The Great Resignation – Attracting and Retaining Talent

The Contact Centre industry has been especially effected from the Great Resignation. Rob Dermott, psd’s Directors of the Customer Contact & CX practice, discusses the impact on recruitment that the Great Resignation has had, the difficulties of attracting and retaining talent, and explores what can or should be done about these issues.

As a recruiter it’s been a very interesting time to observe as we see both sides of the talent attraction and retention ‘conundrum’. At management and director level the challenges in securing and retaining the best talent are slightly different than those at front line but follow common themes.

It’s always been important to have the right leaders to deliver operational performance, staff motivation and great customer experience. Wages are higher at a senior level, and we’ve not necessarily seen as much of a percentage uplift at as at frontline, but we have seen many more people considering their relationship with their employer across values, wellbeing, self-development, and hybrid working. Candidates can be choosier about who they interview with, and some clients really must remember to sell their businesses at interview better. This is not an employer’s market at present and I’ve had several candidates who were perfect for roles turn down second interviews as they felt the client had not enamoured them to the business or the interview process felt too transactional.

We should look at the push and pull factors of why people have been leaving senior roles and being attracted to new ones. It has been an interesting 18 months as many organisations worked as a complete and total ‘virtual’ contact centre as all staff from front line right through to directors worked from home. As ‘normality’ returns we are hearing about a couple of key trends which are impacting retention and recruitment of staff at management and director level.

The key ones appear to be work/life balance and hybrid working. One of the first questions that comes up when I’m discussing a new role with a potential candidate is ‘What is the working model?’ – this is often before the organisation or role is discussed. This was rarely a question prior to the pandemic. People are used to hybrid working – what challenge does that pose? The challenge is that few companies can truly say what their working model is going to look like in the longer term. Most companies are still finding their way about what works best for collaboration, performance, and employee wellbeing. We have had several candidates at offer ask for a hybrid model to be confirmed in contracts. Few clients are willing to do this at present. This may be a differentiator when providing a written contract this time round. If you look back to prior to pre-pandemic times contracts were either home based, or workplace based with a requirement to work where the needs of the business may require. There is no perfect answer to this working location question whilst organisations cement their working models except to have a clear ‘Hybrid Working Policy’ in place that can be enclosed with new employment contracts or staff can be guided to.

For those where the hybrid model longer term is hard to guarantee, candidates are being attracted by a role that is closer to home – they’ve had a long time to think about going back to that commute! Interestingly over the last few months I have placed 5 senior candidates into roles that have been closer to home. The reason for this is that they have taken stock about the fact of returning to the office more frequently. This does not necessarily mean that they adverse to returning to the office, more they are put off from a long commute when they do. These 5 candidates average commute prior to the pandemic was more than 50 miles. They now all enjoy commutes of less than 5 miles and can use their time more productively. I am seeing many more candidates asking for this if the hybrid model cannot be guaranteed. Many organisations are only committing to reviewing their models for a period which can bring uncertainty. For example, I work in a business where the current expectations are that we are in the office 3 days per week – all on the same day, but this is going to be reviewed every 6 months.

The hybrid model does have its challenges and that’s why organisations in general are being so considered. I have spoken to numerous HR directors and senior leaders who are concerned that organisational cultures are being eroded, new staff are not being embedded as well remotely and the sharing of ideas away from teams poses a challenge. Of course, I have some clients where the opposite is true but I would suggest more conversations are in the former vain. For us at psd, those 3 days we are all in has worked extremely well and the water cooler talk has returned, and new initiatives and ideas have come to fruition as a result. It’s also resulted in new starters who were previously being onboarded remotely getting much more support and coaching in real time. Onboarding is more challenging remotely, and many clients have mentioned that those not onboarded thoroughly will potentially leave an organisation quickly or underperform.

Attracting and retaining talent has never been so difficult and it’s important to remember it’s not just about hybrid /flexible working or shorter commutes; it is organisational culture, wellbeing & inclusiveness, business goals, salary, and a robust/attractive recruitment process that all contribute to being an employer of choice with the best talent. Many of those struggling to attract or retain their talent are not considering all these aspects or the bigger picture and those organisations that do will thrive and attract the best individuals.

The Customer Experience Foundation has also featured Rob Dermott in their series ‘The War For Talent – Part 2’ in which they also speak to other members of the recruitment industry to discuss the above topic. To view the full article, please click here.


Customer Contact Recruitment

Rob Dermott


Rob is Director of psd’s Customer Contact & CX practice, specialising in senior positions across FM & Support Services, Consulting, Healthcare,  BPO, Utilities and Affordable Housing organisations.