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This is a case study about the Topinhar Call Centre, in which three management literatures are studied to analyse and develop the problems in the Topinhar Call Centre. In this case study, the performance can be considered as a function of ability and motivation. As a result, the importance of employee motivation is recognised, and the factors about the motivation are addressed. Finally, some recommendations for overcoming the problems at the call centre are suggested.
Motivation of our employees is one of the most important issues facing companies today. The need to instil our employees with motivation is becoming ever more important especially with the shift towards a more socially and culturally responsive workforce. Due to the globalisation, the call centre develops quickly recently, But while call centres offer an appealing way to handle functions such as customer service, sales, technical support and so on, they also present new challenges in people management. In essence, when people do not enjoy working, or cannot see a future for themselves, they are likely to leave -and staff churn is expensive. So how does a call centre find out what motivates its employees and to improve the performance? It is important to managers of any organisations. This report discusses the performance problem in Topinhar call centre, tries to find the ways to overcome these problems, and finally attempts to offer a useful framework for understanding the motivations and emotions of employees as well as the attitudes of management in a call centre.
There are many useful literatures that study the motivation of employees in recent years. By analysing the characteristics, Nemerov (1993), a managing principal of D.S. Nemerov & Associates, suggests that successfully motivating and creating harmony in the call centre is the key factor in creating a competitive advantage. According to Nemerov (1993), there are three factors that significantly contribute to higher levels of worker motivation and performance, which are leadership, commitment to competence, and rewards as well as recognition. Through exercising visible and ongoing leadership, heightening staff commitment through competence, and reward systems recognizing quality as well as productivity, call centre managers should be able to achieve impressiveness.
In the article Employee motivation of the high achiever, Atwood (2004) states that the supervisors should enhance the motivational climate in the workplace to foster and maintain continued excellence. Atwood (2004) also recognises that the high achiever employee is operating in the self-actualization need area. Thus, the supervisors should promote the employees’ realization of their potential. These are several things supervisors can adopt that demonstrate knowledge of excellence and set the motivational environment to maintain an outstanding performance, which are observing, providing feedback, delegating as well as channelling employees into leadership positions, and providing an environment for goal achievement.
In the paper A Review of Employee Motivation Theories and their Implications for Employee Retention within Organizations, the author Ramlall (2004) provides a synthesis of employee motivation theories such as Need Theories of Motivation, Maslow’s Need Hierarchy Theory, Equity Theory, Expectancy Theory, Job Design theory, and so on. He describes the relevant motivation theories and explains how employee motivation affects employee retention and other behaviours within organizations. In addition, by synthesizing and critically analysing the motivation theories, the author compiles several major factors affecting the employee motivation from the respective theories including needs of the employee, work environment, responsibilities, supervision, fairness and equity, effort, employee’s development, and feedback.
In the case of Topinhar call centre, the issue revolves around performance and how to get the best out of people. According to the individual performance equation (Wood, et al. 2004), the performance can be viewed as the result of the personal attributes of individuals, the work effort they make, and the organisational support they receive. As a result, the performance can be considered as a function of ability and motivation. Ability in turn depends on education, experience and training and its improvement is a slow and long process. On the other hand, motivation can be improved quickly. The job of a manager in the workplace is to get things done through employees. To do this, the manager should be able to motivate employees. Therefore, it is important for the managers of call centres to understand the need for development and motivation.
Ramlall (2004) identifies analyses and critiques the motivation theories underlying employee motivation in organizations. These theories explain what the employee motivation is, how to motivate employees, and the critical factors affecting the work motivation in different perspective. In this case study, these theories provide the tools to analyse and identify the motivation problems in Topinhar call centre and also suggest some solutions to the problems. For example, the Need Theories of Motivation including Maslow’s Need Hierarchy Theory and McClelland’s Need Theory can be used to analyse and identify the employees’ need and then address the problems. Moreover, Equity theory and Job Design theory suggest the ways to develop employees’ motivation. Equity theory suggests that organisations should develop reward systems that are perceived to be fair and equitable and distributing the reward in accordance with employee beliefs about their own value to the organization (Ramlall 2004). Job Design theory is based on the idea that the task itself is the key to employee motivation. According to this theory, a boring and monotonous job stifles motivation to perform well, whereas a challenging job enhances motivation. Therefore, variety, autonomy, and decision authority are three ways of adding challenge to a job. Moreover, job enrichment and job rotation are the two ways of adding variety and challenge (Ramlall 2004). It is very useful to the Topinhar call centre case study because it provides an effective method to motivate employees in the boring job.
Atwood (2004) in his paper recommends that mangers should understand the importance of the motivation for work performance. The author suggests that “the high achiever employee is operating in the self-actualization need area as suggested by Abraham Maslow in his Hierarchy of Needs theory of motivation” (Atwood 2004, p. 3). As a result, the manager should help employees to realise their potential. The author also provides the ways to set the motivational environment to maintain an outstanding performance. It provides some useful recommendations to solve the problems in the Topinhar call centre case study.
Obviously, Nemerov’s (1993) paper is more useful to the managers of the call centre. In his paper, Nemerov (1993) identifies the factors which are relatively generic across all telemarketing operations and provides the suggestions to improve the employee motivation in a call centre. It is a good reference to develop the solutions to the problem in Topinhar call centre.
