With the Covid-19 crisis still ongoing and the holiday season raging in all its quarantined glory, agents are likely to face a host of challenges, the usual ones that come with the job and some unprecedented ones. As such, maintaining employee morale this holiday season might not only require a bit of effort but also a bit of thought. But no worries, there is light at the end of the tunnel (and some eggnog!). Keeping your employees happy and fulfilled through the grind of the holidays is achievable. Here is how:
Ensure that your employees have all they need for an A+ performance: The onset of the pandemic has meant that most people are now working from home. That likely includes your agents. Working from home has various advantages. For one, people have more control over their schedules, time-consuming commutes are no longer necessary, and pjs are the new business casual.
Nevertheless, working from home also has its downsides. For instance, as employees settle into their remote positions, they might realize that they lack the technological equipment to adequately perform their jobs. One way to address any deficiencies in this regard is by conducting a comprehensive, company-wide survey that speaks to the actual work your employees conduct on a daily basis and the conditions in which this work takes place. A well-designed survey will not only shed on what is clearly relevant – for instance, allowing you to determine the gaps that exist in terms of the available IT equipment – but it might also shed on the less obvious, but equally relevant. For example, it could be that some of your employees lack regular access to a wifi connection, and, as such, a successful holiday strategy might involve a hybrid remote/in-office plan.
As workplace socialization becomes limited to scheduled Zoom meetings, employees might also find that they are losing out on those day-to-day interactions with peers and managers that are essential to learning and growth. To ensure that your employees not only benefit from formal feedback, but from informal one too, establish channels of communication that allow your employees to have those casual interactions that are often so educational. Particularly you might use different channels of communication for different purposes: for example, using Slack for matters relating to work and WhatsApp…for everything else.
Finally, you can also make your employees’ lives easier by ensuring that standard operating procedures pertaining to their jobs reflect our pandemic driven reality. For instance, as most people have limited their outings to the essential, e-commerce sales have soared. In fact, online shopping in the United States is expected to increase by 32% from last year and 25% of all holiday shopping is expected to take place online, a 20% jump from 2019. Those numbers might bode well for the bottom line but, as shipping delays become increasingly common, and customers are bombarded with competing alternatives, they might also translate into an increase of ‘difficult’ customer service interactions. Reduce the friction in customer service interactions by updating your policies. For instance, managing customer expectations is essential in this regard. So you might consider including a disclaimer on your website regarding any possible shipping delays. Additionally, as e-commerce becomes increasingly competitive, and people change their spending habits, it is critical to implement return and refund policies that are unambiguous as to ensure the uniform application of these policies, competitive as to avoid losing out to businesses with more attractive policies in this regard, and efficient to reduce the number of escalations, those instances when an agent transfers a customer to a more experienced agent or manager.
Spend less time on monitoring & surveillance and more on rewarding good performance: As your employees work remotely, it might be tempting to maintain or boost productivity through monitoring and surveillance. Nevertheless, while monitoring and surveillance pose the advantage of reducing uncertainty and of providing measurable results of workplace performance, they also can lower morale among your team. As people feel the increasing pressure of the holiday season, try to provide constructive feedback more of as a learning opportunity rather than labeling a mistake. Focus on the positives and reward the outstanding performance of your team. Your top performers will not only feel valued, but those with room to improve might become more motivated.
Show appreciation in big and small ways: While financial incentives are what is most frequently used to reward performance, companies might be facing a number of constraints in this regard. The good news is that money is not the only way to show you care or to make your employees feel valued. For instance, as remote work has become commonplace, maintaining work-life balance has become more difficult. Particularly, employees might feel pressured to always be ‘on.’ One way you can show you value your employees as fully-fledged human beings is by honoring their right to time away from work. So, for example, avoid scheduling any work-related commitments on your employees’ off day. Additionally, try to foster team-building activities through Slack or fun platforms such as Ice Breaker video. We recently played a Christmas movie trivia game through our general Slack channel and everyone had a blast!
Remember that while remote work might seem like a privilege, particularly as so many have become unemployed, your employees are likely facing all sorts of unprecedented stress factors: financial strains, an increase in their household responsibilities, and the challenge of keeping sane while being cooped up at home for most of the day. Practice empathy this holiday season and let your employees know how much they mean to you by thanking them through your actions.