Since there are a finite number of management positions available within the contact center, some centers help their career-minded agents to gain skills and experience that will allow them to pursue a desirable career path in a different area of the organization. This approach builds strong loyalty on the employee side, since the commitment from the company demonstrates how much the individual is valued. The center also benefits from having staff members who understand the role and responsibilities of the call center deployed in various functions across the organization.
An example of a highly successful internal leadership development program was rolled out a couple of years ago by Cross Country Home Services’ (CCHS) learning and development team. Called the Leadership Development G.E.A.R. program, it was designed to equip the company’s existing and future leadership with hands-on experience of the day-to-day operation of every function and provide a big-picture view of how those pieces impact the customer experience. (Read more about CCHS’s G.E.A.R. program here.)
G.E.A.R., which stands for goals, engagement, accountability, results, requires a 12-month commitment in which select individuals from among the contact center’s top talent leave their current job to immerse themselves in on-the-job training within various business units.
The program offers a two-pronged approach to development—one part focuses on CCHS’ incumbent leaders, allowing them to continuously improve and expand their existing skill levels. The other is designed for emerging leaders—those high-performing frontline associates who could potentially take on a future leadership role within the organization. A unique component of the program for both existing and emerging leaders provides the participants with the opportunity to apply what they’ve learned under the guidance of a mentor from the contact center’s executive leadership team with whom they interact on a daily, weekly and monthly basis as they go through the program.
Incumbent leaders who participate in the G.E.A.R. program grow their skill sets through a variety of soft-skills, business and operations training, using a blended approach that includes traditional classroom instruction along with technology-based modules, such as e-learning, virtual classroom and simulations, and interactive methods like assessments, networking and coaching.
The incumbent leader program consists of six tracks that include hands-on project work with a mentor’s support. Each participant is assigned to a specific project to apply what they learn in the classroom environment to the research that they conduct and the collaboration with other areas within the company. Participants also take part in one-week rotations within various business units to ensure that participants develop a clear understanding of each department’s structure, processes and performance metrics.
With emerging leaders, the G.E.A.R. program provides the opportunity for top-performing frontline contact center associates to leave their job for 12 months to focus on leadership learning and development activities. Participants spend their year working through six two-month rotational assignments in various departments, such as membership services, quality assurance and workforce management.
In addition to interdepartmental career moves, there may be opportunities for agents to expand into other roles within your operation. While intradepartmental rotations are not common in call centers, where they exist, the feedback is nearly always positive, says Service Agility’s Jay Minnucci. “Within most of our centers, there are specialists focused on training, quality assurance, workforce management, content development and potentially a few other specialties. They all contribute to the success of the organization, but often our frontline leaders know very little about what these teams do. When supervisors have an opportunity to work these assignments, they have a greater understanding of the entire organization and how frontline teams need to balance the objectives of these different disciplines to succeed.”
Practical pointer: If intradepartmental rotations are not practical in your operation, Minnucci suggests that allowing agents to spend even a few days in each area may be enough to expand their view of the operation. “The same is true of interdepartmental knowledge,” he says. “Frontline leaders who better understand the areas that work with the contact center—IT, marketing, finance, etc.—can communicate more effectively with agents regarding the ‘why’ behind many policies and practices.”