Over the last 12 months, the benefits of remote working and hybrid home-office business models have been discussed at length by many media outlets and businesses (including ourselves). These articles frequently dive into productivity increases, happier workers and lower office overheads. There’s another advantage worth exploring, and it impacts your contact centre’s recruitment strategy.
A business model based on a remote workforce offers contact centres the opportunity to tap into a much wider talent pool than they’ve previously accessed. Furthermore, this model allows contact centres to scale their operations quickly to meet fluctuating demand without increasing office space or spending money on infrastructure and equipment.
Who is this new talent pool for contact centres?
Remote or work-from-home roles allow contact centres to hire skilled and experienced people who live anywhere in the world or find that a traditional office-based work environment doesn’t suit them.
Candidates ready and willing to work from home
There’s no shortage of candidates interested in work-from-home positions – Statista reported that Google searches for remote working jobs surged in March 2020. While the number of searches for terms such as ‘remote working’ and ‘working from home’ have decreased, they are still well above pre-COVID-19 levels. Furthermore, many people who experienced the benefits of working from home for the first time during the pandemic now want a permanent arrangement. A Flexjobs survey in the US found that 68% of respondents want to be full-time remote workers, and 31% would like a hybrid setup.
In addition to those wishing to switch jobs, the pandemic caused an increase in the number of job seekers. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the unemployment rate is currently approximately 6.9% (it peaked at 7.5% in July 2020). Around 11.4% were considered underemployed (working fewer hours than they needed) in September 2020.
The increased interest in working from home, coupled with a dearth of underemployed employees, works in favour of contact centres. Creating a scalable workforce with highly motivated and productive remote team members is easier than ever.
A diverse talent pool
Work-from-home roles allow contact centres to reach candidates from a broad geographical area who possess a wide range of skills, languages and experience. This diversity may enable contact centres to provide services to a broader range of customers and locations and improve the customer experience they offer.
According to Money Magazine, older Australians are pushing back their retirement age as lower interest rates impact the growth of their savings and superannuation. However, older workers often lose roles to younger candidates because of beliefs regarding their inability to handle technology and change.
Myths around older workers are unfounded — those who want, or need, to remain in the workforce are a valuable source of experience, skills and ideas, and have shown no less adaptability to technology than their younger peers. Older workers offer employers reliability and loyalty and are usually more patient and empathetic when dealing with customers.
People with disabilities
Working from home is ideal for some people who have a physical disability, which can make commuting difficult and may hinder them from gaining employment.
A New York Times article highlighted an increase in contact centres hiring from this demographic and the subsequent success they’ve had in addressing higher call volumes quickly. This was attributed to a strong desire to work and, as many home-bound candidates already had the required high-speed internet and devices, they could start immediately.
Face-to-face retail staff
The pandemic has forced many people in customer-facing roles, particularly in retail and hospitality, into unemployment. With training, these candidates can easily translate their customer service skills and ability to work in high-pressure environments into a contact centre role.
Parents returning to the workforce
When there are only so many hours in the day, commuting often makes family life challenging. In return for staying local, this pool of highly experienced workers is usually willing to take on odd shifts to work around school or day care drop-offs.
Workers from outside the local area
When contact centre staff don’t have to be locally based, it’s easier to find new team members with the exact skills and experience required. Companies like Telstra, ING, and AMP use ‘location flexible’ roles to successfully attract talent from remote and country areas in Australia and even overseas.
How does this change contact centre recruitment strategies?
Offering work-from-home or location-flexible roles requires specific changes to recruitment processes. Fortunately, changes introduced during the onset of pandemic lockdowns means that many of these are already in place.
Contact Centre hiring managers will need to:
- Offer a combination of full-time, part-time and casual roles
Specific roles may be more attractive to some groups; for example, working parents may prefer casual or part-time roles. Opening up positions to suit various schedules ensure organisations appeal to a broad pool of job seekers.
- Reassess job descriptions
Taking the time to review job descriptions will diversify the type of candidates that contact centres attract. Using data from exit interviews and seeking feedback from existing staff can ensure that the descriptions are up to date and reflect requirements and roles accurately.
Organisations who require specific certifications for the role may need to consider offering training and certification as part of the job package.
- Use virtual hiring and selection methods
Contact centres must ensure the recruitment process includes an online application and tracking system, video interviews and online tests to adequately cater for remotely located applicants.
Given the demand for these roles, organisations should expect a high volume of applications (300% more than in-house roles in some cases), so they will need to use artificial intelligence (AI) and automation to help filter and select candidates for interviews. Organisations can even use AI-enabled bots to search job boards for suitable candidates and encourage them to apply.
- Broaden their talent search tactics
Attracting candidates to work from home shouldn’t be limited to placing ads on major job boards. Contact centre hiring managers need to look further afield to connect with not-for-profit organisations and groups who help older workers, disabled persons, job-seekers in remote areas, and parents returning to the workforce to find new roles.
By expanding the business model to include remote workers or flexible roles, organisations can build contact centre teams of diverse, resilient and multi-skilled staff. It just requires a bit of lateral thinking outside traditional recruitment strategies.