Brech identifies the role of management as encompassing four main elements:
- Planning – determining the broad lines for carrying out operations, preparing methods by which they are carried out and setting standards of performance.
- Control – checking actual performance against standards to ensure satisfactory progress and performance, and recording as a guide to possible future operations.
- Coordination – balancing and maintaining the team by ensuring a suitable division of work and seeing that tasks are performed in harmony.
- Motivation – or inspiring morale. Getting members of the team to work effectively, to give loyalty to the group and to the task, to carry out their tasks properly, and to play an effective part in the activities of the organization.
Brech’s four main elements are a satisfactory starting point to understand the role of management; however, the success of management relies upon the accuracy in which the above four elements are executed. Drucker emphasizes this point when he defines the differences between effectiveness and efficiency. ‘Effectiveness is the foundation of success – efficiency is concerned with doing things right. Effectiveness is doing the right things.’ A good manager can plan, lead, coordinate and control work efficiently but a great manager will understand the effectiveness of the work that is being done and how that effectiveness influences the customer’s perception of the service.
The quality of management within an organization significantly influences the culture of the organization. Schein maintained that the major factors influencing an organization’s culture are:
- what leaders pay attention to, measure and control on a regular basis;
- how leaders react to critical incidents and organizational crises;
- observed criteria by which leaders allocate scarce resources;
- deliberate role modelling, teaching and coaching by leaders;
- observed criteria by which leaders allocate rewards and status;
- observed criteria by which leaders, recruit, select, promote, etc.
What is the one noun which links all of Schein’s findings together? The answer is ‘leader’.
Of course by the term ‘leaders’ in call centres we are referring to managers, those who have significant influence over the work of trainers, agents, planners and recruitment. Some theorists argue that leadership and management are two completely different roles. Kotter for example argues, ‘Management is about coping with complexity. . . Leadership, by contrast, is about coping with change.’ However, in a call centre leadership and management are intertwined; they should not be separated. Call centre managers have to have a vision about how they feel the call centre should work to meet the organizational objectives and they have to deal with the complexity of making those visions a reality. In this chapter we are not going to separate the roles of leadership and management as they are both equally important.
Schein identifies that the conscious and unconscious behaviours of managers determine the organization’s culture. Therefore, the greatest influencing factor in any organization is the behaviour of its managers. This works on all levels. Of course senior managers and directors have the greatest influence but team leaders and functional managers such as those running call centres exert significant influence on the culture, productivity and wellbeing of the call centre.
The importance of management and its relationship to development was reinforced further in a study by International Survey Research, which reported that levels of employee commitment in the UK are significantly lower than in most of the world’s major economies. This lack of commitment is resulting in a lack of competitive advantage for the UK in relation to other global giants. The study conducted by ISR stated that the four most important factors in determining the commitment levels of a workforce are closely linked to the quality of support and ability to do their role. The four key factors are:
- employees’ assessment of the quality of their company’s leadership;
- employees’ evaluation of the development opportunities their organization provides;
- employees’ judgement as to whether they are sufficiently empowered and trained to carry out their work effectively;
- employees’ ratings of the people management skills of their immediate supervisor.
If we examine the above findings we see two of the main factors are related to leadership and management skills (1 and 4) and the remaining two are linked to training and development (2 and 3). If we link all four factors together we come to the assumption that instilling learning within the organization, in particular management development, is pivotal in the productivity and success of the individual companies and the wider economy.
For call centres this is fundamental. It is common knowledge that the majority of call centres believe their staff commitment levels are too low, resulting in high turnover. The objective of the traditional call centre production model is to maximize volume and minimize costs, and high turnover is acceptable, even encouraged. The work organization is designed to minimize skill requirements, discretion and job cycle time, thus ensuring turnover of staff is not critical to the overall objective. However, in the modern call centre, this mass production model is obsolete. The integrity, discretion and knowledge required to do the role results in the time taken for a new agent to become proficient as anywhere between six and 26 weeks. A modern call centre cannot operate efficiently and effectively with high sickness absence rates and high turnover as a result of low staff commitment. If organizations are to compete on quality and customer loyalty as well as price, the investment in management practices that maximize the skills and abilities of the work force must become a priority.