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The Operational Excellence Show

May 15, 2020

As I record today’s episode, the United Kingdom is still in lockdown - and it’s most likely to be extended for another couple of weeks. 

Many contact centres moved their workforce into home offices - with great effort, lots of logistics involved and at a huge cost to the business. It was, and still is, the right decision. 

Initially line managers reported that their staff’s performance was great, absence numbers were down, scheduled adherence was spot on - as high as never before. But now - for the last few weeks we are seeing a downward trend in productivity, we are seeing lower scheduled adherence and, worryingly we are seeing quality dropping. 

I spoke to one senior operations manager last week.  

She was telling me how, after initially excellent results from her home working crew, now - in week 7 the productivity of the agents was falling - and not only that, the quality of the work delivered was also going from bad to worse!

I listened carefully, quietly wondering when she would tell me that she implemented a turnaround project over 6 weeks for her underperforming team.

I waited and waited…. The sentence never came.

Eventually I asked her straight out: How is your coaching going and how many of your home working agents have you got on an improvement plan?

Sheer horror on her face - she looked at me (on Zoom) - as if I had lost my mind! 
Performance management in Covid-19 times? Surely a BIG no go?

I beg to disagree. 
In fact - I would argue that just because of Covid-19 your coaching and communication with your teams should have multiplied! Maybe 10x-ed? 

So I went and did a little research... and I found that in 80% of firms where coaching and lovingly performance management was not an individual Key Performance Indicator for all levels of management, both coaching and performance management had fallen off the wagon completely! Shocking!

The reason given was mostly “we are in a crisis, hence all we do is answer calls / emails / chats. We don’t have time to performance manage”

I have seen behaviour before - in peak times for example, or when contact centres are low staffed - let's say in the summer holidays or over the Christmas Period. Quality monitoring, daily stand ups, coaching and feedback sessions are cut back. Resulting in dropping performance levels! 

Your team craves engagement. Your team craves feedback, meaningful, elevated discussions about them. Questions about how they are doing, how is the business doing, how can they help or how can they make a difference to the situation the business is in.

Think about it, if this is you and your team, I strongly encourage you to listen to The Operational Excellence Show podcast Episode 6. Here I share how you can successfully work with your team, also remotely using the LEAP daily checklist and the LEAP Gameplan! You can download the respective documentation from my website.

So what can you do now - today? Communicate, Communicate and communicate again! 
There is no such thing as over communicating in difficult times! 

Let me share my 3 most powerful tips on how to communicate with teams and with individuals;

1. Get Clarity

  • What do you really want your team or team-member to understand? 

  • What’s likely to happen if your team-member or team doesn’t want to work with you on that? 

  • Why is your approach essential for success

  • What questions are you going to be asked? 

        Think ahead of time! 

2. Structure your communication

  • Headline

    You have a matter of seconds to grab your audience attention - be clear on your headline

  • Set the Scene

    Outline how far you have come and where you are today

  • Main Message

    Explain where you need to go
Why you need to go there
Set your stall out - articulate your expectations
Know your message - DO NOT WAFFLE! 

  • Re-cap
Bring your main point across again

  • Next Steps

    Outline clearly what the next steps are

3. Rehearse your message

  • Nobody is perfect Hence - rehearse your message - if need be in front of a mirror

  • Create little reminder cards if you need them! 

    Treat your teams and team-members as responsible adults and very clearly work with them.

I recently read an email, sent by the CEO of AirB&B - who had to announce to his team, that he will have to reduce his workforce (you find the link to this letter in the show notes)

He clearly had the communication thought through very carefully. 
He set the scene explaining how he arrived at the very difficult decision to let 1900 members of his workforce go.

He explained where the AirB&B needed to go and what needed to happen to get the company through the restructuring process.
 He articulated very clearly what this meant for his workforce.
He addressed the steps one by one in a very humble and caring manner
He closed with final words - thanking his teams - both the ones that are now leaving and the ones that are staying on.

I sincerely hope that you never will have to make such a drastic announcement to your teams - but it illustrates the point - firms with an excellent communication strategy (coaching and performance management are part of that strategy) have it much easier to bring about difficult messages.

I would take it one step further - it is YOUR responsibility to ensure that you communicate with your teams!                 


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