When I worked my first customer-facing job, I was on the verge of quitting every other week.
The pay and benefits were good, the hours were flexible, many of my co-workers were fun. So what was the big deal? My supervisor.
While I liked my supervisor as a person, and I got along with her outside of work, her attitude was toxic. When she was in a bad mood, everyone on my team was in a bad mood. And, unfortunately, this meant we spent most of our time in bad moods.
As I watched her a little closer, I realized that her sour attitude usually came out after a negative interaction with her boss. She often felt unsupported and disrespected – like her voice didn’t hold much weight, even though she knew the ins and outs of the office better than anyone. Her boss didn’t invest in her growth and our entire team – and our performance – suffered because of it.
Unfortunately, this is a pretty common scenario. In fact, most people leave a job because of their boss.
And manager burnout is very real. Gallup says managers have more burnout and stress than the other people on their teams. Often because they’re not taught how to be a good leader.
Some companies give into these realities, writing them off as nothing more than the cost of doing business. They say things like, “We’ve accepted that our managers will leave often. Why not just figure out how to work around this?” or “Why put in all the work to develop our managers when they’ll just go use those skills somewhere else?”
But giving in is no long-term solution. Developing your managers is an investment of time and money. And maybe some of them will end up leaving.
But what if they don’t leave?
Every manager needs the tools for how to be a good leader. They see your employees’ day-to-day realities more than anyone else in leadership. They know what your customers are saying. And they often serve as your messenger (which can be a good…or bad thing). Because of this unique position, they hold the keys to attracting, developing, and retaining your employee base. If you want a high-performing company, you’ve got to put in the work support and develop your managers.
Here are a few reasons why investing in your managers is so vital. (Plus, some tips to teach them how to be a good leader.)
Good supervisors grow your company and attract good agents
Company growth starts with having stable supervisors. You’ll attract more employees if your managers are healthy and your teams are strong.
Supervisors thrive when they have a strong sense of purpose in their work. They work harder and smarter when they understand why their work matters. They also do best when they have clear goals in mind and can see where their work fits in the big picture.
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As a leader, you should spend time helping your supervisors identify their purpose. Be clear about your company’s mission and goals. Include your supervisors in those goals so they feel empowered. If your managers understand where they fit in the big picture, they’ll care more about their work. They’ll also help your agents align with those same goals.
Encourage your managers and open up frequent lines of communication. Give them feedback on their performance and listen to their concerns. Their stability will trickle down to your agents, which will ultimately boost customer experience.
If they’re coached well, they’ll coach your agents well
Supervisors are more like coaches than bosses. They’re involved in the everyday nitty gritty of the office. They deal with frustrated customers and know which issues are the most prevalent. Because they’re in the thick of it, they can walk alongside your agents at every turn. They can offer practical advice in the moment and steer agents toward a long-term goal.
A common mistake companies make is throwing new managers or supervisors into situations they’re not trained to handle. And if they’re not prepared, your agents will flounder too.
The opposite is also true, though. Supervisors who show up prepared and energized will transfer that energy to your agents.
The best way to coach your coaches is to invest in professional development. For one thing, you’re twice as likely to retain your employees if you invest in them professionally.
Professional development is also a growing trend, as 9 in 10 millennials say it’s very important to them.
Help your managers find their strengths through strengths-based testing and other development tools. People who use their strengths at work are 6x more likely to stick around.
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Work on realistic goals they can actually achieve. Don’t load more stress on your supervisors by expecting unrealistic growth goals. If you create a culture that values professional development, they’ll do the same for your agents.
Optimistic supervisors will retain strong agents
Attitudes are contagious. A positive, engaged leader who handles issues with maturity will produce satisfied agents. But a flustered, burnt out, or frustrated supervisor can be disastrous for your teams.
Supervisors and managers are responsible for 70% of an employee’s engagement.
Right now, only about 34% of the US workforce is engaged in their work. The US economy loses $483 billion–$605 billion each year because of lost productivity. That’s enough to give every person in my home state of Indiana (including the kids) a Porsche Panamera, at a cool $87,000 a pop.
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So if your leaders are disengaged, you know most of your agents will lose motivation in their work.
Agent turnover is a real issue in contact centers. But strong supervisors can do a lot to decrease that problem. Over half of employees say they’ll turn down a 10% pay increase to stay with a great leader.
Before worrying over agent retention rates, look at your supervisors first. Identify areas where they’re struggling. Watch for signs of burnout and make sure to support them emotionally. Make sure you’re not making them juggle a million issues a day.
Your leaders hold the keys to agent performance. Which also means they hold many of the keys to customer experience. So why not spend more time and energy supporting them? I can’t think of a good reason!
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