GenY Doesn’t Want to Work in Your Call Center Shows Study

Sodexo Motivation Solutions, in the UK, released the results of its new survey highlighting Generation Y’s (employees aged 16 to 28) perceptions of working. The survey finds that more than half of Generation Y employees are looking to leave their jobs within a year.

While this study was conducted in the UK, the US and Canadian call center industry, are closely aligned with call center practices in the UK.  Therefore, assumptions that these results are indicative of US and Canadian call center industry employee engagement and call center candidate sentiment are highly likely.

The findings identify a negative perception of call centers with a dismal 5% of this generation regarding working for a call center as exciting, while 55% consider it in a negative to work in a call center. An embarrassing, 1 in 3 of those surveyed, who are currently seeking work, would rather claim unemployment benefits than work in a call center.

Iain McMath, managing director of Sodexo Motivation Solutions said: “What this survey shows is that much more needs to be done to engage these Generation Y employees.”

McMath continues, “Although Generation Y presents its own set of challenges and has different priorities in the workplace than older generations, it is undeniable that these employees are vital to the call center industry. They are quick to adapt, hard-working, creative and not afraid of a challenge. They will require careful management and motivation in order to get the best out of them and retain them for any length of time.”

These findings represent a human capital crisis in a population of call center employees that easily embrace and adapt to the increasing technology complexities in call centers.  This group, if alienated and lost would be devastating for companies trying to compete.  Call center leadership that takes actions to change the status quo leadership practices of call centers stand to gain significant competitive advantages over their traditional call center leadership counterparts.

Learning about the nuances of this generational category of the workforce, up to now, is much maligned in theory-based and anecdotal methods that have not delivered long-term sustainable benefit. This group requires a deep connection and understanding at a personal level.

To get greater insights into how to connect with this group and others, insights are available in the complimentary eBook 7 Keys to Call Center Employee Engagement. Stopping the chronic low morale and high turnover in call centers is not possible if you choose to do what everyone else does.

8 Responses to GenY Doesn’t Want to Work in Your Call Center Shows Study

  • Hi Jim,
    This is disappointing to hear, but understandable. So many businesses and outsourcers staff these positions off shore, even though there is some evidence that consumers prefer talking to people from their own cultures and countries. I agree with you that it is a human capital problem. I think if companies highlight the contact center innovations (i.e. social media monitoring and engagement), have clearly communicated incentive programs, and opps for promotion within the organization, you’ll see Gen Y think a bit differently about the contact center. Also, Gen Y has been among the hardest hit by the recession and the jobs so their is definitely a large qualified talent pool out there.

    Thanks for the post!

  • Jim –

    I would be interested in how this data compares to previous generational data. I supported a call center in the late 90’s and my antidotal experience was that at least 50% of the people answering the phones were unhappy and looking for other employment. I wonder if this is so much about GenY or if call center work has always felt bottom of the barrel.


    • Robyn,
      No doubt some areas of the call center industry are considered bottom barrel. It would be interesting if trend data could be found. One thing I hear often is that finding qualified candidates is much harder than it used to be. Some are lowering standards to fill positions. That is never good.

  • Only having read the brief article and not the study, I can only guess as to why the study found as it did.

    My guesses are these:
    1. Typical Call Center environments can be anti-creative, very repetitive, tightly controlled and not particularly mentally engaging. For this reason many of that age group would consider these characteristics undesirable, as they are used to being indulged in their creative processes – for better or worse.

    2. They may (perhaps rightly) perceive these positions as akin to ‘fast-food’/low-end retail positions.

    It seems to me that if companies consider their call centers as merely cost centers, this problem will continue and perhaps become worse. However, those companies who see the opportunity to use service as a competitive differentiator and put empowered, articulate and intelligent people and systems in those positions will likely see the benefits both in a superior candidate pool and business results.

  • Hi Jim,

    Great article and very eye opening concerning Gen Y and where they’re headed in the work field. Do you think that due to this fact, call centers will eventually fizzle out?


    Gina Scanlon

    • Gina,
      Fizzle out…probably not. Become more Darwinian, oh yes. In the book Impending Crisis: Too Many Jobs Too Few People Roger Herman talks about Stage 1: “No Clue”. He explains many companies have not awakened to the threats facing them in the world of employment. These companies treat human capital as a liability and not an asset. HR mostly administers policies, benefits and problems. They demonstrate the attitude that “We can always find people to fill the positions and it doesn’t cost a lot to replace them.” Site migration to another (cheaper) location is considered strategic thinking. And they are more focused on day-to-day.

      Hmm..was Roger talking about call centers or companies in general? Hard to tell.

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