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Increasing Productivity

The Future of Call Centre Design

Design call centre space for efficiency and get more from your employees.

Kerry Tangney

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Due to the nature of the work done in a call centre, it is difficult to evolve much from the standard design of an ‘oversized room packed with rows of desks and chairs’.

However, while the above description may tend to be the most widely accepted design solution for call centres, there are a few developments that can be considered when it comes to how the actual user can function more effectively within the space.

1. Flexibility of the Environment

There is a need for staff to have the flexibility to quickly match the changing commercial objectives of their employer, role or position.

Contact centre environments need to reflect this shift in culture. Thus, the best way to future-proof a call centre is to design a flexible environment.

Change is constant in the workplace. Teams are fluid, being created as quickly as they are dissolved, and so people need to have the freedom to move wherever and whenever they’re needed.

At the same time, with many centres being open to serve all hours of the day, ‘owning’ a single desk is not practical. Thus the use of a mobile desking system along with a ‘hot desking’ policy is most ideal.

TIP: Giving people the freedom to move motivates them while still supporting the flexible nature of their jobs

2. Ergonomics for the Individual

Allowing individuals to work at their desk in whichever way feels most comfortable for their own bodies will go a long way towards relieving fatigue and work related injuries.

Encouraging regular movement also helps employees to remain mentally alert and engaged at all times. If staff are comfortable they will be more productive.

Height adjustable desks allow the operator to stand and change positions frequently and easily.

Other accessories that can aid with ergonomics are:

  • Foot stools that are portable and adjustable.
  • A wireless keyboard and mouse can allow for extra flexibility on the workstation.
  • Monitors mounted on adjustable arms allow flexibility on the desk as well as between sitting and standing positions.

Whilst the basic idea of a desk may never change, the use of ergonomic accessories to suit individual needs has become very important.

3. Close Proximity of Breakaway Spaces

Contact centres are busy and noisy places which necessitate the need for quiet places where people can meet one-on-one, in their teams, or to take and make challenging or private calls.

But these are events which can happen at short notice, so spending time scouring the building for a quieter place can quickly interrupt the flow of work as well as waste valuable time.

The ability to gather quickly in a pod for a team meeting or to make a quiet phone call keeps people focused and ensures that essential conversations can take place with a minimum of interruption. These pods or meeting spaces can be located in amongst the desks at regular intervals.

Using mobile screens to demarcate these spaces also ensures the flexibility of the floor layout is maintained.

4. Home from Home

Operating around the clock, many contact centres are places where people spend long periods of time, often outside the traditional nine-to-five working pattern.

So, perhaps more than anything else, these need to be places where employees feel comfortable with their surroundings in order to get the best out of them.

Spaces need to be provided where employees can take a ‘time-out’ from the phones to mentally relax and regroup.

These can range from the standard pause area, equipped with a coffee machine and a comfy couch, to bigger ‘wellness focused areas’ such as in-house gyms, restaurants and games rooms.

The goal is for employees to ‘take a break’ from the office and thus it is important to remember that these ‘breakaway’ spaces must NOT look anything like the rest of the office work space.

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Branson Offers His Advice for Keeping Employees Inspired. Read It Here

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Kerry Tangney is a qualified interior designer with over eight years’ experience designing corporate office spaces. She has worked for numerous private space planning and design firms and currently heads up the design department within the Workspace Planning division of one of South Africa’s major banks. Part of her mandate is to remain at the forefront of current and future trends in workplace design and she has a keen interest in the emotional effects of spaces.

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Why Incentives Are A Must For Your Business

Incentives are a game changer. Find out just how influential a successful incentive programme can be for your team and your business.

Uwin Iwin

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To be at the cutting edge of incentive programme design and execution, Uwin Iwin International, one of the incentive leaders on the African continent keeps a close eye on the incentive industry, thereby ensuring that we offer the very best in incentive solutions to our myriad of customers. We have recently embarked on a research project and would like to highlight an interesting finding uncovered by Ask Afrika, our research partner. The question we look at this time round is, “Do companies actually find incentives useful?”

Recognising Value

The following figures give a good picture of how employers see the value of incentives into their respective organisations:

  • 74% of respondents recognise that there is a need for a incentive programme, citing that: it motivates employees, helps employees feel valued, helps employees reach goals, assists with employee retention, and helps with financial burdens.
  • One respondent noted that whereas the market for incentives was considerable, “a lot of companies are not getting [incentives] right” despite having a programme in place.
  • Respondents further acknowledged that small and struggling companies should implement an incentive programme, even if it is informal and the rewards offered are small.

Our buying analytics have also picked up that between the period of the 25th to the 11th of each month, incentive spend is focused on mainly personal rewards and after the 11th, spend is directed towards mainly food retailers. This shows the value of an incentive during more strenuous times, as it adds some relief to certain tough periods.

