Wednesday, September 26, 2007

BPO Policies: 5 Tips To Tackle Attrition

Most Indian BPO voice operators facing a very high level of attrition (more than 30%) are those who have relatively smaller operations (less than 1000-seaters) and handle processes requiring low knowledge levels. This article focuses on how these operators can tackle high levels of attrition.
The typical Indian BPO voice operator can be characterised by the following:

  • Operating at low end of market and only skill required by agents is English speaking ability
  • Most agents have little discrimination and have to stick to prepared script
  • The typical agent is in the age group 18-26 and certainly below 30
  • The typical agent is a graduate, about 20% are high school pass and there is no one with post graduation or higher level education
  • Two thirds of the churn can be attributed to people moving from one call center to another implying that they are staying within the industry and not quitting it to join some other industry – that means stressful nature of the job alone is not a good explanatory factor and merely taking steps only to reduce stress will not help stem attrition.

Indian BPO companies which have been somewhat successful in tackling attrition have identified five major reasons behind the problem. These reasons and the typical response to tackle them are outlined below by way of providing what may prove to be helpful tips.

  • Reason 1: Demand is more than supply: there is no dearth of graduates and plus two pass but the supply of people with English speaking ability in this category is not adequate.
  • Strategy: Constantly identify talent, recruit and train either in-house if scale of operations permit that or through an outsourced training agency in case of smaller operations.
  • Reason 2: People are joining with a short-term view and as a stepping stone to something else.
  • Strategy: Create a culture and work environment that encourages people to think of a call center job as a long-term career option. Use counselling by HR and line management. This has to be backed up by demonstrated and perceived efforts by the management to move up the value chain so that employees can clearly see that the management is making efforts to create opportunities for upward mobility among employees.
  • Reason 3: A lot of young people are taking up call center jobs just to earn some money on the side – not as a serious and long-term career option.
  • Strategy: Create a culture and work environment that encourages people to think of a call center job as a long-term career option. Use counselling by HR and line management. Again this has to be backed up management efforts to move up the knowledge continuum in terms of the processes handled.
  • Reason 4: Long-term or intangible or contingency benefits such as PF or medical coverage do not have much attraction for call center employees – they want everything in cash – here and now.
  • Strategy: Redesign the compensation package for call center employees and try to pay as much as possible in hard cash. Work out if necessary a new pay structure highly skewed towards cash benefits. Typically the new pay structurer is along following lines: Basic (54%), HRA (26%), Medical Reimbursement (8%), Management Supplement (12%), PF Contribution (actuals), Tiffin Allowance (Rs 25-30 per day of attendance), Attendance Bonus (Rs 500-1000 per month), Loyalty Bonus (1 month’s salary after completion of each year in the company), Performance Incentives (linked to specific performance criteria), Referral Allowance (Rs 2000-3000 per candidate referred and recruited).
  • Reason 5: Call center employees have an average age profile of 20-24 years, so they are highly emotional, impulsive and immature when taking career decisions.
  • Strategy: Constant counselling.

Most managements somewhat successful in tackling attrition believe that although stressful nature of the job is not a reason for high attrition per se since much of the churn is within the industry, methods to relieve stress or to manage stress is important from the point of view of retention and productivity. Consequently, most such companies organise “fun” events such as picnics, dance parties, get-togethers, cultural evenings, quizzes and games and outdoor sports and games. Some even appoint professional agencies to organize regular stints of aerobic exercises and dancing sessions for employees as part of stress management.
Do not expect these tips to bring about a dramatic reduction in attrition rates – they can only help you to better manage attrition. Call centers which do not have to tackle attrition probably do not exist – not in India, not anywhere else in the world! So, just learn to live with it!

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