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Top 3 Reasons Companies Need To Prioritize Agent Engagement in 2021

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Brooke Lynch

Contact center news, customer experience, CX trends, call center challenges

As we begin to transition back to some sense of normalcy, we can work to assess the pandemic’s impact on workplace culture. To effectively measure this, it's important to understand the current level of engagement in the ever-evolving work environment. According to Gallup’s most recent survey of employee engagement and wellbeing, US employee engagement is now at a yearly high of 39%, up from the rate of 36% reported late last year.

The company has been tracking engagement metrics throughout the pandemic and while it has only witnessed minor shifts, it was still able to pinpoint a few developments that may account for this current increase. The company noted that a boost in employee feedback has been critical for the improvement of workplace engagement as a whole, but even more so for remote workers. Additionally, the hybrid environment and its heightened flexibility is also key in this increase. Remarkably, pre-pandemic hybrid employees who came into the office at least some of the time reported the highest levels of engagement at work -- which could indicate early successes for companies who plan to move in the hybrid direction.

However, while this slight increase in engagement may be a small win for individuals who continually struggled with remote work, it’s certainly not a guarantee for sustained success moving into the future.

Here are a few reasons why improving employee engagement needs to remain a priority in 2021:


Sheltering in Jobs

LinkedIn recently surveyed current job-holders asking them what their top motivation was for staying in their current role; a worrisome 74% responded with a version of ‘sheltering.’ This makes sense for a lot of reasons; the pandemic incited massive job insecurity, with industries seemingly shut down overnight. This instability obviously led some to remain in positions they may not have considered under normal circumstances, and many may still feel pressured to stick around until they feel safe enough to make a substantial change.

However, this current trend of sheltering in a job, for reasons like a steady paycheck or a sense of familiarity, may pose a problem once we regain some sense of normalcy. Will we see large groups of seemingly loyal employees suddenly jump ship once the job market turns around? Additionally, with a return to normalcy we may see steady surges in contact volume. If this is the case, how can companies adequately prepare if they expect to encounter great levels of employee churn?

To prevent this kind of turnaround, companies must assess their current employees' relative happiness and level of engagement. While we are inching toward some sense of normal life, it’s certainly not too late to make changes that benefit your employees. Companies need to continue implementing features that increase engagement and make agents feel empowered -- not just comfortable -- in their current roles.


Finding Purpose In The Remote Environment

One of the biggest determinants of employee satisfaction and engagement is the ability to find and establish a sense of purpose in one’s work. This has become even more important in the remote environment; with employees stuck at home, isolated from meaningful colleague interactions and big picture conversations, it becomes hard to find meaning in the monotony of their everyday tasks.

Additionally, any pressure to meet targets or deadlines stemming from a fear of uncertainty in the pandemic, has further diminished many employees' overall sense of accomplishment and worth.

This is a problem that must be addressed if companies want to keep employees engaged and productive throughout this transitional period. If employees can’t identify purpose in their current position, they come to lack the passion and determination to remain productive. Additionally, these employees become at risk to move if they seek out a position and organization that does offer this greater sense of motivation.


Thinking Beyond A Return To Normalcy

It’s tempting to think that all of our problems may be solved by returning to the office, but we all know this isn’t true. While we do know some companies may never require all of their employees to come back, many plan for some kind of return. With this, it’s easy to assume that problems stemming from isolation and things like Zoom fatigue will be quickly solved. However, employees that chronically suffered throughout the pandemic may not be so quick to overlook company mistakes and mishandlings.

Therefore, companies must work to continually enhance their employee experience regardless of the potential benefits of a scheduled return. It’s also important to understand employees' perceptions of accountability in their company’s handling of these concerns. By working to address these past issues, companies can improve their employee relationships and empower agents to succeed. Companies that avoid this kind of reflection and simply rely on a return to normalcy to fix any current problems will suffer long-term.