Related: End Of Year Slump? Now’s The Time To Pull Out The Right Rewards

Why you need incentives in your business

Cost-cutting is common during an economic downturn, but be prudent when applying this to incentives. As the research indicates, incentives provide motivation, increase revenues and retain valuable and experienced staff members. Moreover, employees and channel partners value incentive programmes and reducing them could create dissatisfaction.

For further information or advice on your incentive programme, contact Uwin Iwin, and start a fruitful conversation.


Employee Perceptions of their current Incentive Programme

The responses from programme participants reflect that they appreciate the incentive programme and find it motivational.

  • I feel proud when I get an incentive: 82%
  • Job satisfaction motivates me: 85%
  • An incentive programme motivates me to work harder: 81%
  • I will go the extra mile in my job for an incentive: 78%
  • The incentive programme is very important to me and my family: 77%
  • Incentive programmes make me stay loyal to my company: 63%

Rating of Effectiveness of Incentive Programme

HR personnel were asked to give feedback concerning the effectiveness of incentives in achieving programme objectives. Below are the figures that correlate to each objective:

  • Employee motivation: 77%
  • Employee performance: 79%
  • Employee engagement: 73%
  • Employee satisfaction: 72%
  • Employee retention: 64%

These results are encouraging, and prove that having an effective, well-designed and well-executed incentive programme in place impacts very positively upon the business.

For more information, please visit uwiniwin.net or call +27 (0)11 557 5700

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The 3 Nasty Little Secrets About Teams

Internal competition, poorly designed incentive systems and groupthink can derail your group quickly.

Beth Miller

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In today’s world of business, we all understand the value of teams. Well-functioning teams can collaborate and drive innovation, which is a competitive advantage. Without innovation, many companies wither and die.

Iconic brands like Borders and Blockbuster are examples of companies that were unable to adapt quickly enough to the changing competitive landscape. Now you can bet that these companies understood the importance of innovation and had teams focused on the future, but what went wrong? From my experience, three things derail teams – internal competition, poorly designed incentive systems and groupthink.

1Internal competition

When companies have processes and structures that create competition for limited internal resources, things can get ugly quickly. Strong team identity can be a huge benefit to productivity and engagement but only if all of your departments have a single goal that requires co-operation, not competition, amongst the departments. So how do you create the “big goal?”

Related: 10 Traits Of Managers Whose Teams Are Happy To Come To Work

Ideally the big goal is a concept and more abstract. It should speak to your company’s purpose. For example, one PEO company’s big goal was to provide unique human resource solutions to their customers’ problems by listening to customer needs and leveraging unique technology solutions.

Once the company “why” was clear, the CEO facilitated a discussion with each department about what the goal meant for them. They explored the answers to questions like: What are the principles and programs that each department could create and embrace that would assist them in providing unique solutions to customer problems?

For the PEO, listening to customers was determined to be a core principal. The CEO met with his executive team to determine what program could be developed for each department that would enhance listening to their customers. In this case, all the executives agreed there were three departments – sales, customer service and accounting – that interfaced with customers on an ongoing basis. And, that without the three departments cooperating, they could not deliver unique custom human resource solutions to their customers.

Armed with this knowledge, each of the three department leaders were in charge with communicating the big goal and assisting in determining what department goals would drive and support the big goal while requiring the cooperation of the other departments.

2Incentive systems

With incentive systems, remember that what you incent and reward others for will drive their behavior and results. The classic example is sales commissions. When the metric for sales commission is revenue, you will have your sales team looking for any sales opportunity. But, if you compensate your sales team by gross margin dollars, your sales team will bring you only profitable sales.

Compensating sales by gross margin dollars may increase profits but it doesn’t help solve the problem of internal competition amongst sales and other departments. What behaviors do you need to increase your sales and profits while focusing on collaboration and innovation?

For one technology company, there was one value that all employees within every department lived by that helped drive company growth and profitability – listening to and solving customer problems. So company leaders proceeded to develop firm goals around listening to customers and driving innovative solutions. Then each department created specific objectives, which linked to the goals and were dependent on the other departments’ co-operation.

Related: Building A Hard-Working Team Starts With You

3Groupthink

Leaders often have strong opinions, which can lead to groupthink. Groupthink discourages perspectives from being challenged and narrows thinking, stifling innovation and organisational competitiveness. In order to manage and break groupthink, a leader needs to listen more than talk during meetings where strategy and innovation are the focus. He/she needs to have dissenter(s) on their teams and encourage and support the dissenters. While team members generally do not like dissenters, they are often the ones who care the most and have the courage to dissent.

As a leader of a team, is your team at risk of groupthink? You can do a quick assessment by asking for feedback from team members on your listening skills. How much time do you spend listening versus talking? When do team members get the opportunity to speak in meetings? What questions are you asking that will lead to exploring alternatives and processing information objectively? Who are the dissenters on your team? And how do you support and encourage their views and suggestions?

One technique I recommend to team leaders is Six Thinking Hats presented by Edward de Bono in his book by the same title. The method will transform your meetings so that all perspectives are taken into account.

