Australian workers are more mobile than they have been in decades.
Nearly one in 10 workers changed jobs, in the year ending February 2023, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Totalling up to 1.3 million people taking on a new role within 12 months.
That’s equated to 9.5 per cent of the entire Australian labour force, while over half (56%) of those employed had been in their current job for less than five years, and one in five (21%) had been in their jobs for less than 12 months.
The decade-high levels of mobility are posing a big challenge for contact centres, which already face attraction and retention issues such as attrition, burnout and skill gaps.
Contact centres are estimated to have employed around 33,600 people across Australia in 2021, according to the Commonwealth Government’s Labour Market Insights, with 66 per cent of those working in the industry on a full-time basis.
Standing out with specialised skills
While contact centre positions are commonly thought of as entry-level jobs, one of the sector’s biggest labour force challenges is the complexity of the work. In addition to answering incoming calls, emails and messages to assist customers with specific enquiries, contact centre agents are also required to be highly data literate and proficient with a wide range of computer systems and software platforms.
Contact centre workers also often work across varied industry sectors, some of which, like financial services, insurance and airlines, are subject to high levels of regulation. Because of that complexity, TSA Human Resources Business Partner Alexis Sideris says training has emerged as one of the biggest challenges facing contact centre agents.
“Some of our teams have to work across multiple complex systems,” Ms Sideris says. “And navigating between these systems while on call with a customer can also be challenging. People are often surprised about the difficulty of the role, or they find that it really wasn’t what they expected it to be.”
While there are a range of standard skills contact centre workers need – including being sales savvy and having great communications skills – Ms Sideris says today’s uncertain economic environment and high cost of living meant that resilience had emerged as a must-have attribute.
“We’re finding there is a lot more vulnerability now among the customers that team members are speaking to,” Ms Sideris says.
“So being able to be resilient when you’re coming across sensitive situations and knowing how to look after yourself following those calls is extremely important.”
“We don’t expect our team members or any of us to be psychologists, but it’s not only important to have that empathy with the customer who is experiencing hardship, it’s about knowing how to look after yourself afterwards.
“There’s a lot of tension right now economically, and contact centres have to deal with those challenges as well when they’re dealing with customers. From an HR perspective, we put a lot of attention into our leaders, making sure they know how to assist their team members and instilling the resilience, performance managing where appropriate and coaching proactively.”
Rewards for retention
The other top challenge in the industry, Ms Sideris says, is staff retention. At TSA Group, significant effort is put in to ensure the company’s rewards and recognition program is not only a key attractor to new staff but also a significant motivator for existing employees to stick around.
One such program is the TSA Ways Legends Awards, a quarterly initiative where staff can nominate a colleague who is making a significant contribution at work in line with the company’s values, known as the TSA Ways.
“We also do monthly team events as rewards – sometimes it will be a cooking class, or sometimes we’ll go bowling. All the top performers will get to go, so you get to meet different people and get exposure to different areas of the business. That gets people thinking about perhaps shifting their career in a different direction and provides significantly more opportunities for advancement.”
Apart from an Employee Assistance Program that provides confidential support to all Australian employees, another key initiative employed by TSA Group to ensure staff have high levels of well-being in a stressful work environment is to create a sense of community in the office.
“We try to make people want to come into the office by building out new recreation areas,” she says. “Post-COVID, and with hybrid working, I think that’s what people miss.”
Ms Sideris says TSA Group will continue to innovate to ensure its workplaces provide optimal support for staff while also committing to making their jobs easier by leveraging the latest technology.
“With more automation, people will have more time to focus on strategic projects and being more proactive rather than reactive,” she says.
As Australian workers demonstrate unprecedented mobility, contact centres face mounting challenges attracting and retaining skilled staff. While often viewed as entry-level roles, contact centre jobs require advanced technical aptitude and interpersonal skills to assist vulnerable customers during economic uncertainty.
Investing in robust training, career development pathways, well-being supports, and automated solutions will be key to unleashing the potential of these specialized workers. Companies that make employees’ growth and welfare a priority through innovative policies and technology will gain a competitive edge in both recruitment and retention.
TSA are Australia’s market leading specialists in CX Consultancy and Contact Centre Services. We are passionate about revolutionising the way brands connect with Australians. How? By combining our local expertise with the most sophisticated customer experience technology on earth, and delivering with an expert team of customer service consultants who know exactly how to help brands care for their customers.