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As the UK’s third-ranked supermarket, Asda is a household name. However, the supermarket giant was struggling with staff retention at their call centres.

By adopting a new approach to employee engagement, Asda has seen the number of staff leaving fall to 1.3% and sick leave down to just 3%. Speaking at the Customer Focus Summit 2015 (#CX2015) in London last week, Asda’s head of learning and engagement, Nathan Dring, identified the three main pillars of the revised strategy as:

• Mastery: employees feel they are moving forward and developing their careers

• Autonomy: management trust call centre employees to make decisions

• Purpose: employees feel their job is meaningful and not just about targets

It’s a focused and purposeful approach that really encompasses the aims of employee engagement using strong, distinct words, a change from the sometimes ‘fluffy’ terminology associated with employee engagement.

For example, Asda used the word “Mastery”, not “Skills”, which gives both recognition and kudos to a role as well as implying there is serious work involved. (Nobody becomes a Jedi Master without training and hard work!)

Equally, “Purpose” turns what can essentially be a reactive role into a more proactive role, there to help customers and each other rather than just problem-solve. Dring explained that:

“We’ve introduced stories about our employees helping their colleagues. Everybody loves being told a story. Stories allow us to connect with our business and with our customers. By drawing people into the story, we rewire our staff’s brains so that they want to be in the next story.”

The crucial element is “Autonomy”, as it enables employees to participate in the business rather than just be employed. This shift in employee empowerment was supported by management removing call answering targets and average call time lengths, enabling staff to take decisions and help customers without the pressure to move on to the next call.

In a world that often talks in jargon and ‘warm and fuzzy’ terms, it’s good to see a business such as Asda doing some straight talking – and reaping the rewards.

Find more #CX2015 stories here