The war for talent is prompting contact centers to rethink workplace and location strategies.
Contact center operators are adapting to today’s digital world, expanding offerings to connect with consumers on their terms through social media, texting, online chat and other digital and mobile channels. They’re also responding to consumers’ desire for complex conversations with representatives on technical issues, giving rise to screen-sharing or live-chat channels. In turn, the job description for customer service representatives (CSR) is changing. To stay competitive, savvy contact center operators are bringing in “digital natives” who have the skills to leverage these media.
The shift bodes well for U.S. operators, who lead the field of high-quality products and services. According to JLL’s “2017 Contact Center Outlook” report (bit.ly/JLL_CCOutlook17), contact center contracts are seeing a greater shift in allocation to U.S.-based employees today than in previous years. Contact center outsourcing (CCO) contract agreements with 25% or more of the associated workers based in the United States have increased to 53% of all contracts signed in 2015, up 18% from 2010 figures.
Demand for Talent Exceeds Qualified Candidates
The flip side of this boom? Finding tech-savvy workers in the right markets is difficult. This is good news for North American job seekers with the right skill sets. Contact center operators are looking for digital natives who are completely at home online. However, these workers, who are often millennials, tend to be concentrated around urban markets that are too costly for the typical contact center.
In the majority of U.S. markets, open CSR positions heavily outnumber the actual volume of qualified CSR candidates, creating a labor gap in markets to which CSR positions are being shifted. Some contact center operators are following skilled labor to the markets they call home. The Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue market had the highest contact center employee growth per capita among U.S. metro areas from 2010 to 2015. But, the mean hourly wage there is also high, at $18.26.
While job growth may be rising in this innovation center, the highest concentration of contact center employees remains in lower-cost markets such as Pueblo, Colo., and Waco, Texas. Regardless of where you look, competition for skilled labor is high, placing upward pressure both on wages and on employee expectations for modern work spaces.
5 Workplace and Location Strategies to Help Solve the Talent Conundrum
The war for talent is prompting contact center operators to rethink their workplace and location strategies. Research shows millennials are more likely than other generations to hop jobs. So the question is: How do you shape a workplace to keep millennials, and all your employees, happy, engaged and productive?
Here are five ways contact center operators can shift their workplace and location strategies to attract millennial workers seeking a live-work-play environment.
1. Follow the talent
Most millennials crave an urban lifestyle with easy access to amenities such as retail, entertainment and transit. They prioritize walkability and flexibility, making city center locations attractive for businesses on the lookout for talent.
Just as technology is transforming the contact center business, it is changing the way companies find their next location. Sophisticated location analysis technology and dynamic screening tools allow companies to dig deeper into labor pool data, revealing markets offering the right kind of talent and a reasonable cost of living for employees to work, live and play comfortably. After all, there are limits to contact center pay and profit margins. Data-driven analysis can also reveal locations with tax incentives for contact centers to counterbalance labor costs.
Today’s data and insight tools incorporate a range of filters with a greater degree of accuracy to pinpoint locations that best match the company’s long-term needs. These tools can layer in multiple types of data, such as current labor pools, competition and demographics. As market dynamics change, labor markets also evolve. Screening tools can help compare metro areas to identify where the employees are today and where they are likely to be in the future, giving executives more confidence when making long-term decisions.
2. Design offices for flexibility
Locating your office in the right area is just one part of the equation. Employers in all industries are upping their game to create distinct workplaces that attract and retain talent. Contact center operators are taking a page from the corporate office playbook with workplace layouts that appeal to the millennial generation. New layouts often include “neighborhoods” for solo work, lounges, and recreation and collaboration spaces. A mix of workspaces in flexible layouts gives employees the freedom they want while the business retains the flexibility to pivot quickly as the workflow changes.
3. Prioritize wellness for happier, healthier employees
Contact centers tend to be high-stress environments that experience high turnover. Smart workplace design can help encourage greater productivity, morale and wellness. Health-focused millennials, in particular, appreciate wellness policies and features built into facilities, such as regular activity breaks, outdoor or indoor walking paths, and relaxation spaces.
JLL workplace research shows the option to move about from time to time is important for achieving a productive, engaging work environment. Mobile contact services could provide a huge step forward by enabling workers to move while they’re working and foster collaboration.
Wellness might also include facility design that allows more productivity-boosting natural light into the workspace, and using environmentally sustainable building materials to minimize indoor air pollution. Multiple studies have demonstrated worker productivity and overall well-being improves when workplaces are filled with natural light and clean air.
4. Build community to increase employee engagement
In an age when employees can work anywhere, anytime, people choose to go into the office for the community it offers. Leading companies are not thinking of their workplace as just somewhere to do work, but as a place of experience. The office should be a place where your employees want to be, not just where they have to be.
For the generation that values a rich live, work and play environment, desirable amenities offer a sense of community. Onsite fitness centers, cafes, lounges and outdoor patios offer employees the opportunity to connect with each other during their “off” time. These spaces create more “accidental collisions” among employees who wouldn’t cross paths in their day-to-day work. Contact center operators who up their amenities game can reap the rewards of happier, more engaged employees.
5. Consider “plug-and-play” spaces
In an ideal world, businesses would never have to rush into location decisions. Instead, they’d take time to design and customize a space to fit their unique needs. Unfortunately, that’s rarely the case in the contact center industry. A merger, acquisition or new outsourcing contract could put on the pressure to find a new location quickly. Operators are looking to plug-and-play spaces as the answer to this dilemma.
Plug-and-play facilities save time and minimize costs for users with less runway in terms of strategizing and shifting their real estate portfolios. These opportunities provide convenient and efficient move-in ready centers for operators, and can cut transition and downtime to a minimum. Plug-and-play spaces are frequently located in favorable labor markets, and have furniture and generators in place, thus allowing for rapid ramp-up and improving speed to market.
Advanced location analysis technology can enable the ability to include plug-and-play options in the search for optimal space for short-term needs.
Winning the War for Talent
Today’s hyper-connected consumers demand new styles of communicating. Contact center operators are making great progress toward shifting their business models to accommodate new and emerging channels. A thoughtful and progressive workplace strategy can build a workforce that feels empowered to serve customers in an ever-digital environment. Is your workplace strategy helping you win the war for talent?