Employee Engagement Techniques for Contact Centers to Reduce High Turnovers

Employee Engagement Techniques for Contact Centers to Reduce High Turnovers

Employee Engagement Techniques for Contact Centers to Reduce High Turnovers

Employee Engagement Techniques for Contact Centers to Reduce High Turnovers. Today’s guest post is from Tenfold the original article can be found here.

The staff turnover is one of the biggest problems that contact centers face today. It has a huge impact on the costs and the quality of service. According to the 2016 US Contact Center Decision Makers’ Guide from ContactBabel.com – the Average annual turnover rate for a customer service representative (CSR) was 29% – an “average lifespan” for a call center worker in the USA was approximately 3.3 years – with quit rates representing 60% of Total Turnover.

Employee Engagement Techniques for Contact Centers to Reduce High Turnovers

The rate of turnover differs by geography, employment factors and by industry. There is a lower turnover in more specialized, higher level jobs and in union environments.

Turnover rate is much higher in routine, order-taking positions or in outbound telemarketing where burnout is high. Larger Contact Centers tend to have higher turnover than smaller ones.

Staff attrition has consistently been quoted as one of the major worries of contact center management.

A high level of unchecked attrition has a two- headed effect: First, it raises recruitment and staffing costs; Second, it has a ripple effect that can cripple a contact center’s ability to provide an acceptable level of service, creating a negative customer experience, and placing massive stress on those agents who are left.

Regardless of size or industry sector – over time it is a statistically inevitable reality that the demands of call center work causes exhaustion and apathy – and turnover.

Reasons Why Contact Center Agents Quit or Get Terminated

What are the reasons behind the high turnover rate? Like most situations, the answer cannot be reduced to a single factor, but is instead a combination of workplace environmental influences.

  1. Wrong Candidate for the Job – Just because someone can use a telephone it doesn’t mean that they’re cut out to work in a Contact Center. Employers need to be able to weed out the job candidates who aren’t suited for the work – and identify the people with the personality/job fit/soft skills motivation & work ethic to be (above average) agents.
  2. Incomplete or minimal training – Everybody knows the story. Due to increasing customer service demands and decreasing numbers of agents, cuts must be made somewhere, and training time is often where the axe falls. While companies who invest less in agent training to not lose as much investment when an agent leaves the company, they suffer indirect losses in other ways. Customer services levels, for instance, are directly affected by the skills of the agent. Those skills must be developed and nurtured to deliver superior customer service. Most of the time, customer service agents are entry-level employees who have little or not experience working in a call center. Without proper training, agents can easily become weighed down by the stress and workload of dealing with unsatisfied customers. To make matters worse, they are also expected to use technology that’s complicated and outdated, not to mention decades apart from the consumer technology these 20-somethings are immersed in on a daily basis.
  3. Narrow Chances of Career Advancement – According to a recent ProSci study, 12% of call centers surveyed had no formal training program in place for new supervisors. A managerial staff that lacks personal management skills or coaching abilities cannot direct the progress of the call center toward superior customer service levels. Poorly prepared management staff communicates an undesirable message of apathy and frustration to the call center staff.
  4. Non-Competitive Compensation – Low pay & lack of medical benefits are also key reasons that CSR Quit Rates are high. Many call centers don’t provide their employees with competitive salary and benefit packages, so agents are forced to seek employment elsewhere.
  5. Overwork and Burnout of More Experienced Agents – In a workforce experiencing high turnover, the burden of maintaining customer service levels fall to the more experienced agents. This
    increases the stress level of the seasoned agent, and reduces the motivation for an agent to increase his or her customer service skills. Placed into a position of high expectations with little or no relief or reward in sight can depress the morale of the most buoyant agent.
  6. Unpleasant Physical or Interpersonal Working Conditions – The erratic schedules cause health problems for agents. So is the stress that goes with the high-pressure work environment that can demotivate agents. During times of high turnover, remaining agents may be asked to take on double shifts, leading to many unsatisfactory consequences.
  7. Exhaustion from Monotony – Performing the same task day after day, with little room for taking on new challenges, can make agents emotionally and mentally exhausted. Most contact centers have strict scripts/pitches and rigid observance to processes in an effort to simplify tasks and achieve consistency in service. However, the downside of these shifts means that agents get to exercise little to no autonomy or creativity in their work. The monotony and lack of challenge in the work leads to burnout.
  8. Poor Leadership & Direct Supervision – Team leaders are crucial when it comes to employee management and retention. Poor leadership is among the leading factors that drive employees to resign because it results in bad management, lack of teamwork, and messy communication lines. Supervisors, who view their role as overseer and disciplinarian, quickly create an environment of apathy & frustration in their staff.
  9. Working with Outmoded Technology – Working with cumbersome software that is complicated and non-intuitive diminishes agent productivity, forcing agents to take
    on additional, time consuming tasks. They have to search for messages to respond to instead of being assigned the right conversation based on skill specialty, determine the customer’s previous interactions with the company – i.e. asking the customer to repeat themselves on their inquiry, and moving back and forth between different tabs and systems to get customer profiles and history. These deviates the focus from the customer and all efforts goes after the process, which adds to agent stress and frustration.
  10. Poor Analysis of Call Center Statistics (Salt Mine scenario) – The Salt Mine is a call/contact center where the agents are rigorously measured against a variety of call statistics, and punished when those statistics are not met. While call statistics are an incredibly helpful tool in analyzing the performance of a call center, the ultimate goal should be to provide quality customer service, not to decrease call handling time at the expense of both the agents and the customer. Unrealistic expectations are de-motivators, not incentives.

