will have in the next shift.
Moreover, the manager forecasts the attendance of agents. How do managers forecast the presence of agents in a call center? The manager looks at previous attendance records of agents, observes their performance, and talks with them constantly to assure attendance in a call center, not on guessing yet on facts.
Think about it. If words about an agent's adherence to a schedule drastically differ from previous facts, you know this is risky to believe.
- Fourthly. Highly accountable or risky agents in a call center. Let’s say, if a particular agent is present in a call center constantly for 2 months without any absences, tardiness, or lateness, that’s the high rate of attendance for the particular agent that is considered as highly accountable.
These agents are likely to be present in the future on their shifts, health issues, sick leaves or other cases occur.
On the other hand, if previous records of agents don’t sign with good attendance, and there are a lot of cases of lateness or tardiness, that’s the category of risky employees.
This category could miss the shift, be constantly late, and reduce overall morale. Managers need to take a close view of them, to understand whether it’s possible to manage them or it’s better to fire them.
Necessary Disciplinary Actions Must Follow
Disciplinary actions sound like punishment and perhaps it should be that way. But, is the goal of these actions to actually punish people? Well, fear of punishment can’t last for long as a key motivator for the work.
Moreover, managers and employees view disciplinary actions differently, and when it occurs, agents quit, leaving seats empty. Now, remember your strategy? The strategy is to make agents understand that particular actions are about adherence to rules, which everyone previously agreed.
Thus, disciplinary actions must range from verbal warning and negotiation, through written warning and negotiation till the firing. Tardiness, lateness, and absence have a different range of harm to a call center, so each one of them should be addressed accordingly. Let’s go through them one-by-one, from low to high level of attendance:
- Tardiness. When one of your agents was late for 15 minutes on the shift. Everyone experiences this in their call centers. For example, agents are late by 15 minutes and start their work, not at 8 A.M, but at 8:15 A.M. Imagine this impact on the call center for 100 seats.
- Lateness. When your agent is absent from their working places from 15 minutes to 1.5 hours, it is considered as lateness.
- Absenteeism. When your agents are late more than 1.5 hours or don’t show up – it's a clear absence.
Everything About Working Culture
If you are a front-line manager, it’s much easier for you to define the proper culture in a call center that considers different categories of employees (experience, family responsibilities, health issues, etc). The necessity of consultancy with the supervisors is a first step in creating working culture. Plus, depending on their advice you create a strong system of excuses, rewards, and disciplinary actions.
For instance, for parents with childcare responsibilities, you should negotiate about the working schedule, give them the shift that considers family needs, and not punish scheduled lateness or absence. The same way with the agents that miss the shift because of health issues
Answers of agents are not the blueprint, yet the data for consideration. After all, only managers are responsible for the implementation of the working schedule, healthy environment, and performance.
The Negotiation With Employees
Inform in advance your employees about your shift’s schedule, breaks for meals, vacations, excused/unexcused absences, meetings, training, and consequences for lack of adherence. The huge benefit of this tactic is that once everyone is notified about the schedule, and agrees, there is no point in unscheduled side steps.
Moreover, employees are more encouraged and more likely to adhere when you discuss with them the schedule. They are capable of planning their working-life balance in advance, and if an absence occurs they will inform you. Ask these questions to your supervisors and experienced employees:
- Is that the right time for the shift or can we move it?
- How many agents do we need each day to operate successfully?
- Are we prepared for the high calling volumes and unexpected absences of agents?
- What would be if we have 2 unexpected absences during a shift?
The answers will give you great ideas on how to manage your call center and its workflow.
What Would You Do In Their Place?
Strong adherence to the schedule from 8 A.M. to 5 P.M creates the maximum revenue for your company. But, how to create rules so everyone would adhere to them and deliver the constant cash flow? The answer is — keeping your employees as you would be in their places is the best way to do it.
Agents sometimes have to take days to visit their lawyer’s office, manage their credit issues, family matters, you name it. Despite the fact that most of these issues are unpaid and require a day off, you need to know that even successful agents will take these days off, and it's an inevitable part of your agent’s schedule.
Proven Attendance Policy Template
Using one of the call center attendance policy examples, you can manage the call center by designing a proven attendance policy template.
The Big Picture First
To notify your agents about attendance issues is better through a template like this.
For instance, The attendance policy of “call center name” requires the strong attendance of all employees at the precise time and day, without any tardiness, lateness, or absence. The employees of a call center are expected to work from 8 A.M. till 6 P.M.
Lack of adherence to the schedule without excused reasons triggered collecting disciplinary points for each agent. As a result, collecting disciplinary points transforms into disciplinary actions.
