For months we’ve seen countless memes, skits, and even T-shirts mocking 2020, all in an effort to make light of the train wreck year it’s been. And while news of a viable vaccine provides a much-needed light at the end of the tunnel, it will take time for widespread access and immunity. Which means that the at least the first month of 2021 – January – will look much like 2020 did with lockdowns, social distancing, and remote working in full effect for much of the country. But ringing in the new year provides an opportunity to create a fresh start for your agents and your contact center – even despite the stale circumstances.
So while the start of 2021 might not bring the overnight “new year, new you” fix we were all hoping for, here are some workforce engagement ideas to help refresh your agents’ mindset to start the year on the right foot.
1. Keep agents focused on the future with 2021 vision boards
While it may seem cliché, there is truth to the notion that the energy you put into the universe is the energy you attract. So why not help your contact center collectively start the new year with some good, positive vibes? One way to do that is through a vision board exercise. Creating a vision board is all about engaging agents by keeping them focused on the future.
Schedule 30 minutes of off-phone time for advisors to create a vision board, cutting out pictures that represent things they want to achieve in 2021. Encourage them to think both personally and professionally. Some prompts you can use when introducing the assignment to get the wheels turning for them include:
- A special place they want to go on their first post-COVID vacation?
- A hobby they’d like to start, or resume, once things return to normal?
- A new role or responsibility they’d like to take on at work?
- A simple activity that we took for granted pre-COVID that they miss because of social distancing? (example: the movies, in-door dining, concerts, dance clubs, church gathering, etc.)
- An inspirational quote they’d like to embody in 2021?
The exercise will get their minds off the negative of 2020, and on the positive possibilities that lay before them in 2021 both inside and outside of the contact center. Plus, the exercise of cutting out pictures or leafing through a magazine or newspaper can be therapeutic itself! Then devote part of your next staff meeting for each person to share their vision board.
While this may seem childish, the exercise will help clear agents’ minds, get them focused on the future, and provide a way for your team to bond. Remember, depending on how many agents you hired in the last 9 months, many of your agents may know very little about one another – and in some cases – have never even met! Seeing their peers’ vision boards may unearth similar interests (maybe they can train for that marathon together!), or at minimum, something to have virtual watercooler chit-chat about. Then you should encourage your agents to hang their 2021 vision boards by their desks at home, with the goal of them all bringing them back into the office when it reopens!
2. Encourage agents to plan for their 2021 vacations!
Most of those vision boards probably had photos of tropical beaches, European cities, or other exotic locations on them. Like most of us, your agents are probably itching for a “real” vacation when in 2021 – you know, a vacation that’s more than 100 miles from their home, involves an airplane, train, or a cruise ship, and sitting INSIDE some delicious restaurants. So encourage your agents to start planning their vacations for 2021 and submitting their time-off requests. While this of course helps your workforce management team plan better too, the real motive is to keep them focused on the future and all the possibility that 2021 holds! It also sends the message that they deserve some good rest and relaxation and that you want them to take advantage of the benefits they have. Using your workforce management software will make it easy to give agents immediate responses to their requests, keep track of time-off, and automatically update schedules.
3. Create long-term gamification challenges
I think at the start of any new year we should all be reminded of the old saying, “it’s a marathon, not a sprint!” While we want a strong start to 2021, we don’t want our personal and professional goals to meet the same demise as most new year resolutions – fat, grumpy, and on the shelf by the end of January. For most contact centers, December was a sprint. A sprint to get all the holiday orders processed, a sprint to get the last sales for the fiscal year, a sprint to the new year. As such, most of your gamification challenges were probably short-term as well.
But going into the new year, try to shift your agent mentality from short-term gains to long-term success by creating some longer-term gamification challenges. Despite the longer time horizon, your performance management software can help keep the challenge and its goals top of mind for agents every day, week, month, or even quarter. And since sustained, consistent performance is really what we want from our agents, longer-term gamification challenges will lead to a more well-rounded, predictable contact center. Of course—since the anticipation is longer, though, make sure the prize for these longer-term challenges is worth the wait!
4. Switch up agent roles and responsibilities and provide a new challenge
Despite all the excitement 2020 brought us all, most of us are still feeling pretty fatigued. And with every day seeming a bit repetitive right now for advisors – wake up, make coffee, walk downstairs, start working, stop working, repeat – most of us are also feeling pretty bored. According to our old friend, the Merriam-Webster dictionary, boredom is defined as “the state of being weary and restless through lack of interest.” And with boredom usually comes apathy, disengagement, and a slip in performance.
I don’t think that any contact center leader wants to start a new year with bored, underperforming agents. That’s why January might be a great time to give your advisors some new roles and responsibilities – and even a new project or challenge – as a way to refresh your agent mindset. This may seem a bit counterintuitive, and you may be thinking – “What? Their KPIs are slipping! The last thing I need is to make their work harder!” But if their stagnant performance is due to boredom, a new role or challenge can get their blood pumping and reinvigorate them to bring their best all around. A few examples include:
- reassigning agents across teams, like a billing agent to the service queue
- tasking an agent with a process improvement project
- assigning an agent to organize and run the team’s virtual staff meeting
- asking an agent to cross-train on quality management or workforce management activities
5. Give agents some off-phone time to take a deep breath and get organized
Depending on your industry – and/or the timing of your fiscal year – your agents may be coming into 2021 exhausted. Whether your agents helped your customers get that “must-have” present for their kid in time for Christmas, answered a thousand year-end insurance questions, or closed out a tough quarter with record breaking sales, January 1 may be the first time they’ve been able to take a deep breath in three months. First, make sure that you start the new year by recognizing the huge effort they put in. Then schedule some extra off-phone time wherever possible to let them catch up on admin items that might have slipped in the end-of-year rush, work on those personal goals they’ve been neglecting, organize their office, or even just get caught up on email. There’s nothing worse than starting the new year with a cluttered, frazzled mind – or inbox – so help them start with a clean slate.
Let’s make 2021 the best year yet
As a contact center leader, you set the tone for your team. Utilize one or all of these tips to start out the new year with a positive, refreshed outlook and your bound to get happier, more engaged agents. For more ideas on how to engage your agents all year long, check out the webinar, “Improve Your Agent Experience, One Step at a Time.”