Successful outbound call center managers are always on the lookout for ways to motivate call center agents, and know they can’t use a one-size-fits-all approach. When it comes to millennials (born 1981-1996), or Generation Y, and the youngest members of the workforce, Generation Z (born 1997-2012), managers may need to reevaluate how to nurture a positive experience and develop a productive team.
So, how do you motivate these call center agents? What makes the next generation of workers unique? What are they looking for in a job experience? What can outbound call center managers do to improve the productivity and job satisfaction of millennial employees? And, what differentiates Gen Z from Gen Y?
Not sure? That’s why we’re bringing you 7 best practices to motivate your Millennial and Gen Z call center agents. This article will help you:
- Cut recruiting and training costs by retaining more of your workforce
- Learn how to motivate call center employees to be consistently productive
- Understand the best ways to engage Millennial and Gen-Z workers
- Build a work environment and company culture that meets millennial needs and expectations of younger workers
Adding younger employees to your call center team offers the potential for significant improvements to your ROI. But many employers are unsure how to best motivate and connect with agents in these demographics. And, without understanding how to support their productivity, many of these employees don’t stick around for long.
While high turnover rates have plagued the call center industry for years, there’s been especially low retention among millennial call center agents has averaged a 33% turnover rate.
Millennials are now the largest generational segment of working Americans. That means if you want to know how to motivate call center employees, you need to understand how these generations work differently.
7 Surefire Ways to Engage and Motivate Your Millennial Agents
Understanding Millennials and Gen Z in the Workforce
Working millennials are intrinsically different from previous generations. Their formative years have been shaped by a radical rise in the prevalence of digital technology, development of social media networks, and big data integration. Their lifestyles are entrenched in technology, so it’s no surprise that they have grown accustomed to instant gratification, seamless responses, quick transactions, and endless interaction.
At the same time, millennials prioritize meaningful experiences over material things. Your Gen Y agents don’t want to just show up at work, they want to feel like they are doing something that is personally fulfilling. Understanding their perspectives about work will give you a jump start on motivating these call center employees and keeping them engaged for the long term.
Get Ready for Gen Z
The next up-and-coming generation of workers was born into a thriving digital world in the late 1990s to early 2000s. Their mobile devices are like appendages and their innate facility with technology demands a future that keeps up with their expectations.
Gen Z-ers have never known life without the internet and social media, YouTube, apps that do everything, and access to knowledge about anything. They adapt to new innovations in tools and apps as soon as they become available. They’re highly resourceful and naturally seek out solutions on their own.
This is a generational workforce that businesses and employers will need to adapt to or lose out to competition that does.
So, welcome the next generation, the oldest of whom are busting out of college and already in the job market. They’ll be ready to contribute new ideas and be highly valuable for companies that stay abreast of developing technologies, and don’t hesitate to incorporate those innovations to make their operations more productive and efficient.
So now let’s jump into how to motivate Millennial and Generation Z call center agents.
1) Embrace the benefits of new technology
Millennials grew up alongside much of the technology we rely on today. Innovative technology trends and tools are both familiar and expected. Members of Gen Z don’t know a world without it. Innovative technology trends and tools are both familiar and expected.
When choosing a job, for example, 93% of millennials say up-to-date technology is a major factor in their decision. 56% of millennials think that AI-powered automation gives workers more time to focus on value-added tasks, leading to more productivity in the workplace. Meanwhile, a whopping 91% of Gen-Z workers said that technological sophistication would impact their interest in working for a company.
“Having grown up with technology at their fingertips, millennials won’t put up with poor enterprise technology.” — WIRED
Keeping younger agents engaged starts with the call center platform you offer and hinges on its efficiency, ease of use, and effectiveness.
If your call center uses outdated software, it will likely contribute to higher turnover. Continually upgrade so your team can take advantage of the latest call center technologies that help to drive efficiency for agents, leads, and managers. You’ll see the payoff in a higher ROI.
Many contact center software solutions offer free demos — check out what’s current so you can determine if an overhaul might be needed to improve your agent engagement and productivity.
2) Practice flexibility. Encourage independence.
Work-Life Balance and Flextime
In a job seeker survey, 62% of Gen-Z respondents, and 60% of millennials, said flexible work arrangements were a top priority. For many, it’s just as important as compensation and job security. They value a work-life balance and being able to have more choices about where and when they work.
