What makes this generation of workers unique? What motivates them? What are they looking for in a job experience? What can call center managers do to encourage productivity and job satisfaction of millennial agents? And, what about Gen Z?
The next time you’re having a water cooler conversation [or a video chat] with someone at your company around 25 to 40 years old, casually mention avocado toast or participation trophies. Just brace yourself for a strong response. If you’re wondering why, these are just a couple of the tiresome cliches targeting this group born between 1981 and 1996: millennials.
Millennials, or Gen Y, are now the largest generational segment of working Americans, which translates to an inevitable impact on the way you run your outbound contact center.
Adding millennials 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 this demographic. What’s more, without understanding how to support their productivity, many of these employees don’t stick around.
That’s why we’re bringing you 7 mighty methods to motivate your millennial call center agents. This article will help you:
- Cut recruiting and training costs by retaining more of your millennial workforce
- Learn how to motivate millennials to be consistently productive
- Understand the best ways to engage millennials
- Build a work environment and company culture that meets millennial needs and expectations
- Get a heads up on the next generation: Gen Z
What Makes Millennials Unique?
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. 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.
7 Surefire Ways to Engage and Motivate Your Millennial Agents
1) Embrace the benefits of new technology
Millennials grew up in the Digital Age alongside much of the technology we rely on today. 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.
“Having grown up with technology at their fingertips, millennials won’t put up with poor enterprise technology.” — WIRED
Keeping Gen Y 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.
Is my dialer software effective for my millennial agents?
2) Practice flexibility. Encourage independence.
Work/Life Balance and Flextime
43% of millennials are willing to leave current positions for jobs with greater flexibility. They value a work/life balance and being able to have more choice 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-one’s 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.
Young workers prefer to have more autonomy, more opportunities to control how they get their work done. 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
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.
For many Gen Y workers, remote jobs answer many of 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.
How can I improve remote agent productivity?
4) Prioritize ease and speed
Gen Y 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 millennials 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 the upcoming 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.
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 Gen Y employees, they’ll be more engaged and productive.
Look for customized dashboards which appeal to both millennial agents, who can choose preferred colors and layout, AND millennial 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 generation 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. 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 millennial agents to pursue 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.
So what does this mean for outbound call centers wanting to motivate their Gen Y employees?
For one, they’re accustomed to acknowledging achievements and receiving acknowledgements 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 acknowledgements 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.”
Get Ready for Gen Z
While Gen Y represents a big chunk of the current workforce, Gen Z is right on their heels.
This up and coming generation of workers was born into a thriving digital world in the late 1990s to early 2010s. 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 will truly be 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 already job seekers. 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.
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,
“Today’s young workers have been called lazy and entitled. Could they, instead, be among the first to understand the proper role of work in life — and end up remaking work for everyone else?”