Employee Engagement Techniques to Reduce Turnover

Contact centers have to change their reputation and transition from least favored to most preferred places to work. While there are and unfortunately will always be some poorly managed contact centers, there are also hundreds of organizations where agents are fully engaged, treated with respect, and highly rewarded for their work. Millennials want to feel part of their community, whether at work or at play. The best way to achieve this goal is to set up a work environment where agents feel involved and engaged in everything from the company mission to their contact center team and the customers they serve.

Through employee engagement, companies can boost their employees’ motivation, build confidence in their work, and ultimately lead them to deliver exceptional customer service for long-term customer loyalty. With the onset of the new millennial generation, old and rusty work cultures are rapidly breaking down. This is a cue for businesses that they need to get real insights from their workforce through employee engagement tools and techniques that can motivate and drive workplace satisfaction and productivity.

I. The Rise of Gamification – Gamification is proving to be an effective tool for identifying and recognizing agents and other employees for a job well done. Even better, it is also a self service tool, which means that agents control their own destiny when it comes to recognition and rewards, which frees supervisors and managers from this essential but time-consuming task. Gamification solutions actively engage agents in their own success, which is characteristic of leading contact centers.

Employee Engagement Techniques for Contact Centers to Reduce High Turnovers

The psychology behind gamification is that it uses regular and consistent positive feedback – points, badges, status, progression, etc. – to build up the users’ motivation. Its sudden growth can be attributed to the dramatic and measurable benefits of gamification: up to a 25% increase in productivity, a 90% reduction in training time and a 70% reduction in the cost to onboard a new hire. It also substantially enhances employee engagement. When used correctly, gamification links participant goals to company priorities in a way that makes work fun and increases profits.

II. Compensation – Creating a compensation plan that rewards top employees is an excellent way to drive performance. In the large majority of the employee engagement surveys conducted by TalentMap, compensation receives one of the least favourable ratings among all of the dimensions of employee engagement. An analysis published by Harvard Business Review showed that performance-related pay was positively associated with job satisfaction, organizational commitment, and trust in management. Compensation also serves as recognition in the absence of other cues, messages or signals.

III. Assessing Cultural Fit – Call centers are used to assessing employee performance through hard metrics. This is a key mistake, as academics have noted that employees who fit in well with their job, team and organization have greater job satisfaction, are more likely to remain in their organization, and show superior job performance. Social connectivity is a fundamental and overlooked factor which can often lead to easily-identifiable desirable action. Hiring managers can start measuring social dynamics by being open and honest with themselves and with colleagues about the call center social environment: what kind of person will succeed here. Social profiling and data analysis can be a key ‘voice in the room’, giving additional weight to decisions over which course of action to take.