Call centers should strive to avoid the typical grind and burnout that typically come with working as an agent. Consider how your business can offer flexible hours and scheduling; paid family leave for childbirth and childcare; vacation time; and other smaller breaks that contribute to the work-life balance.
Communication & Work Environment
Make sure your employees know that their voice is always heard by establishing good communication with tools [e.g., broadcast chat and video chat] and regular meetings both as a team and one-on-ones with leadership. Reinforce goals, address issues, and ask for their feedback and ideas about how they might work more effectively.
Being flexible means listening to their comments and critique, and being willing to implement changes to achieve a better work environment. Plus, leveraging the knowledge of your tenured agents is a great way to improve your call center’s performance.
Young workers prefer to have more autonomy, more opportunities to control how they get their work done. In fact, this trait is even more pronounced among Gen Z. Showcasing their entrepreneurial spirit, one study found that Gen Z is 55% more likely to want to start a business than millennials.
Employee independence has the potential to create a sense of ownership. And that’s another step towards a more engaged call center agent.
By developing clear goals with your agents, you can support independent decision-making AND hold them accountable with agent monitoring. Review your expectations and the goals they set for themselves with actual performance by tracking the right KPIs. Get their buy-in so they are part of the assessment and help them plan ways to improve performance.
3) Offer remote work options
During the COVID-19 pandemic, almost every call center needed to transition to a remote operation with agents and managers working from home. And they were successful. Many found that they could manage a profitable and compliant virtual call center, even when they were accustomed to a 200-seat office-based business model.
Offering work from home options reflects a company’s flexibility. One study cites 86% of millennial job seekers as more likely to accept a position that allows at least some ability to work from home. Another found that 90% of millennial and Gen-Z respondents had no interest in returning to full-time office work after the COVID-19 pandemic subsides.
For many younger workers, remote jobs answer their needs for balance, flexibility, reduced stress, and overall satisfaction. They save time by skipping the commute, and find they can be more productive.
Note that there are drawbacks to the unstructured, unsupervised nature of remote work. The demand for self-regulated, independent, focused work habits is not for every personality. Therefore, care should be taken when hiring at-home agents [preferably they have a successful track record of virtual work], or allowing employees to work from home either full or part time.
Remote call center operations are a growing business model that cuts costs, improves scaling, and gives companies access to a wider geographic pool of top talent. Managers can continue to support and connect with their at-home agents by using a number of remote management tools, including agent performance monitoring and real time reporting.
4) Prioritize ease and speed
Outbound call center agents respond positively to streamlined processes that simplify and accelerate their job. Automating as many tedious tasks as possible will make all of your agents more productive, regardless of their generational characteristics. It will also increase workplace satisfaction because they’ll be more successful at achieving their goals.
Help your Millennial and Gen Z workers maintain a productive calling rhythm by improving manager efficiency.
- Optimize the dialing strategies of your predictive dialer to increase contact rates for your team.
- Track metrics in real time to make sure your leads and list sources are performing profitably.
- Dynamic scripting can speed up and streamline the sales process by allowing agents conversation to naturally flow from talking point to talking point. Offering personalized scripts with an intuitive scripting interface is another important way to empower your millennial call center agents and keep them happy with their jobs.
5) Provide clean and modern user interfaces (UI)
Millennials and Gen Z used digital technology throughout their educational years and since in their personal lives. They expect their workplace to integrate available tech tools that improve efficiency, speed, and collaboration.
And it’s not just what they expect—it’s what they want. A Dell Technologies study found 80% of Gen Z hopes to work with cutting-edge technologies in their field.
If you’re asking them to use an out-of-date, text-heavy, non-intuitive UI, you’ll likely end up with agents who are uninterested and unmotivated — or, you’ll simply lose them, if you even get them in the first place.
Give your team an innovative call center platform with cutting-edge features, a clean intuitive UI, and streamlined automated workflows. When the tech feels familiar to your young employees, they’ll be more engaged and productive.
Look for customized dashboards that appeal to both younger agents, who can choose preferred colors and layout, AND younger managers, who are able to pull the most important KPIs they’re tracking in real-time.