According to Nemerov (1993), there are three factors that significantly contribute to higher levels of worker motivation and performance in a call centre. Firstly, the fundamental and important factor is the visible, accessible and ongoing leadership. The managers should firstly regard the human as the resource of an organization and believe that organizations exist to serve human needs, and a good fit between organization and its employees benefits both (Bolman & Deal 2003). Based on their individual, family, and cultural values, employees have multiple needs which depend on the current and desired economic, political, and social status; career aspiration; the need to balance career, family, education, community, religion, and other factors; and a general feeling of one’s satisfaction with the current and desired state of being (Ramlall 2004). “Managers have the responsibility to create a proper climate in which employees can develop to their fullest potential. Failure to provide such a climate would theoretically increase employee frustration and could result in poorer performance, lower job satisfaction, and increased withdrawal from the organization” (Steers & Porter 1983, cited in Ramlall 1993, p.54). In addition, Douglas MacGregor (cited in Bolman & Deal 2003) develops ‘THEORY X’ and ‘THEORY Y’ based on Maslow’s Hierarchy-of-needs theory. ‘THEORY X’ says that ‘subordinates are passive and lazy, have little ambition, prefer to be led, and resist change’, however, ‘THEORY Y’ tells that ‘the essential task of management is to arrange organizational conditions so that people can achieve their own goals best by directing their efforts toward organizational rewards’ (MacGregor, cited in Bolman & Deal 2003). It is obvious that the ‘THEORY Y’ rather than ‘THEORY X’ should be adopted by the management. The employees should be encouraged to self-direct. However, in the case of Topinhar call centre, managers monitor the work of employees; it seems that the ‘THEORY X’ is adopted. It is certainly not useful to improve the performance. Therefore, these managers should change their attitudes.
Secondly, it is the managers’ responsibility to establish an environment that is productive, respectful, provide a feeling of inclusiveness, and offer friendly setting (Nemerov 1993). In Topinhar call centre, the employees have a little chance to establish or control personal spaces because they work with phone handsets and computers in an open-plan office with cubicles. This situation needs to be changed so that the employees can have personal spaces in which they feel comfortable. Also, employees prefer to function in environments that provide a challenge, offer new learning opportunities, significantly contribute to the organization’s success, offer opportunities for advancement and personal development based on success and demonstrated interest in a particular area (Ramlall, 2004). Managers need to provide staff with development opportunities. In this case, managers need to think beyond the career ladder. People are often keen to gain experience and develop their CVs by, for example, working in other departments or in cross-functional project teams. Moreover, managers must look out for opportunities for staff to contribute to the developing business. In this case, this requires that they go out of their way to listen to new ideas from staff and appreciate that front-line operators might have practical and creative ideas about how to improve the service they provide. In addition, managers need to establish ambitious, achievable and agreed targets with their teams and to provide an environment for goal achievement quickly and easily (Nemerov 1993, Atwood 2004). After the goals are established and communicated, the employees should be empowered to determine how to best accomplish the goals. The employees will be motivated by being involved in determining how to accomplish the goal (Nemerov 1993). Management should be very supportive of team decision making. This support includes open sharing of information about the business, clear and fair standards of performance, and frequent feedback regarding performance and personal development. It is noted that this appoarch is “best executed through the supervisor who, rather than being the disciplinarian, becomes the coach” (Nemerov 1993, p. 54). In the case of Topinhar call centre, although call monitoring is a necessary part of call centre management, monitoring can emphasize recognition of good, rather than poor performance.
The second factor contributing to higher levels of worker motivation and performance in a call centre which is suggested by Nemerov (1993) is “The staff must have the competence to stay committed to the goals and objectives” (p. 55). Ramlall (2004) also states that if an employee feels competent to perform in a more challenging capacity and has previously demonstrated such competencies, he or she may feel a need to seek additional responsibilities and be rewarded in a fair and equitable manner. So how are such results achieved? Nemerov (1993) suggests that the employees will be encouraged to take on additional tasks and perform at a higher level by targeted training, coaching and increased job responsibilities. Atwood (2004) suggests the managers should allow the employees to show initiative, delegate often and channel them into leadership positions, such as using some employees to train others, delegating authority to act in the manager absence, or other leadership activities.
The last factor of worker motivation and performance is “creative use of rewards designed to recognize and reinforce both individual and team performance” (Nemerov 1993, p. 53). Managers need to find ways to recognize the efforts and achievements of staff. According to the employee motivation theories, employees prefer to have timely and open feedback from their supervisors (Ramlall 2004). By providing feedback, managers can help people to develop their self-worth and help people to see that they have a key role in the success of the operation. Specially, it is important for managers to observe the outstanding performers carefully and provide constant feedback to the high achievers (Atwood 2004). Of course, reward as a traditional motivation method is powerful. However, it is crucial that the management should realise that employees want to be treated and rewarded in a fair and equitable manner regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, geographic location, or other similarly defined categories (Ramlall 2004).
In conclusion, motivation is a very important component within the business world because it plays a vital role of the psychological well being of employees. Successfully motivating and creating in the call centre is the key factor in creating a competitive advantage. However, human nature can be very simple, yet very complex, too. An understanding and appreciation of this is a prerequisite to effective employee motivation in the workplace and therefore effective management and leadership.
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