Employee Engagement Techniques for Contact Centers to Reduce High Turnovers

IV. Competent Technology, Tools and Training – To deliver their best, agents should be given the latest technology for excellent omnichannel customer service and receive the proper training required to master these tools. Using a contact center software solution with advanced features ensures quicker and more efficient service, and thorough training will help agents feel prepared for each interaction. According to the “Emerging Workforce Study”, 41% of employees plan to leave organizations with a “poor” training score as opposed to just 12% for those organizations with a rating of “good”. With in-depth training sessions through e-learning, virtual assistance, and scripting tools, clearly establish company goals and expectations and provide your agents the confidence to tackle any initiative.

Employee Engagement Techniques for Contact Centers to Reduce High Turnovers

Empower Employees to Quickly Resolve Customer Needs – For every 1% improvement in first call resolution rate, contact centers will see a 1% improvement in customer satisfaction rates, and a 1- 5% improvement in employee satisfaction. But how can one improve first call resolution rates?

  • Database management integrations (CRM, WFM, Ticketing, etc.) with your call center solution to offer immediate access to all client records
  • Use of advanced call routing tools to match customers to agents based on skill-sets
  • Use of advanced call center scripting solutions to empower employees to quickly resolve customer needs and improve their overall job satisfaction

V. Experiment with Team Structure – We increasingly need to recruit people to integrate into a fast-paced team: according to McKinsey, 40% of jobs in developed economies involve a high degree of collaboration. Switch your agents tasks on occasion, encourage collaboration, and create team- building exercises. It will facilitate agent enthusiasm and interest, while keeping them on their toes. Communication and sharing of knowledge between individuals has a huge impact on customer service performance: the happier an employee is in their environment, the more engaged that person will be in his or her day-to-day job. More and more companies are using data- driven personality testing to help them in these crucial managerial decisions.

VI. Go Beyond the Metrics – While it is extremely important, if not essential, to monitor agent performance metrics (service level, agent schedule adherence, call resolution, average handle time, customer satisfaction) it shouldn’t never be the sole means by which to define an employee’s capabilities and potential. In fact, many call center employees site the narrow grading metrics contact centers generally adhere to as a key cause of in-office stress and lack of productivity. Supervisors must recognize there are other factors at play that could be interfering with an agent’s performance. Regardless of whether employees are performing “well” or “poorly”, reach out to each and review what is working and what is not—the findings could very well provide key insights otherwise unavailable using traditional KPIs.

VII. Communication – Communication is a powerful tool that can have an enormous impact on the success of any organization. Effective communication can increase employee engagement, boost workplace productivity, and drive business growth. Communication is the cornerstone of an engaged workforce. Specifically, communicating strategies about career development and management can be essential to retaining an existing work force, and engaging employees to perform at their peak ability. Research shows that keeping employees informed with personal, relevant, and engaging communication gives companies a competitive edge and has direct results on the bottom line.

Employee Engagement Techniques for Contact Centers to Reduce High Turnovers

VIII.  Allowing Downtime – Your workers are people, and people need downtime. There’s a growing trend of companies looking to utilize their employees’ downtime for good.  Also, to not let their employees’ inevitable breaks go completely to waste. Rather than forcing employees to take very short breaks, and logging those breaks fastidiously, managers should encourage groups of employees to take breaks at the same times. By doing this, employees will spend more time together, encouraging social bonding.

A well known MIT study tested just this: by ensuring that everyone on the same call center team took a break at the same time. A bank’s call center AHT fell by more than 20 percent among low performing teams, and fell by 8 percent overall. Canada and the EU have call center turnover rates of 25 percent and 15 percent respectively. This is far higher than the 33 percent rate seen in the US. It’s often said that the work environment in Canada and the EU countries is more relaxed and flexible than in the US: perhaps this is one reason behind the difference.

IX. Optimize the Workspace – Given the intense nature of a contact center, a workspace optimized for comfort and productivity is absolutely necessary. A lounge is a great way to show appreciation for agents’ well-being and to encourage employees to socialize during their downtime. For training and meeting purposes, open and collaborative spaces are ideal. Ergonomic chairs and supplies and even standing desks can increase comfort, as well as natural lighting, warm colors, and plants which are proven to boost people’s moods and creativity.

