How to motivate employees to be rock stars

Discovering the Key to a Team of Rock Star Agents: How to Motivate Employees And Value Your Agents to Build a Fulfilling Culture

What happens when you walk through the produce section at your grocery store and pluck an orange from the bottom of the pile?

It topples.

The same thing happens when you pluck a rock star agent from their chair and promote them to a job they don’t want. Or when you neglect your rock star agents because you take their apathy towards a promotion as a lack of motivation. When the foundation of your contact center gets a few holes, then it too topples. And so do your metrics and customer loyalty.

Your contact center is built on the backs of agents with deep knowledge about their roles and your customers. These agents field hundreds of interactions every day and give stellar service that keeps your customers coming back. And they need to know their worth. They need to be supported to keep your contact center foundation strong.

Kim Scott, author and founder of Radical Candor, has built some of the best teams in the world at companies like Apple and Google. But along the way, she realized a crucial mistake businesses make: they undervalue their rock star employees.

What’s a rock star employee?

Scott defines employees in rock star mode as those who love their jobs and are great at what they do, but they don’t want their boss’s job. They like where they are and have a gradual growth trajectory. They want to stay in their role as an agent and hone their craft. But that doesn’t mean they want to be forgotten or treated as lesser than their superstar counterparts.

Superstar mode describes the people who are the source of growth for companies. They have a steep growth trajectory and are always vying for advancement opportunities and climbing the corporate ladder.

It’s important to remember that being a rock star and a superstar is taking on a certain mode at a point in your career. Over time, people shift modes depending on what’s happening in their lives.

To succeed in running your contact center, you need both.

“All teams need stability as well as growth to function properly,” Scott says. “Nothing works well if everyone is gunning for the next promotion.”

The catch? Companies need more people to stay in rock star mode. But most companies don’t have a culture that encourages people to stay put.

The role of a contact center agent is expected to grow by 36 percent from 2016 to 2026. There’s increased demand for skilled agents to stay in their seats and help customers.

So how do you develop a culture that equally supports the departmental rocks and the growth-hungry?

Improve how you and your company leaders value the role of your agents. Here’s how.

Have conversations with your agents to ID their intrinsic motivators.

Talk to your agents about what they want from their careers. Ask questions about personal goals, hobbies, and interests to see what intrinsically motivates your agents. Most agents aren’t motivated by a paycheck or fleeting perks. They’re engaged and invested in their work because they love what they do or feel a connection to some larger purpose. It’s your job to have conversations and pull out those central drivers.

It’s natural to think of your top-performers when a position in management opens up, or when an opportunity comes along to expand their role. But if your agents are in rock star mode, they won’t be motivated by a mountain of new responsibilities. In fact, it will likely demotivate them. Or worse, it will set them up to fail in their new role.

There’s way more to management than just being really good at your job as an agent. Truth be told, some people would much rather be a top-notch individual contributor than a sub-par, stressed out manager. And as a contact center leader, you’ll prefer the business outcomes of a top-notch individual contributor over that of a struggling manager, too. Find out what your agents really want out of their role, and support them in their decision, even if it means looking outside your nest of top-performers for promotions.

Give praise more often.

Improve how you and your company leaders value the role of a contact center agent. Sing your agents’ praises regularly and use team and company meetings as a platform to recognize all the work your agents do. Share stories about exceptional customer conversations and feedback. And give your star performers credit for keeping customers happy, boosting your CSAT scores, and keeping key metrics on track.

The role of a contact center agent comes with a ton of responsibility and has a direct impact on your customer loyalty and revenue. Be sure you and your fellow leaders recognize the weight and importance of this role. That added dose of recognition will encourage your agents in rock star mode to stay put. They’ll know they aren’t written off just because they aren’t seeking a promotion. They’re still valuable contributors and what they do every day, in their current role, matters just as much as those advancing to new positions.

Prioritize agent well-being.

There are many reasons your agents might live in rock star mode, but often times, your rock star agents have high priorities outside of work. They may want more time with their families, they might be pursuing new hobbies or side hustles, or they’re just happy with their current role.

No matter the reason, promote agent well-being to support these priorities and show your agents you care about what’s important to them. Give them flexibility in their schedules. Have 1:1 conversations to discuss pain points and blockers in their jobs. Send mindfulness lessons to their queues. And train and coach your agents to improve their empowerment.

When people feel valued and supported at work, they become more invested in their roles. They do better work and stay loyal to your company. And all that adds up to positively impact your customer experience. CSAT jumps and attrition falls. In fact, 62 percent of companies prioritized a better work environment because of the connection between improved employee satisfaction and a better customer experience.

Prioritize your agents’ well-being to keep them happy in their roles, and at home. Then, your happy agents will be all the more ready and willing to deliver outstanding customer experiences.

Put humanity back in how you manage. Measure and track your agents’ holistic well-being with our Agent Experience Score.

Create a workplace mentorship program.

Your agents in rock star mode have been culminating knowledge in their area of expertise, and they’re bursting at the seams to share it. At the same time, they don’t want to be responsible for team performance metrics or act as a magnet for new tasks just because they’re good at their jobs. Rock stars have deep knowledge about their roles, and they love what they do. They’re the perfect candidates to be mentors and subject matter experts in your workplace mentorship program.

Design a mentorship program and give your rock stars the opportunity to dive deeper and teach on topics important to them. Set them up as mentors, and pair them with mentees who want to soak up more information and learn the skills to be a stellar agent. Your rock stars will feel more valued and important to your team. The opportunity to be a mentor offers up an outlet (besides promotion) for your agents to share their talents, strengthen their impact, and grow personally and professionally.

Learn more on how to spin up a lasting mentorship program in our post over here.

Individualize agent career paths.

Some 70 percent of contact center managers start out as front-line agents. But not all agents want to follow this career path. The reality is, many managers are thrown into their roles, unequipped to handle the changing demands of the job. Or, they don’t want to be a manager, but their current leader thought offering up the position was a reward for a job-well-done.

Encourage your agents to think through what they want out of their role, and out of their career. Map out different options your agents can take to advance in your company. And, outline the options for growth and development that live outside of a path to advancement. Just because your agents don’t want a formal promotion doesn’t mean they don’t want to grow. Growth comes with learning and development and sinking deeper into a role you love, too.

Not to mention, your contact center and your customer experience need some of your best agents to stay agents. It adds a layer of stability to your team dynamic. And it keeps a crop of your best customer-facing agents where they thrive – on the frontlines helping customers. Then, your customers and your operations leaders will thank you for the positive business outcomes that follow.

Don’t assign pay raises exclusively based on promotions.

It’s typical for promotions to come with an uptick in pay, but promotions shouldn’t be the only way for your agents to get a raise. Then, you end up with agents vying for a promotion because they want a well-deserved pay bump, not because they want the new role (or the responsibilities that come with it). Create guidelines for merit-based raises and bonuses to encourage your rock star agents to stay in rock star mode, too.

Work with your agents to outline requirements and skills they can deepen to get a pay bump. Some companies offer up these pay increases when agents complete a specific certification. Others set target goals and customer metrics as a marker for a higher pay. When you develop an action plan for your agents to earn more in their current roles, it encourages them to hone their skills and stick with a role that best suits them.

Your contact center needs the right blend of superstars and rock stars to succeed in giving your customers the best possible experience. Make it easier for rock stars to grow and sink deeper into their roles, so you can keep your steady rocks in their chairs helping customers.

Learn about the four core competencies of CX and how purposeful leadership and engaged employees improve your customer service.