How to Combat (and Embrace!) Staff Attrition in Your Contact Centre

Staff attrition (the percentage of your staff that leave) is a problem in many organisations. Contact centres are no exception.  

This problem can be seen both in Australia and internationally.  

While the negative impacts of high staff attrition are generally acknowledged, many contact centre leaders and managers are less aware of the negative effects that can accompany low staff attrition. However, low attrition can actually be worse than high attrition.  

Because both high and low attrition are problematic, it’s important to simultaneously combat and embrace staff attrition in your contact centre.  

This article explores tips, tricks, and strategies for doing this – each of which can be tailored to your contact centre’s needs and circumstances.  

The Problem with High Attrition 

High staff attrition occurs when a large percentage of your contact centre staff regularly leave, resulting in high turnover and all the associated challenges this brings.  

High attrition is often caused by low staff engagement. Low engagement may occur when your staff receive low pay, don’t have growth opportunities through training or promotions, feel unappreciated and unrewarded, experience workplace culture and team morale that’s negative, or are understaffed and overworked. This can be a Catch-22, as high attrition itself often leads to understaffed, overworked teams, and negatively impacts your culture and staff morale. This becomes cyclical – like a merry-go-round, but not so merry.  

High staff attrition costs your organisation in training and recruitment time and money. It also impacts your customers, as new team members make mistakes, and existing staff members are placed under increased pressure and stress, leading to negativity in their interactions with your customers.  

The Problem with Low Attrition  

Low staff attrition occurs when most of your staff stay in their roles for a long period of time. Perhaps you’re thinking that’s a good thing, right? Well, not necessarily.  

In Australia, low attrition often occurs in regional areas, which are notorious for lower employment. Worldwide, it can be a problem in any regional or central area where jobs are difficult to come by.  

Often, the causes of low attrition are the same as the causes of high attrition: culture and engagement. In some cases though, people stay because other job opportunities don’t exist.  

This kind of low attrition is a problem because it can create an environment where people are disengaged, lack career focus, and want to do the bare minimum required of them. The resulting lack of “fresh blood” limits the flow of new ideas and energy to drive continuous improvement, creating a higher likelihood of change resistance among staff. All of which negatively impacts your customers, and therefore costs your contact centre. 

When Staff Attrition is a Good Thing 

Positive attrition occurs when people leave their role because they’ve been promoted to another one. While positive attrition can create the same cost and performance issues that flow from any form of staff attrition, it’s good culturally, and often helps combat low attrition.  

If you’ve traditionally faced the problem of low attrition, then increased staff attrition is also a good thing. This increased attrition gives you the opportunity to combat the cultural and engagement problems that caused your low attrition in the first place.  

How to Combat High & Low Attrition 

Any strategy for combating staff attrition must focus on engagement and culture.  

Key steps may involve:  

  • creating a fun working environment with team challenges, extracurricular activities, or other things your staff enjoy 
  • building programs for recognising achievement, with rewards to suit your staff’s motivations (be sure to talk to your staff first to discover what these are) 
  • offering more opportunities for progression into both formal and informal roles, offering leadership, and mentoring to help staff grow and feel appreciated 
  • implementing certified training programs to help staff grow personally and professionally 
  • offering financial rewards, such as pay rises or bonus payments for achieving KPIs (use performance, attitude, and attendance targets) 
  • creating structured career pathways which encourage your team members to continually strive for bigger and better things and avoid them becoming stagnant 

By improving your staff engagement and morale, you will ultimately improve your culture. In almost every case, you attrition problem will then naturally take care of itself.  

How to Embrace Staff Attrition  

If your contact centre is plagued by low attrition and your strategies for improving engagement aren’t working, it may time to embrace (and encourage) increased attrition.  

To do this, structure your contact centre so it’s more flexible. For example, you could split up key skillsets and require your staff to rotate between teams or skillsets every quarter. This will take them out of their comfort zone and either improve their engagement or motivate them to find the stability they seek in another role. You could also move desks, implement other team shuffles, or introduce compulsory participation in non-“business as usual” activities.  

You should also embrace staff attrition after introducing cultural changes designed to lower attrition. This may seem counter-intuitive, but as you improve your culture, the people who don’t fit will leave. Seeing as these are the people you don’t want around, you should embrace this attrition as a sign that your changes are working.  

The final way to embrace staff attrition is to plan for it.  

For example, hire people for a fixed term rather than a permanent contract. They commit to the fixed term, and you commit to improving their skills. This will create a motivated and engaged team member who positively impacts your team and customers. And because you know when they’re leaving, you can better plan for recruitment and training.  

You can also forecast your attrition and begin hiring in advance. This will combat many of the challenges that result from attrition, and by removing the symptoms you’ll often remove a key part of the cause, too.  

In Conclusion 

As you can see, while it can cause plenty of problems, staff attrition is not necessarily a bad thing.  

Instead, attrition is a reality of the contact centre industry (and every other industry). So while you should seek to combat the key problems underlying attrition, you should otherwise embrace it.  

After all, when you swim against the stream, all you have to show for it is limited progress and exhaustion. 

Your Say 

Have you experienced the problem of low or high staff attrition in your contact centre? What strategies have you found were most effective in combating (and embracing) it? Share your thoughts in the comments below.  

Looking for more information on staff attrition? Download our FREE ‘Value of Forecasting Staff Attrition’ Information sheet here.