X. Provide Meaningful Rewards and Recognition – Employees stay where they feel appreciated. Encourage individual management recognition but also develop organizational recognition vehicles. Simple recognition of jobs well done in the quarterly newsletter, pictures on the bulletin board, dinner gift certificates, and other small rewards provide a high return on investment. Companies with employee recognition programs experience a 22% lower turnover rate than organizations without one. Using a combination of rewards, public recognition, one-on-one praise, and promotions, create a healthy environment in which agents feel appreciated and valued. A little competition between peers is also a great way to drive productivity but should never be the sole means of measuring agent performance and contributions.

XI. Promoting Good Leadership – Being an empathetic manager that is willing to get to know their people beyond work have more engaged teams.

XII. Establish Growth Opportunities – An astounding 32% of contact center employees cite “lack of career development opportunities” as a reason for terminating their employment. As a supervisor, if you fail to clearly present and offer opportunities for advancement it is extremely likely employees fail to see the long-term benefits of staying. Ensure development opportunities are clearly established and communicated to agents on a continuous basis. It will encourage them to remain with the company while striving to reach for those elevated opportunities.

XIII. Covet Community Service As Much As Customer Service – People are inspired by and want to work for companies that care about all human beings – not just customers and employees. You are much more likely to hang on to talented staff if you can show them the reason their wages are so laughable is that half of what they should earn goes toward feeding the hungry, housing the homeless, and rehabbing former child TV stars. Also, be sure to give agents a few paid days off each year to volunteer for their favorite charity/non-profit organization; the time off the phones will help to minimize their whining about back pain and Carpal Tunnel flare ups.

Contact centers are challenging but highly rewarding departments in which to work. The influx of Millennials is driving companies to assess and re-evaluate their people engagement approaches and practices. Many companies are realizing that they need to make changes and investments. This is necessary if they want to have a contact center with highly motivated and engaged employees. This will me them become an employer of choice.  Workforce management, agent self-service and gamification applications provide tools that empower and engage agents. This brings out the best in them. Undoubtedly, this will help to improve agent satisfaction and retention, but it will also have a positive impact on customer satisfaction and the bottom line, as agents who are engaged and empowered are willing to take ownership and will do what it takes to resolve customer issues and keep customers happy.

This similar post will give you some additional ideas to engage your employee base Employee engagement activities for your small business.

The 5 major causes of failure in leadership

The 5 major causes of failure in leadership

The 5 major causes of failure in leadership. Leadership is important to any organization or any concerted effort to accomplish a particular goal. When you are placed in a position where you are that leader, there is one thing that you have in mind and that is the result. Being a good leader requires you to get the desired result.

Here a five major causes that will prevent you from getting the results you desire.

1. Inability to Organize Details. To be a leader that gets results, you must be able to first recognize the details that go into getting the result you desire. Second you must be able to organize those details into a coherent plan that your team can follow. You must be a master of what details are required for success. You must be able not only to organize the details but to delegate them to capable people on your team. The ability to make changes to that organized plan when needed, is also important. This requires a constant review of and knowledge of where you are in the implementation of that plan.

The 5 major causes of failure in leadership

2. Fear of competition from followers. It has never ceased to amaze me that in organization after organization that I have been a part of there are leaders who seem to be fearful that a member will take their place. Every successful leader must have the ability to transform others into leaders. On a lot of occasions the leader has the experience. This experience many times is the reason a person is placed into a leadership role. The followers need to be given the benefit of that experience by being educated regarding the essential activities necessary to accomplish the goal. When this happens the leader is able to duplicate himself/herself. Leaders are paid to get people to perform period.

3. Lack of imagination. A leader must have foresight and creativity. These characteristics enable the leader to be a better planner. Thinking outside of the box is nothing more than the ability to access what’s needed and to determine how to get that job done. Without imagination, a leader is incapable of dealing with unexpected emergencies, or creating that plan which moves everything forward.

The 5 major causes of failure in leadership
Photo by Mathias Jensen on Unsplash

The 5 major causes of failure in leadership

4. Selfishness. A leader cannot place himself in a position where he/she takes all of the credit for the group’s accomplishments. The leader has to recognize that his team is the reason for the ultimate success. If they had not been able to follow the instructions and to execute the plan with effectiveness then the result would not have been the desired one. A good leader must also recognize members of his team when they come up with a suggestion that adds to the plan. A leader must be prepared to point out this person’s contribution to the overall plan. This should be pointed out to the other team mates and to other leaders. This will instill in his team a sense of reward for taking initiative and will make the team better overall.

