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The Great Resignation: Attracting and retaining top CX talent

Posted June 2, 2022
An illustration of three employees holding briefcases exiting through a door and entering through another door.

It’s called the Great Resignation, and it’s impacting employees and companies across all industries. The U.S. Department of Labor reports that in 2021, nearly 48 million people quit their jobs — a record high.

A representation of a survey question which asks: Is your organization seeing a rise in employee attrition as a result of the 'Great Resignation'? A bar chart is used to show the responses to the survey question, where 80% of respondents answered "Yes" and 20% of respondents answered "No". 

Below the bar chart is text that reads: Insight: in contrast to those in organizations of size 5001-10000, respondents in organizations of size 51-200 are over 2 times as likely to choose "Yes". N= 127 technology leaders.

A recent survey conducted by TELUS International and Pulse revealed that 80% of technology leaders have seen the Great Resignation impact their organization. With this record number of workers leaving their jobs, many businesses are being left in the lurch. In the digital customer experience (CX) space, enterprises stand to lose the skilled employees they’ve worked hard to recruit, train and familiarize with their brand. A shrinking customer support team means it can be harder than ever to deliver the exceptional CX customers have come to expect. This news isn’t all doom and gloom, though. Today’s organizations have ample opportunity to create a workforce that continues to thrive in spite of this new work reality.

What is the Great Resignation?

The Great Resignation — sometimes referred to as the Big Quit or the Great Reshuffle — is both a response to the record-high demand for labor, and an opportunity for employees to reassess their current work situation.

For many, the COVID-19 pandemic changed the way they looked at both their jobs and their lives. Anthony Klotz, the organizational psychologist and Texas A&M University management professor who coined the term “the Great Resignation,” told CNBC this phenomenon arose from a number of pandemic-related factors. At first, it was powered by a backlog of departures. Workers dissatisfied with their jobs prior to the pandemic may have held off on quitting in the thick of COVID-19 due to the uncertainty it wrought. Over time, though, those same employees found themselves “burned out, unhappy and reevaluating their lives.”

Other workers used the moment to reassess their work culture. A study from the Pew Research Center shows that 63% of workers who quit a job in 2021 cited low pay or no opportunities for advancement, while 57% felt disrespected at work.

The benefits of long employee tenure

Companies are long aware of the time and cost savings of keeping current employees when compared to hiring. It is vastly more expensive, and requires far more training resources, to recruit and onboard new workers rather than work to keep existing ones. According to Employee Benefit News (EBN), it costs employers 33% of a worker’s annual salary to hire a replacement if that worker leaves. On top of that, turnover leads to lost productivity (it could take a new hire up to two years to reach the productivity level of existing staff) and lower engagement.

Beyond those cost savings, there are other benefits to retaining talent. For instance, your existing team is already immersed in your products, aware of your mission statement and familiar with your brand voice — all of which are critical to productivity, business continuity and the improvement of key performance indicators, such as time to resolution and customer satisfaction.

How brands can attract and retain top talent for their CX operations

Employee attrition has long been a concern within the customer service sector, in fact the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the average call center turnover rate is as high as 45% — at least twice the average attrition rate of other departments. And the sector is at risk of even higher turnover, with 69% of people telling Salesforce that they’re thinking of leaving customer service entirely.

Since tenured, engaged employees are one of the main drivers of better customer outcomes, when you layer the existing employee retention challenges in customer care with the record-breaking attrition rates of the Great Resignation, it is easy to understand why brands are looking for solutions to help them attract and retain top talent.

Brands can start building a robust strategy by following these four best practices.

1. Have a strong corporate culture

Today’s employees aren’t only looking at salary and benefits; they’re looking at your company culture, too. A study from Columbia University found a definite correlation between workplace culture and employee turnover. The study found that the likelihood of job turnover at an organization with a strong culture is only 14%, compared to a whopping 48% in companies that lack a desirable culture.

A strong corporate culture and high employee engagement can lead to increased innovation, higher customer satisfaction and improved financial performance. While culture looks different for every organization, what’s most important is that brands ensure their culture effectively communicates the company’s goals, values and beliefs. It is a unique opportunity for a company’s story to shine through, and for employees to feel like they belong to a team that they can be proud of.

This can include the creation and implementation of a strong corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategy. Younger generations in particular are looking to be part of something ‘bigger.’ They want to be inspired, to feel good about their employment choice and to join an organization that fits with their values. CSR is also an increasingly important driver of employee retention. The Employee Perspectives on Responsible Leadership During Crisis report by Porter Novelli found that 89% of employees say they are more likely to be loyal to purpose-driven companies. Working at an organization where employees view their CSR efforts as positive, has a significant and favorable impact on how they rate their pride in the organization, their overall satisfaction, their willingness to recommend it as a place to work and their intention to stay.

2. Focus on employee well-being

A Gallup poll found that 61% of today’s workforce consider work-life balance to be “very important” when contemplating a job search. How does that kind of happiness translate on the job? Research out of Oxford University in the U.K. shows that happy workers are 13% more productive. Additionally, happier work environments can have a positive influence on the way CX teams interact with customers.

Explore how you can invest in your team members and surround them with what matters most to them. For example, onsite healthcare professionals, fitness facilities, generous health benefits and other wellness focused programs can significantly improve the well-being of your employees. Furthermore, offering learning and development opportunities as well as providing your staff with inspiring work spaces will help them augment their skills and foster innovation.

3. Up your technology game

Reducing workplace stress and taking steps to reduce agent effort is intrinsic to improving employee well-being and job satisfaction. Customer experience expert and bestselling author Matt Dixon recently told TELUS International: “It’s very hard for your employees to deliver a low-effort experience for your customers if you deliver a high-effort experience to them as employees.”

Investing in automation applications — such as chatbots, internal wikis and intelligent FAQs — are essential to reducing agent effort. These tools can eliminate repetitive, low-level tasks that consume your team’s time, allowing them to focus on the more rewarding aspects of the job. The added perk of this approach is that this kind of technology also improves query response times, resulting in faster customer interactions and improved overall CX.

4. Recognize good work

The Achievers Workforce Institute’s 2022 State of Recognition Report found that a lack of recognition is a common reason why people choose to start a new job hunt. Recognition can even outweigh salary in its influence on job commitment and productivity.

According to the report, two-thirds (65%) of respondents said feeling recognized would reduce their desire to job hunt and more than half (57%) of respondents said it would reduce the likelihood that they would take a call from a headhunter. This is clear evidence that creating a culture of recognition can help you motivate and retain your best employees.

The key is ensuring that the recognition given to employees is not only frequent, but meaningful. What makes recognition meaningful? According to the report, respondents said the top three factors are:

  1. About something specific that I did
  2. About me as an individual or about something I value
  3. About the way in which I made a difference to the person who sent me the recognition

The Great Resignation has presented a challenge for businesses of all kinds, but brands don’t have to face the continually evolving job market alone. Partnering with a seasoned customer experience provider with a winning formula for employee engagement and well-being can help future proof a company’s customer care workforce.

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