Calculation of Disciplinary Points
How to control absenteeism in a call center? The answer is the calculation of attendance deliberately to each agent is the only way. For example:
- Tardiness for 15 minutes – 0.5 disciplinary points;
- Tardiness during the meal (more than scheduled) – 0.5 disciplinary points;
- Lateness for more than 15 minutes to 1.5 hours – 1 disciplinary point;
- Leaving early before the shift – 1 disciplinary point;
- Unscheduled agent absence with the inconvenient call before the shift – 1 disciplinary point;
- Unscheduled agent absence on the work without prior notification or call – 2 disciplinary points.
The employee must provide the manager with documentary evidence about absence to remove a disciplinary point in 2 days. Otherwise, points are collected and summarized for initiation of actions.
Overview of Disciplinary Points and Actions
Thus, non-adherence to this type of template, collecting disciplinary points, must have logical consequences with the appropriate rate:
- 3 points – verbal negotiation with the manager and first warning;
- 4 points – verbal and written warning and negotiation with the manager;
- 5 points – meeting and negotiation with the manager;
- 6 points – firing due to lack of adherence.
What’s the warning and negotiation? While the verbal warning is just talking, the negotiation is much more important. Agents must understand that disciplinary action has consequences. And to make it clear, the manager should have a brief conversation with an agent personally or via phone.
The huge plus is that such behavior from the manager impacts the employee more effectively. And the manager in the process of the negotiation can quickly defuse the situation with an employee. So each time, till firing it’s important to take a brief negotiation with an agent about the subject of attendance.
Reasons for Excused Absences
These are the most common excused reasons for a call center absenteeism and lateness that are protected by the laws of most developed countries over the globe such as The US, UK, etc:
- Disability leave;
- Natural disasters;
- Car accidents;
- Appointments with doctors;
- Jury duty obligations;
- Observance of religious holidays;
- Military duties.
To exclude misunderstanding, notify your agents, they must provide you with documentation evidence in the case.
Notification About Arriving On Work And Departure From Work
The only reason managers and supervisors know their agents on places is when they check in. To exclude technology causes for not checking in or checking out, every agent must notify the supervisor or manager about the problem.
Removing Disciplinary Points From The Record
People adhere to the schedule deserved for clearing their records by removing their disciplinary points. For instance, if an agent is present at the work for 1 month without a single absence or late, he or she deserves to remove 2 disciplinary points from the record. By each following month, it's wise to clear records for attendance.
Hint: Don’t notify agents that you remove disciplinary points from their records from time to time. Calculate them deliberately for each agent. It will prevent abuse of attendance rules by them.
Record clearing is for the internal use of managers, so they can observe the performance and attendance of agents. On the contrary, the manager should notify agents about the number of disciplinary points for lack of attendance.
The Proven Ways To Reduce Your Absenteeism To The Minimum
The moment when your agents will be attending to the work must be solved at the moment you hired and then managed employees.
Smart Hiring Policy
Previously we said: “People are the most valuable assets of the company”. Now we need to improve this formula. Remember what famous business consultant and author James C. Collins said?
“People are not your most important asset. The right people are”.
Most people in the world are not looking for a job in a call center, thus companies reconsider their hiring process towards smart and effective solutions. And the first step is hiring the right person in your call center.
The First Level Of Hiring
Do you want to know how exactly to define the right agent for hiring and then make the right decision? Here’s how to do it. When you hire the person, be with this person for one hour if you are in the office-based call center.
Literally, sit near the person, tell the person you will observe the workflow. Inform that there’s nothing to worry about, yet you want to look at the actual workflow.
Do you know what happens then? The person will start to work and you will see precisely where the person performs and where it lacks the capacity. After one hour spent with the person, you can understand the real level and performance.
During remote work, you have all the blend of tools to implement the same trick, using the software. This software gives you the option to listen to calls, whisper, or brag. You just connect to the conversations and listen to what this person does. Is it simple enough? Yes, it is. The plus, you have the tool and the 1 hour of your time for deciding on onboarding or not.
Of course, one hour is not the reason why you should onboard people for a long-term job, it’s just passing to the next level.
The Second Level Of Hiring
Then you test the person in the week, not sitting around, but constantly reviewing each shift and performance. During the first working week, you do not need to constantly monitor the person, you just do it a few times during the shift. If the week is passed and your agent successfully passed it, you proceed to the final step.
The Third And Final Level Of Hiring
After one week of the shift, you must constantly screen the agent’s performance in the next three weeks. Evaluate the attendance, performance, and adherence to your company. Is everything great?
Then you fully onboard the person to your company. How simple is that? You wouldn’t believe how many companies fail to hire the right person, just because they missed these steps when they’ve hired new employees. And it could be different.
Hint: your onboarded agent must have a lot of questions about the work. Furnish them with the materials for your work, so they are fully prepared for the conversations. Even if the agent doesn’t ask you about information, give it to them and encourage them to study materials and ask questions.
Rewards For Attendance
Everyone who showed first-class attendance deserves the reward. That’s the way to encourage them to move further. It’s better to arrange the short-term and long-term rewards. For instance, the short-term reward is a few hundred dollars for attending in the precise time. Or take the 6 month period and reward agents with surplus to the salary or promotion.
Moreover, there is no better way to define the agent for promotion to the supervisor, or supervisor to manager. The person that adheres to the schedule is likely to carry the most challenging calls and issues of a call center.
Work Environment Is Critical
These days, work already has enough challenging and stressful situations. So there is no reason to make things more complex. But there are ways to make work less stressful.
Working culture is a really great way to improve the revenue and attendance of a company. That’s when every department of the company helps each other or healthy compete. In the real world, too many employees apply jungle world treatment. And when it occurs, the company experiences hard times.
However, a healthy environment has nothing to do with a baby-sitter attitude for the manager. It’s just about professionalism and conveying your agents in the right direction. For instance:
- Give the breaks each hour to agents for 5 minutes or so, if no calls occur.
- Arrange a meeting once in two weeks to discuss the day-by-day issues, and let agents vent.
- If it is possible to gather everyone in one place by Friday night, it’s good to order a pizza and just to talk.
Here’s what employees think about gamification and its connection with productivity in their work.
Source: Statista Research Department
Flexible Schedules For Employees
When you have employees that work from 8 A.M to 5 P.M, and all of them are present. But is this the schedule you need to interact with all customers, or can you move it back and forward? Flexible schedules are useful when you discover that your agents aren’t present despite the necessity.
Don’t put a lot of struggle into this, just reconsider your schedule. Let’s say, you have telemarketing campaigns and high calling volume picks from 10 A.M to 4 P.M. That’s the time when you need all the agents in place. Almost always this schedule is useful for employees with children when they have to give a lift to school or college.
Asking your employees about the proper time for work is a blueprint for creating a great flexible schedule.
Employee Engagement Blueprint
According to the Statista Research Department, customer experience is highly dependent on employee engagement.
The dynamic of the world makes agents feel abandoned in their workplaces. Assistance in the workplace and if possible outside is the proven way to skyrocket employee engagement.
Here’s how managers can constantly improve employee engagement with little effort. They do it through:
- Mentoring and arranging training sessions;
- Arranging meetings;
- Motivating agents toward better performance.
As a result, employee engagement increases customer satisfaction and agents’ loyalty to the company.
Source: Statista Research Department
Relationships With Employees
According to Quora, here are the top factors your agents are working for you.
Believe it or not, but employees think their work is more than a source of living. Money is a basic motivator for great performance. When employees satisfy their basic needs, they move with the speed of the lighting to other aspects, like self-esteem, security, employer ethic, etc.
To create strong relationships with employees, follow these rules:
- Constantly interact with them, especially with those, who need help;
- If you define the lack of performance, negotiate with an agent about improvement;
- Be open to conversation with everyone in your call center.
How To Decrease Agents’ Dissatisfaction Once And For All?
As a manager, your goal is to make all aspects of working environments. Elimination of fear is the first goal. When agents are afraid of punishment for every mistake they make, or when agents reduce their natural desires to interact with customers, because of fear, they’re likely to quit.
Fear decreases the performance while delivering an average level of performance will be an ongoing working culture.
Take a look at what Gallup research found about the possibility to approach to manager and ask questions:
Really, too many agents fear doing something that might benefit the whole company, just because they think they’ll be punished or look stupid in the eyes of managers and teams. The manager must encourage employees to ask about challenging issues, materials in order to eliminate the factor of fear. That’s the first step.
Then, when you eliminate this factor you proceed to improve your agent’s performance. Everyone who is constantly reshaping their skills is qualified for creating large returns for a company. Managers are responsible for furnishing agents with additional materials regarding their job.
The solution: No punishment for mistakes, but help to deliver a better customer experience. If someone has a lack of information about the subject – they inform the manager. The manager will provide materials and advice to help overcome this problem. The lack of agent performance in a call center is triggered by low communicating skills, knowledge, and experience. All these issues could be addressed effectively through coaching.
According to McKinsey, here’s why your employees wish to work and have lasting relationships within a company.
When your agent experienced injuries, funerals, childbirth, or similar situations, give them time to recover. Even better, give them 2 additional days to recover, even if they want to jump to work quickly.
Those who have experienced high stress are likely to be unproductive, no matter how strong and motivated they are. In 99% of cases, people misunderstand their psychological health and are likely to be mistaken about their health. And stress will affect them after a few days of the event.
Eliminate manager’s sickness. Don’t bully, harass, or humiliate employees. Most managers abuse their roles to satisfy personal needs. That’s the way to shortcut the employee’s work in the particular company, not to increase attendance or performance. As a professional, treating your employees fairly and having positive outcomes might surprise you.
Successful management of employee attendance is the subject of knowing precise resources and employees. Clear data about previous attendance records will give you vital information about your present attendance. Consistency in creating an attending policy is a proven way to reach a high level of attendance.