5. Disloyalty.  Lack of loyalty is a key factor in not only failure of leadership but in life situations in general. No one wants to engage with someone that they feel is disloyal. As a leader you must be able to stand behind someone on your team. Especially, when they have taken action that follows the plan. The followers are more likely to carry out the decisions and instructions of the leader when they are aware the leader will back them up. As a leader you must always be prepared to represent the interest of a team mate when their actions are questioned. Especially by another leader in the group. You must be prepared to engage the questions, speak out for the team mate and then to correct any errors in private.

Here is a great article about the Top 10 Leadership Qualities That Make Good Leaders. Also check out our previous post the Major attributes of leadership.

15 Employee Engagement Activities For Your Small Business

15 Employee Engagement Activities For Your Small Business

This is a guest blog post from Clicktime The original post can be accessed here. 15 Employee Engagement Activities For Your Small Business

Employee engagement is more than a buzzword.

15 Employee Engagement Activities For Your Small Business. Time and time again, studies have found that higher employee engagement rates contribute to greater productivity and with it, profitability. According to the Gallup State of the American Workplace Report companies were indicated to also experience 37% less absenteeism and 90% less turnover.

So, why do so few small businesses invest in employee engagement? Three words: budget, budget, and budget. With limited resources, it’s easy to see why investing in employee engagement tends to dwell on the bottom of SMB to-do lists. But here’s the good news. There are many low-cost ways for small businesses to increase employee engagement, and with it, foster a happy and healthy work environment.

1. Host a Brown Bag Presentation

Often used for training or information sessions, a brown bag is an employee-hosted casual meeting during lunch with a short presentation on a topic that usually relates to the business. Participants bring their lunches, listen in, and ask questions. Learning from a fellow co-worker versus reading a 60-page PDF is certainly optimal, and far more memorable.

2. Take a Half Day and Hang Out

Friday is known to be the least productive day of the week. The work slows down, people slip off to happy hour, and slam their computers shut at 3:00. Once in a while, encourage a final boost of productivity by offering a half day and then afterwards getting the team together for an outdoor event. This can be anything from a picnic in the park to a department-vs-department sporting event to a relaxing barbecue where employees can invite friends and family.

15 Employee Engagement Activities For Your Small Business
Photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash

3. Try to Complete an Escape Room

An escape room is a physical adventure game, where puzzles and riddles have to be solved using clues and other strategies to get from one room to another. Perfect for the small company, escape rooms are known for encouraging teamwork. Learning to communicate with each other and solve puzzles is a positive skill that is directly transferred to the workplace. Another plus is seeing how individuals think and come up with solutions so you know the best person to bring certain problems to.

4. Host Work Clubs

Ever notice how certain hobbies bring about like-minded people? There can be different work clubs for beer, fantasy football, improv, and more! They’re a great way to change the conversation from purely work to personal life, and offer an environment to develop friendships in. When co-workers are also friends, they’ll be more likely to help each other out at work, which makes working less stressful and more enjoyable. A workplace comprised of good friends consists of better communication and greater engagement as a whole, which means they’ll be sticking around for a while. The Society for Human Resources Management found that the more friends an employee has at work, the more likely they are to reject another job offer.

5. Make Onboarding and Learning Fun

Ever have a job where you’re told that the first few months are like drinking out of a firehose? It can be stressful to have to learn so much in such a short time. If you have a lot of new information for employees to learn, you can make things easier by gamifying the process. Whether you have unique terminology for your line of business, lots of stats, or case studies, there are all sorts of creative ways you can incentivize learning. Encourage competition and set up an afternoon trivia game between teams, or hand out personal quizzes and set a timer. (Don’t forget the prizes!) Once onboarding is finished, have your new employees present to the larger team to ensure they understand the rules, regulations, and processes at your business.

