The Value of Employee Engagement within the Healthcare Contact Centre

The nature of healthcare contact centres is changing at a rapid pace. Patients are becoming increasingly comfortable with online self-service tools. The remaining live calls to contact centres are often quite complex to resolve, and so, in order to provide consistent high-quality patient experiences, it is necessary to have experienced, knowledgeable patient service representatives with proper training and ongoing support.

Failure to engage talented employees can have significant repercussions. Employee attrition can erode patient satisfaction while increasing operating costs. However, we do know that compared to industries such as banking, insurance etc. contact centre roles within healthcare are more appealing due to the nature of work and mission of the organisation. According to Mckinsey research, this most comes as a result of service representatives feeling a sense of purpose in their work as they help patients through often vulnerable and worrying times.

Having worked in the healthcare contact centre sector for over a decade, I am extremely passionate in ensuring we operate within a happy and vibrant workplace.  Over the last decade I have witnessed several key trends emerge in terms of our team and their approach to work. From millennials to boomers, the workplace has changed and efforts to motivate and engage employees have evolved. We have been operating within an ‘employee’s job market’ for the latter half of this decade whereby year on year Ireland approached full employment. This shift has further emphasised the need for organisations’ to prioritize becoming an employer of choice within a competitive jobs market. Those who have adapted to the needs of the market have reaped the rewards. 

In our sector, attrition rates are a core performance metric to track. Just like the age-old mindset in sales that it is much more difficult to sell to a new customer rather than an existing one, the same can be said about employee retention.   In 2019, “the average price tag on replacing a worker stood at €13,100 in Ireland” (Fora.ie., 2019). Recruitment and onboarding can be an expensive process and there is generally a learning period before the employee becomes productive and starts generating revenue for the organisation. (DeMarco and Lister, 1987). Even more importantly since longer-tenured agents have more expertise and institutional knowledge to bring to interactions, improving employee retention also has a direct impact on the quality of patient satisfaction and quality scores.

There are many reasons a new employee may voluntarily decide to leave their current employment. There have been numerous studies that have demonstrated a positive link between effective onboarding and job satisfaction and a negative link to turnover intention or attrition (Klein et al., 2006; Cable et al., 2013; Lavigna, 2009; Snell, 2006). Research also suggests that the first 90 days are crucial and decide the success of a newcomer in his or her job (Watkins, 2013). It is therefore crucial that organisations have structured onboarding and support frameworks in place in order to retain recently recruited new employees.

There are several steps your organisation can take to ensure you promote positive employee engagement and satisfaction within the first 90-days:

Recruitment & Selection:  In true Lean Six Sigma fashion, it is wise to ensure your recruitment and selection initiatives target the right individuals who are most likely to succeed within the environment. It is as important that the candidate believes you are a good fit for them as much as they are a good fit for you.

The Onboarding Plan ‘Grad-Bay’: Introduce a standardised grad-bay process for each new employee group following classroom training. Grad-bay (also called graduation bay) is a common call centre process in which new employees are added to the grad-bay framework once the formal classroom training has completed. It is a controlled environment where a new employee works under close supervision. The Grad-Pay should focus on getting new employees equipped and confident to work solo.  Organisations should introduce daily huddles with new employees with a focus on reviewing the previous days performance, listening to calls and act as an outlet to ask questions. Following the grad-pay period new employees may be added to a specified “support plan” whereby you may provide a communication support framework to ensure ne hires are in a position to succeed.  

Reinforce the Mission and the Purpose of the Role: 70% of respondents in a Mckinsey contact centre  employee engagement survey said they are likely to stay at their position if they strongly support their organisation’s mission and enjoy the nature of the work. Within the healthcare contact centre industry, the work of a contact centre representative is often a critical milestone of a patient’s journey.  We have introduced new mechanisms within our organisation to share warm patient compliments with the entire organisations, introduced monthly newsletters with industry news and celebrate dedicated weeks such as NAHAM’s Access Week that reinforces the importance of our team’s role.  All of which have been successful concepts to reinforce our mission.

Above all else, it is paramount that you ensure new employees are supported within the first few weeks of employment within the organisation. These steps are critical to ensure the operational success of new employees. As we look ahead to a changed marketplace after the immediate impact of COVID-19, it is important organisations invest in the right areas of their business to garner the greatest return.  Prioritising your people and especially new employees is a great place to start.  If you would like to learn more about RelateCare’s approach to onboarding feel free to get in touch.


References:

Cable, D.M., Gino, F. and Staats, B.R., 2013. Reinventing employee onboarding. MIT Sloan Management Review, 54(3), p.23.

DeMarco, T., Lister, T., 1987. Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams. Dorset House Publishing. function: a case study”, Total Quality Management and Business Excellence, Vol. 11Nos 4-6, pp. 720-7.

Fora.ie. 2020. As Ireland’s Talent War Rumbles On, The Cost Of Replacing Staff Has Doubled. [online] Available at: <https://fora.ie/staff-retention-ireland-4-4241184-Sep2018/> [Accessed 17 May 2020].

Klein, H.J., Fan, J. and Preacher, K.J., 2006. The effects of early socialization experiences on content mastery and outcomes: A mediational approach. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 68(1), pp.96-115.

Lavigna, B., 2009. Getting onboard: Integrating and engaging new employees. Government Finance Review, 25(3), pp.65-70.

Snell, A., 2006. Researching onboarding best practice: Using research to connect onboarding processes with employee satisfaction. Strategic HR Review.

Watkins, M., 2013. The First 90 Days Updated and Expanded: Proven Strategies for Getting up to Speed Faster and Smarter. Harvard Business Review Press.


Valerie O’Keeffe is RelateCare’s Senior Operations Manager and has over ten years contact centre leadership and management experience working primarily in operations in the connected health space. Valerie is a goal orientated leader with a proven track record implementing process improvement initiatives in RelateCare’s Irish based healthcare contact centre. Valerie has acted as the key operations point of contact  through the onboarding of Business Process Outsourcing programmes of work for over eight leading health systems and has been an important player when embedding a culture of high performance and employee satisfaction at RelateCare’s contact centre. Valerie’s expertise extends across RelateCare’s suite of services including remote Appointment Scheduling, Prior Authorisations, Referral Management, Post Discharge Follow-Up, Post Visit Surveying and Nurse Triage. Valerie holds a Bachelor degree in Science from the Dublin Institute of Technology, a Higher Cert in Business Studies from the Waterford Institute of Technology and is currently studying a Masters of Business in Lean Enterprise Excellence.

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