Employee development helps your agents learn new tricks, like how to get this picture to appear.

Why Performance Management and Employee Development go Hand in Hand

How you manage and develop your agents has the greatest impact on their experience at work.

Your agents’ attitudes and feelings about their jobs are the key influencers of their success, according to a recent study from Customer Contact Week. In fact, some 23 percent of contact center leaders said employees who feel empowered to hand out custom or unique customer resolutions are more satisfied in their roles.

Your company’s success depends on your agents’ top-notch performance and how well they do their jobs day-after-day. But, you can only empower agents to do their best work and ramp up their performance when you make their development a priority. To drive empowerment, your agents need the right tools to help them with their jobs. They need ongoing training and real, obtainable opportunities for advancement.

Right now, performance management is your way to keep pulse on the what your agents are doing. You use it to increase agent efficiency and keep KPIs in check. You open up a book and invite your agents to hop on the same page by clarifying goals and objectives. And then you work with them to fit their duties under your company’s priorities.

But, performance management focuses only on those hardened contact center KPIs. And really, only on the metrics that impact your company’s wallet.

Stepping beyond the tri-fold for a minute, look at the larger need to focus on your people and how your people impact your customers. With empowerment topping the charts as the most impactful piece of the agent experience, managing with humanity is demanding your attention to keep agents happy, improve your contact center turnover rate, and up your customers’ satisfaction.

“Maintaining the human touch remains a vital focus for contact centers, which means investment into agent empowerment is utterly essential. An organization cannot successfully connect with customers if it does not empower those responsible for making the connections.” – Brian Cantor, Principal Analyst, CCW Digital | Customer Management Practice

Employee development adds that dash of humanity to your performance management strategy. It narrows in on your employees’ ultimate goals, whether those goals live within the walls of your company or not. That keen focus on your employees’ future indicates a dedication to them as people. When employees know they matter more than their KPIs, they do better work to benefit your customers. Your encouragement to help them grow their careers doubles down to improve them in their current role, too.

When you offer up the challenge to think beyond today’s tasks, you create the ultimate brain teaser for your agents. They begin to think differently about their roles and the impact they can have on your customers. They push beyond their queue and go into discovery-mode to find new ways to help customers. Next thing you know, it’s like you’re watching an episode of Animorphs as your agents shape-shift into proactive thinkers because you empowered them to think big and act on it.

Here’s how to weave employee development into your performance management plan.

Let your 1:1s serve a dual purpose.

Guide agents to bring topics to the table about current projects, interactions they’ve struggled with, and the low-down on certain KPIs. But, leave time in your conversation to bring up goals and plant the seed for larger, career-focused conversations.

This is your space to foster a dialogue about your agents and their needs, so you can build a more productive contact center. It’s not an interrogation to drown them with performance feedback and questions. Work-in mention of important metrics and any red flags you’ve seen since your last 1:1 if need be. But point these conversations back to larger goals and your agents’ future development.

Train your agents daily. Create a culture ripe for feedback and continued learning.

The more time you carve out to train your agents, the more empowered and prepared they’ll be to excel at their jobs.

The way you’re training right now isn’t working. You’re piecing together time to pull in disjointed data, then snag up the interaction recordings that need your attention. And then, you plop your findings into a spreadsheet and send it off to your agents – in a format that might makes sense to them or maybe not. All this time and effort make training both time consuming and, well, ineffective.

And business leaders are noticing the inefficiencies in a broken training model. In fact, 61 percent of contact center leaders mark training their agents as their top investment priority for 2019.

So, where’s the best place to invest that spend? Think contact center coaching methods with streamlined, in-line training for agents. Slip in-line feedback into your performance management plan and you’ll not only improve your agents’ performance, but you’ll identify areas for future development, too. In-line training and contextual feedback give you time to coach every, single day. And, when you use tools powered by A.I., you take back even more of your time. Nowadays, bots can scan interactions for triggers and words, serving you interactions that meet the criteria. So, you can jump in and leave your feedback comment-style in the interactions. Then, send interactions back to your agents for review.

They get more meaningful feedback about specific moments in their interactions, and they can act on it immediately to improve performance. Plus, if you see agent KPIs trending down in certain areas, you can pop longer lessons in their queue for deeper growth and development. You’re spending time developing your agents where they need help, and you’re improving their performance by quickly squashing the chance of recurring mistakes.

Create Individualized 30-60-and-90-day plans for your agents.

Pick one goal for each timeframe, then map out what tasks and projects will help your agents meet it. Rally back together at the end of the 30, 60, and 90-day time periods to review your agents’ outcomes. Use that time to address performance metrics and spark conversations about long-term goals.

It’s your job as a contact center manager to delegate tasks and divvy up your team’s workload in a way that benefits each of your agents. If you know your agent, Savannah, wants to be a manager herself someday, loop her in to help lead a team meeting and review goals one day. Or, maybe you let her review a handful of calls and share her feedback with you. On the flip side, if Tom wants to be a software developer down the line, then send him tech-focused interactions and bugs so he can get more familiar with the inner-workings of the product side of things.

With your timed plans mapped out, create benchmarks to measure them.

Create benchmarks for employee development that revolve around hitting key performance goals. For instance, if Savannah’s 90-day goal focused on giving peer feedback, then set an achievable metric she can measure her performance against at the end of those 90 days. Let’s say the goal is to review 10 peer interactions per week and return feedback to her teammates. When her three months are up, Savannah can check her progress and see how she’s tracked toward her larger goals. Her performance-based goals were designed with her career path in mind. Knowing that Savannah wants to be a future manager, you passed off management-related tasks to her to develop her skill set, but you still gave her obtainable metrics to keep track of her performance along the way.

Helping your agents reach milestones gives them the confidence and practice they need to reach their career goals. And, you push them to think about how their daily actions impact their future.

Put those long-term goal conversations on the books.

It’s easy to name-drop conversations about goals in your 1:1 meetings and never actually schedule the time to have those conversations. Take a few minutes to put time on your calendar to kick off long-term goals and career conversations. Even if you block out an hour of time two months from now, at least you have a dedicated spot on your calendar.

Put some context in the meeting invitation, too. What types of questions should your agents come prepared to answer? When you say long-term goals, some agents will think long-term means one year from now, and others will think long-term means their life-long career dreams. Set the tone and nail down the details you want to discuss, so agents can prepare. Cover the basics up front and make some room in your schedule. You’ll have a productive conversation with actionable takeaways to help your agents grow their careers.

Flip your performance management strategy to use data for accountability, not as the ultimate authority to regulate your agents’ performance. Making the shift to include more personalized development for your team positively impacts your agents’ experience. They hand that value right back to your company with reduced employee turnover (and all those pesky costs), higher agent morale that hikes your team’s productivity, and happier, loyal customers who mark better CSAT scores on their surveys.

Boom! That’s an impact on your wallet that’s much bigger than the dollar amount associated with single KPIs and siloed performance management strategies. Want to learn how else you can benefit your bottom line? Jump over to blog on how to hire smart and cut attrition costs!