6. Ask for Feedback Often — and Act upon It

Everyone wants to be heard. This is as true in the office as it is anywhere. Make it clear that you care and want all feedback — the good, the bad, the ugly. Then actually do something. Let your team know what you are changing or implementing based on what feedback was received. Connecting the feedback to real change makes employees feel valued and appreciated. The smaller a business is, the fewer decision makers there are. To act in the majority’s best interest, bring your employees’ voices in to help make decisions. Send out surveys on which snacks they’d like, how to utilize a currently empty room, or which brown bag topic they’d like next. Knowing one is heard and respected provides a huge incentive to stay.

7. Promote Perks That Support Physical and Mental Health

As a small business, providing great care is expensive. It also eats away at other perks you could be offering, and when 4 out of 5 employees want benefits more than a pay raise, it’s time to get with the program. Try giving a stipend each month to go to exercise classes or see a nutritionist. Employees will love the perks, be more encouraged to make healthy decisions, and feel that you really care about their well-being. Healthy employees also need less sick time, get more done, and are generally happier!

8. Offer Healthy Snacks

More and more, employees are expecting snacks in the office. (I blame the millennials!) You can help everyone out by offering snacks that give your team energy without the sugar crash. No more digging into the receptionist’s candy bowl — make it a fruit bowl. Healthy food improves concentration, provides lasting energy, helps with digestion, and overall increases happiness levels. For snacks consider having avocados, blueberries, nuts, and other fruits to munch on.

9. Ongoing Training and Mentorship

Once onboarding is complete, that shouldn’t mark the end of learning. Employees who are consistently challenged are more engaged! Communicate with employees and find out who their mentors are. Make an effort to connect young employees with other mentors you know of to help them grow. This will help build solid work experience, and offer your employees a way to grow their skills, their network, and their careers.

10. Bring in Motivational Speakers

This idea may be skipped over more than it should be. Having a good motivational speaker can do wonders. Think about your favorite pep talk or an inspiring speech from your favorite movie. Goosebumps, right? You’d watch it on YouTube the night before your 5,000 word essay you haven’t started and bang it out. Now, imagine hearing one for real. It may sound cheesy, but motivational speakers can be genuinely inspiring, and a good story can reignite some fading embers and inspire your employees to reach farther and work harder.

11. Sip’n’paint Night Vs Hackathon (Creatives vs Brainiacs)

Know what employees appreciate? Choices. Have activities geared more toward right-brained individuals, and activities geared more toward left-brained individuals. Then, encourage full participation at both! Each event will have different stars of the show, and give others the opportunity to try something new. Add in a little wine, and those not holding a paintbrush or clicking away can mingle and chat with others.

12. Create a Comfortable Work Space

Think about it. When your back hurts, when the sun is too bright, when the coffee machine is broken — are you really thinking about work? Make sure your employees have all the supplies they need to feel comfortable and focus for longer periods of time. Keep snacks stocked, the AC at a reasonable level, and be willing to invest in good chairs and more. Making the office feel like the home office will increase productivity and satisfaction. If you could use a time tracker to see how many hours your team spends in the office, you would agree: It’s time for better chairs.

13. SWAG

Everyone has seen the company backpacks, fleeces, and water bottles. They’re useful, memorable, and pretty cool! It’s a great way to get the word out when others see them and ask about the company, and employees can feel company pride using them. Some kind of onboarding goodie bag is a treat, and having smaller knick knacks to give away such as bottle openers and stickers are also fun for employees. Never underestimate the value of SWAG, it really is something that employees talk about and want to have.

14. Performance-based Promotions

Retention, you say? Millennials are notorious for job hopping, staying at the same company between 18 months and 3 years. Giving promotions based on performance rather than tenure can motivate employees to stick around longer if they continue to advance. Emphasizing performance will encourage more consistent communication between leaders and employees, build trust, and strengthen mutual respect. These take time and dedication to achieve, something an engaged employee won’t want to lose so soon.

15. Freedom in the Office

In 1981, Adam Osborne invented the very first laptop, “Osborne 1”. With all the major technological advancements made to computers since, laptops are more portable and cheaper than ever before, and there should be no excuse as to why any employee shouldn’t have access to one. Being constrained to a desk for several consecutive hours has been shown to cause back pain, migraines, and dangerous blood clots. Instead, have employees freely move to rooms they can concentrate better in, stretch their legs throughout the day, and reap the benefits of a more productive, happy employee.

Investing in your employees’ happiness and education is the key to fostering employee engagement, and will ultimately benefit the both of you in the long term.