Now that you know the derailers of teams, it is time to take action and define goals that drive collaboration across the company, reward teams for working collaboratively and encourage the dissenters on your team. What is your first step?

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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7 Bad Workplace Habits Millennials Need To Stop Making

Walk away from the computer once in a while. Leave your tablet behind for meetings. And don’t check your smartphone during a conversation.

Jayson Demers

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The millennial generation has faced a great deal of criticism, and in some cases, scorn from older generations. We millennials – yes, I’m one of them – are seen as selfish, entitled and demanding, not to mention addicted to technology.

Are these stereotypes true? Certainly not for all millennials. But there are certain tendencies and habits that are associated with the millennial generation more than any other generation – and they run both positive and negative.

Here, let’s focus on the negatives, setting aside the fact that you can’t categorize an entire generation, and behavioral traits and stereotypes can’t be empirically proven to exist. Instead, let’s focus on the bad workplace habits that the older generations perceive millennials to have, and work on eliminating them.

Related: Lifestyle-Focused Work Environments Are Not Just For Millennials

Regardless of how much of a stereotypical millennial you believe yourself to be, you’ll make a better impression in your new work environment if you avoid these common bad habits:

1Making demands instead of requests

Millennials do have a habit of making demands, and setting more rigid requirements for their workplaces. On some level, this is good; too many modern workers are afraid to voice their opinions, and would rather keep their heads down than verbally address something wrong with the organisations.

However, when voicing your opinion, turn your demands into requests. Making a request of your employer shows more respect and subordination than making a demand, which is especially important if you’re new to the organisation.

The more experience you earn, the more demanding you can afford to be, but start out by making requests instead.

2Exhibiting overconfidence

Confidence is good, but overconfidence can ruin your reputation if it’s perceived as arrogance. Millennials tend to overestimate their abilities and knowledge in the workplace, which is especially irritating to people from the older generations who have spent far more years on the job.

Recognize that your superiors have been at this job longer than you have, and don’t be afraid to exhibit confidence – as long as you keep that confidence reasonably in check. It’s better to perform well with a sense of humility than to boast about your abilities and fail to meet expectations. Just as happens with demands, you can demonstrate more confidence over time as your accomplishments start to speak for themselves.

3Relying only on certain forms of communication

Most millennials prefer text-based forms of communication over voice-based forms. They’re more comfortable with mediums like SMS text and email because they’ve grown up with these formats, and recognise the fact that they give you more time to put your thoughts together (not to mention leaving a paper trail).

However, it’s important to recognise that not everyone prefers to communicate this way – and that there are advantages to making a phone call rather than emailing. Showcase a degree of flexibility in the way you communicate, and you can eliminate this bad habit altogether.

Related: What Millennials Want From 2017 – How To Stay Ahead Of The Trend Curve

4Talking more than listening

Talking more than listening

This is a bad habit for any generation, not just millennials; but for millennials, it’s far more damning. Because millennials are seen as self-centered and overconfident, talking too much can be seen as an exacerbation of these qualities (even if it’s just a result of this individual’s extroverted personality).

Instead, make a conscious effort to speak less and listen more, especially when you’re in the company of someone more experienced or more authoritative than you are. You’ll end up making a better impression, and more importantly, you’ll learn more in the process.

5Assuming a certain behavior or action is okay

Office environments are becoming more relaxed. Work schedules are becoming more flexible, etiquette is becoming looser and dress codes are increasingly casual. These trends are facilitated by increasing technological sophistication and decreasing reliance on old-school business tropes. However, this isn’t a free license to show up at the office whenever you want, wearing whatever you want.

In fact, doing so could mark you as both overconfident and disrespectful. Don’t just assume a certain action or behavior is okay. If you’re even slightly in doubt, ask someone.

6Multitasking

Millennials grew up with technology that provided instantaneous information on demand. They work fast and think fast, which makes them highly productive and ingenious. Unfortunately, this high pace also lures them into the multitasking trap, tempting them to try to accomplish many things simultaneously in a bid to work as fast as possible.

As more people are beginning to realise, multitasking is ineffective, and engaging in multitasking could weaken your performance in multiple areas.

Related: Why Millennials Are Becoming Franchisees

7Staying plugged in

Again, thanks to our natural history with technological devices, we millennials tend to be more reliant on them than our older-generation counterparts. There’s a perception that weare addicted to technology, so if you’re young and want to combat this stereotype and improve your reputation in the process, avoid staying “plugged in” for too long.

Walk away from the computer every once in a while. Leave your tablet behind for that important meeting. Above all, don’t check your smartphone when you’re having a conversation.

The truth is, there are some differences that set millennials apart from other generations. This doesn’t mean millennials are bad workers or good workers – it just means they work differently. Acknowledging those differences, and compensating for them when they create workplace dissonance, can help you better adjust to your job, and make a better impression with the people in charge.

Focus on eliminating these bad habits, and you’ll stand apart from the rest of your generation.

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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