It’s time to seriously re-think our approach to workforce management. For years, we thought of it in the context of how to put employees into an equation that determined staffing requirements. Once we got the right number of people (hopefully with the right skill sets) in the right slots, we put in place scripts and processes with easy-to-manipulate measures to try and keep customers happy and our costs down. This simply doesn’t work for our customers, who are put off by scripted responses, and for our own teams, who chafe at being micromanaged and held accountable to outdated measures.
Leading edge companies adopt two powerful yet different approaches to workforce management that make a profound difference to both their customers and employees.
#1: They move to a modern customer metrics framework that moves from "control and compliance" to "learning and dialogue"
Take a look at your current measurement framework. Most of the measures you have are likely to be focused on grading, not guiding. Either you hit a number and all is green on the dashboard or you didn’t. With guiding, your teams understand the intent of the measure, and can make a choice as to what to tweak based on what the measure is trying to accomplish.
It’s easy to see why grading is so common in our interrupt-driven world. We only have time to measure the things that are easy to measure, often with a level of precision that is way past the point of more precision being better. However, we don’t measure a lot of what is important. For example, we talk a lot about how important employees are to us, but a vanishingly small set of organizations have a meaningful way to solicit, collect, and act on employee suggestions.
So, what should you measure and why? What should you stop measuring? How do you get started?
Fortunately, a set of peers got together and created a modern, open customer metrics framework. The Open Customer Metrics Framework is available freely to all via a Creative Commons license.
#2: They realize that team leaders and managers are the ones that can make a difference in how well your teams perform
To successfully make the change in behaviors from grading to guiding in our complex and interrupt-driven world, a lot of the burden will be on your front-line team leaders and managers. They are the ones who will have an outsize influence on the success of their team.
Team leaders and managers are the ones that can make a difference in how well your teams perform.
If the old definition of a great lawyer is one who makes problems go away before they show up in court, then good managers are those that make an organization work smoothly by preventing issues from happening in the first place. Yes, the elusive proactive world we have talked about for decades. The answer is not always technical.
The reality is that managers have very little time to do any coaching at all. How little? Shockingly little. A McKinsey study shows that less than 10% of a front-line manager’s time is spent on coaching their teams. If you have 15 people on your team, that means you have less than 5 minutes a day per person to coach them. The rest of the time is spent in meetings, administration, compliance, and other soul-sapping work.
So what can you do to dramatically rethink workforce management?
Run, don’t walk to the modern, open, customer metrics framework. Not sure if your executives are ready? Have them read my blog posts written for them.
Once you set up this new world where people are given guidelines within which to work and coaching from managers on how to approach problems that are not easy to solve, you have to get out of the way. Let them make mistakes, and give them space to grow. Your teams and your customers will thank you for this.
Phil Verghis is the CEO and co-founder of Klever Insight and the author of
The Ultimate Customer Support Executive . In his long and distinguished services career, he and his teams have won numerous awards for service excellence. He is a longtime friend of HDI and has been chair of the Strategic Advisory Board. He also was instrumental in creating the Open Customer Metrics Framework, the de facto Open Metrics Standard for customer support leaders. Follow Phil on Twitter @phil_verghis.