6) Create a job worth investing in
One of the defining factors of the Millennial and Gen Z generations is their desire to achieve meaningful change in both work and everyday life. They want to know how they are connected to a bigger goal. They’re looking for a sense of purpose. Can you step back and discover ways your call center can create a culture that appeals to a younger workforce? What can you offer? It’s not just about the money.
The average millennial is willing to take a substantial pay cut for a job with improved company culture, a healthier work-life balance, more purpose in their work, or better career development.
In a study about Generation Z in the workforce, salary was valued less than previous generations. “Given the choice of accepting a better-paying but boring job versus work that was more interesting but didn’t pay as well, Gen Z was fairly evenly split over the choice.”
Understanding this creates an outstanding opportunity for call center managers to better accommodate the needs of this demographic and improve both retention and agent productivity.
What’s the goal?
Clearly communicate how your agent’s work connects to their teams’ goals and to your company’s purpose. If all they hear is that they should make or take more calls and convert more leads, their motivation is likely to flag.
So help your younger workers become more invested in the company. Onboarding and training should include an overview of company culture and what you’re all working to achieve together. Can management find ways to continue coaching not just based on daily metrics, but connecting to the bigger picture?
It’s critical to provide opportunities for your employees to grow professionally. This will encourage younger agents to remain loyal and engaged, pursuing greater success within your company rather than looking for it somewhere else.
- Create a mentorship program
- Have a clearly outlined path for advancement
- Provide free workshops and seminars to improve work habits (eg, time management, focusing on completion) and improve skills (how to close, how to negotiate, conflict resolution)
- Offer leadership training (Millennials should increasingly be stepping into management roles)
- Review individual goals and metrics and give them support they need to improve performance
- Some companies create opportunities to involve employees in community outreach projects, fulfilling an aspiration to contribute to the greater social good, and encourage meaningful bonding with the team
7) Get social. Create belonging.
Social media platforms as we think of them today came into being at the end of the last millennium. Sounds like a long time ago! But our young millennials are truly the first generation to have grown up or come of age with the rise of social media. And, Gen Z has never known a world without social media.
So what does this mean for outbound call centers wanting to motivate their employees?
For one, they’re accustomed to acknowledging achievements and receiving acknowledgments from others. Be sure to “like” their successes and make clear shout-outs to the team. For another, social media interactions are fast. So make sure those public acknowledgments happen throughout the day, not just saved up for the end of the month.
Young people are looking for a sense of belonging. Sharing stories of challenge and success from leadership and amongst team members helps to engage and connect individuals. Create a forum where agents can interact and reach out to one another.
Here are more ways to create a collaborative, team environment as part of your company culture:
- Hold brief daily meetings—via video chat if remote—to review goals, make announcements, and offer encouragement. Connecting with leadership is a key element of keeping agents engaged.
- Incorporate games and contests to inspire fun competition.
- Include incentives to motivate performance and engage connection.
- Use broadcast messaging to communicate support to individuals or the team.
- Identify how the team is achieving its goals and contributing to the greater purpose of the company.
Kyle Andersson (a millennial) is Director of Operations at Digital Market Media, a highly productive lead generation company that operates remotely. In a webinar about running a next gen 2.0 call center he noted:
“There’s a lot of things that you can do in a remote environment that helps with team bonding, teamwork, competition. We have an internal, almost social media platform, that allows us to run daily, weekly, monthly competitions. We’re always thinking of new ways to get our agents motivated with incentives.”
A New Generation of Talent
As the largest pool of talent, engaging Gen Z and millennial call center agents requires a shift in thinking. To best understand how to motivate these young workers, psychologists Edward Deci and Richard Ryan identified three innate needs all humans have for psychological well being: Autonomy, Belonging, and Mastery. This diagram offers a perspective on the expectations of your younger employees based on these innate needs.
Managing Productive Agents of All Ages
Your call center team is likely made up of multiple generations. Understanding the general characteristics of the various demographics, how they are motivated, and what they value can make a huge difference when developing training and incentive programs. Your 58 year old agent may work more effectively with an approach that’s not as beneficial for your 21 year old agent, and vice versa.
Consider moderating a team discussion that recognizes these differences to encourage an appreciation for everyone’s needs and the values they bring to the team. How can they help each other while working toward the team’s and company’s goals?
An article in the New York Times about the transformative impact of millennials and Gen Z-ers asks a question, which we’ll leave as a closing thought about motivating younger call center agents: