In one of my posts last year, I discussed some of the issues to consider when looking for agents to promote within your call center or customer service team. My post today is about one of the challenges many managers have: inspiring and developing Gen Y agents for future leadership roles.
As you have no doubt observed, Millennials have very different skills and work attitudes when compared to the Baby Boomers that may be working in your centers.
According to a 2009 report on trends in executive development by EDA, the good news is that many of the Gen Y agents you hire will have the following strengths for leadership:
- High-integrity mindset;
- Ability to deliver results and prioritize; and
- Technology skills.
The bad news is that many lack the following skills:
- Strategic thinking;
- The ability to lead change; and
- The ability to inspire others.
Knowing the skill challenges that may lie ahead will help you to not only include questions related to these skills during your initial interviews, but also to find ways to help them develop the needed skills. You may want to offer training in these areas as part of your development programs or look at outside training resources to assist you. But not everyone responds well to or learns well in classroom settings.
Another way you might be able to help them is by finding ways to blend the strengths they do have with their weak skill areas and coaching them for the improvements needed before they become leaders. Here’re just a few examples for you to consider.
Blend the Ability to Deliver Results with Inspiring Others: We know that members of Gen Y love to help others, so placing them in mentoring situations and guiding them on best practices to learn how to inspire and motivate can be beneficial for you and them. They need to see how their contribution “makes a difference.” You need to communicate specifically how their mentoring has made a difference in the way agents are performing and enjoying their jobs more, how this positively affects the attitudes of customers and the team, and how it benefits their own skills development for opportunities. Teach them how and why to give encouragement and positive feedback by linking their activity to results.
Blend Technology with Leading Change: Millennials understand change in terms of the fast-paced changes in technology. Think about those great technical and social media skills they have! Asking them to help others to be successful and gain comfort with the changes in technology may be a way for them to demonstrate leadership potential. What part can they play in delivering those results for you? Can they help older employees learn new technology and dealing with the changes that come with that?
Blend Prioritizing with Strategic Thinking: If they have good prioritization skills, get them involved in helping to develop a new procedure that requires them to set priority levels. Give them the goal, reasons for the goal, and then ask them to recommend steps to get there. Work with them to develop the skills they will need as leaders, and to understand the role strategic thinking and planning plays in bringing about success for the company, customers, and the team.
Not all Millennials will want to become leaders in our centers, just as many of our Gen Xers and Baby Boomers have been content to remain agents or CSRs. However, if we don’t find ways to engage those who have some interest and potential, and help them to develop missing skills, we may lose them to other businesses that are ready, willing, and able to help them achieve their goals.