See also our post on How to Engage Employees in 2018.

How to Identify Your Company’s Next Generation of Leaders

How to Identify Your Company’s Next Generation of Leaders

How to Identify Your Company’s Next Generation of Leaders. Enjoy this guest post from Clicktime.

When looking for your next generation of leaders, it makes sense to cultivate the widest pool you can manage. So why, when thinking about the future, do so many executives limit their options? In fact, when trying to find future leaders, companies tend to fall into three common issues:

  1. Current leaders overvalue job performance, and undervalue character traits.
  2. Current leaders tend to promote people who look, talk, act, and manage like they do.
  3. Current leaders overvalue their own opinions, and undervalue those of their employees.

As the companies become more diverse, missteps like these can blind you to a wealth of promising candidates. Let’s fix that!

What follows are five ideas that can help you better identify the prospective leaders lurking in your company:

How to Identify Your Company’s Next Generation of Leaders

Performance Matters. But Potential Matters More.

In most companies, the best performers get promoted to managerial positions. Unfortunately, as anyone who’s suffered under a bad manager knows, job skills don’t always translate into leadership skills. The best employee may not always make the best leader.

So how about this? Maybe your best salespeople, marketers, or engineers can serve your company better by remaining the best salespeople, marketers, or engineers. Then, when looking for leaders, you can focus less on job performance (though that matters, of course).  Focus more on actual leadership skills. Like boundless curiosity. Or emotional intelligence. Or an outstanding ability to communicate.

Put differently, when trying to identify future leaders, simply skimming from the top layer of job performers isn’t always the best strategy.

Look for People Willing to Try Different Solutions — and Accept the Consequences

Pointing out problems is easy. What’s harder? Coming up with solutions. What’s even harder? Being wise enough to change things when the first solution doesn’t work.

Great leaders aren’t only those with the best ideas. They’re also willing to accept responsibility for the decisions they’ve made. Even —or especially —their failures. That’s what inspires other people.

So when looking for leaders, it’s not only important to search for creative thinkers. You also want to find people with the courage to fail, publically, and to reevaluate their strategies accordingly.

How to Identify Your Company's Next Generation of Leaders
Photo by Jeremy Beadle on Unsplash

The Best Leaders Are Not Always Those Who Talk the Most

Studies show that people who talk the most in meetings (and who talk more rapidly) tend to be rated as more intelligent. Those people also overwhelmingly tend to be male. (Huge surprise there.)

Put differently, those people who seem to be leading in group settings may in fact not be leading at all – they’re just talking a lot. Don’t be suckered in! Maybe the best leader is the person best able to build consensus. Or the quiet person who waits to speak, but comes up with the most forward-thinking solution.

Furthermore, great leaders don’t all exhibit the same style. Some are extroverted, but plenty are more reserved and thoughtful. It may take employees longer to trust a more introverted leader, but those bonds can be far deeper.

Trust Your Employees’ Opinions

Too many executives tend to imagine that they can easily pick out the employees with leadership potential. But relying too much on your own opinions can limit the range of people you notice.

Here’s a different idea: ask your employees what they think. Every once in a while, ask all employees who, other than themselves, they think possesses the most leadership potential. Whom would they follow into uncharted territory? To whom would they most trust their jobs, or the future of the company?

This bottom-up approach to identifying leaders can pay huge dividends: you’re not only telling your employees that you value their opinions, you’re also locating people whom employees already look to for guidance.

Try Randomness (at Least Temporarily)

Admissions officers at Ivy League colleges often admit that they could have chosen a class made of up an entirely different group of applicants, and that that class would have been as successful as the one they did choose.

What’s the lesson? Sometimes the difference between success and failure isn’t about internal qualities. Sometimes its about opportunity.

A standard method of locating potential leaders is to pre-select some promising candidates. Then test them out in more demanding settings. But what would happen if you chose employees at random and gave them all more complex tasks?

Sure, some employees wouldn’t enjoy the experience. But you’d certainly find others who didn’t know they had it in them. They end up thriving at more leadership-oriented tasks.

Sometimes the best way to outwit your own biases is to try a more random approach and see what comes of it.  How to Identify Your Company’s Next Generation of Leaders.

See our post Three steps to becoming a better leader